The latest addition to Philadelphia's exploding hot dog scene comes from an unlikely place. Misconduct Tavern is a nautical-themed center city sports bar that until recently didn't offer much more in the way of food than your standard bar menu of burgers and wings.
So I was surprised to hear that Misconduct was introducing four different house-made hot dogs during Philly Beer Week that will stay on the menu indefinitely, with plans in the works for roving hot dog carts to roll around the neighborhood and nearby Rittenhouse Square.
Chef Nick Mezzina is making all the dogs in-house, grinding the meat and stuffing it into natural sheep casings. They're all served on honest to goodness butter-toasted New England hot dog rolls—somewhat of a revelation in Philadelphia where split-top buns are close to impossible to find, although several restaurants now use them for lobster rolls.
Like most housemade hot dogs, Misconduct's are sort of a middle ground between sausage and actual frankfurters. The meat is coarsely ground rather than emulsified like a commercial hot dog. After being stuffed (they make fresh batches a couple times a week) the dogs are cooked in a hot water bath, then finished on the grill to order.
The pork dog was the closest to a traditional frank, spicy and flavorful but not overpowering, on the hot dog side of the hot dog vs. sausage scale. Topped with housemade sweet pepper relish, mozzarella cheese, and arugula that seemed of out of place but added some color.
The split-top buns are an awesome touch, lightly toasted on the sides and soft on the inside, with the perfect hot-dog-to-bread ratio. You can't possibly imagine how happy I was to not see these on hoagie rolls or giant brioche loaves.
Next up was the beef dog (made with port wine) with sweet onion relish, and a chicken sausage made with white wine and escarole and topped with bright red sun dried tomato and red pepper relish. Totally outside of authentic frankfurter territory, but a really cool Italian-American comfort food take on the hot dog.
One thing I like about these—they're still hot dog-sized, I would guess six to a pound, which is small enough that you can try a few, and fairly reasonable as far as "haute dogs" go at $4 a pop. The comparable housemade dogs at DBGB, Supper and Garces Trading Company are all around $9, and even the non-housemade (but totally worth it) dogs at Memphis Taproom are $5 each.
Last but not least, Misconduct's duck sausage is made with Grand Marnier, shallots, orange zest and topped with fennel slaw. My least favorite in terms of hot dog authenticity but probably my favorite in terms of taste. The sausage itself was awesome, with a French terrine flavor going on (at first I actually thought there was some foie gras in there).
My only complaint is the sausages and many of the toppings are on the sweet side and could all use a squirt of mustard, which they are working on with some house-made mustards. The whole menu is still a work in progress, with dogs and toppings in the experimental stage running as specials.
While Misconduct's "hot dogs" might not scratch your itch for a chili-cheese footlong, these are some damn fine sausages at a really reasonable price, in a place with an awesome selection of local, craft, and Belgian beers to wash them down. The passion for sausage-making is also apparent. These are much more exciting than the gimmicky "Kobe" beef dogs you might find at the bottom of a hotel menu. Most of all it's just great to see such awesome, creative dogs in a approachable setting.
About the author: Hawk Krall is a Philadelphia-based illustrator who has a serious thing for hot dogs. Dig his dog drawings? Many of the illustrations he has created for Hot Dog of the Week are available for sale: hawkkrall.net/prints/.