A long, narrow counter with maybe 15 to 20 stools, the Dog House is a no-frills sandwich shop just south of Wilmingtown on the side of a small highway known for their foot-long hot dogs. The lobby is jam-packed with people waiting for seats or take-out, and when a stool opens up, grab it quick and you'll barely have time to look at the menu before one of the many counter folks come to take your order.
The Dog House has been around for over 50 years. According to an old article framed on the wall the foot-long concept was inspired by a similar restaurant in Baltimore—I'm thinking Anne's Dari Creme—which also serves foot-long chili dogs on hoagie rolls, cut in half.
From the counter you can see everything prepared on the grill, maybe a dozen dogs, burgers, cheesesteaks and big piles of onions all going at the same time. The footlong Dietz & Watson dogs are split down the middle and served on fresh, warmed long rolls from Liscio's Bakery more commonly used for cheesesteaks.
The food is plopped onto the counter on parchment paper. The dogs are a bit bready for my taste but it is a foot-long, and the Liscio's is just great bread. The frankfurters themselves are very mild with a slight beef flavor and not nearly as grill-charred as you might expect. Next time I'll ask for mine well done. The chili was pretty good and more of a tomatoey, spicy chili than the Greek sauce you find in older joints, with plenty of oozing cheese sauce.
I almost missed their signature dog until I noticed most of the dogs being topped with what looked like lettuce and tomato. Huh? If you order a regular (non-chili) "foot long," or "cheese dog" topped with slices of American (not the Wiz product used on the chili dogs) it comes with lettuce, tomato, onions, mustard, mayo, and ketchup.
It didn't taste like a hot dog at all, more like a cross between a bologna hoagie and a McDoanld's hamburger. Sort of amazing. Probably not to the taste of most hot dog aficionados but I've never seen anything like it anywhere else.
The burger was decent here as well; more griddle-crusted than the hot dog, well seasoned and topped with melted cheese, ketchup, onions and pickle relish, on a simple, soft white bun.
Nothing crazy, just really well-done and actually one of the best burgers I've ever had at this sort of lunch counter hot dog place. The fries were just your average frozen situation, but the cheesesteaks looked incredible, also served with lettuce, tomato and mayo unless you ask differently.
Dog House Sandwich Shop
1200 North Dupont Highway, New Castle DE map; 302-328-5380
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/.