The Philly Combo, a.k.a. "Philly Surf and Turf," was the first dog I ever did for this Hot Dog of the Week column. It's an obscure, old-school, unique-to-Philly hot dog concoction involving a grilled, smashed fish cake and a hot dog on the same bun, topped with mustard and sometimes pepper hash, a sweet, mayo-less cousin to cole slaw that's also unique to Philly.
I've been waiting for years for someone to do a "modern" version of this classic dog and Hot Diggity came through, permanently adding it to their menu last week.
Traditional Philly fish cakes are made from cheap whitefish and potato, usually kept frozen and cooked on a grill or deep-fried. In the early 1900s they were on the menu at pretty much every lunch stand in the city. In fact, Pat's Steaks (home of the Philly Cheesesteak) started out as a hot dog and fish cake stand before the cheesesteak even existed, and still serves them today.
The "Combo" was invented at Levis' Hot Dogs in the early 1900s at their original location (now closed), which was a block away from where Hot Diggity's location today.
Chef/owner Keith Garabedian's version of the Philly Surf and Turf starts with a housemade fish cake that's close to brandade, made with imported salt cod, rehydrated and combined with potatoes that have been cooked in milk, garlic and thyme. Then the mixture is wrapped around a Sabrett's all-beef natural casing dog and rolled in panko breadcrumbs before the whole thing goes in the deep fryer.
The fish cake-wrapped dog is placed in a small Liscio Bakery roll, then topped with pepper hash—made with cabbage, green peppers and carrots—and spicy mustard. The flavors and textures are almost exactly the same as a classic Surf and Turf dog. Only better. Philadelphia hot dog guru Holly Moore, who I'm pretty sure coined the term "Philly Surf and Turf," says it's the best he's ever had.
Aside from the new Surf and Turf, there's a bunch of new stuff happening at Hot Doggity since they opened earlier this year, including a crazy selection of craft sodas. They're offering a variety of Fentiman's products along with Levis Champ Cherry Soda—the original recipe from Levis, order one with your Surf & Turf dog—and Dr. Physick, an ancient Philly black cherry medicine-soda that was introduced in 1807 to relieve "gastric disorders." Hot Diggity eventually plans to carry more than 60 different sodas, including Moxie and hopefully Cheerwine.
They're also doing "dog of the month" specials. Last month was a buffalo hot dog made with actual buffalo meat and topped with blue cheese, wing sauce, celery and crispy fried chicken skins. Easily the best "buffalo" dog I've ever had.
This month it's an Oktoberfest dog with juniper-infused pickled red cabbage, German smoked beer mustard, cornichons and fresh grated horseradish. They're also currently in the test kitchen with a Thanksgiving dog that Keith promises won't be just a turkey hot dog with stuffing on top of it.
630 South Street Philadelphia, PA 19147(map)
(810) 233-4000; thehotdiggity.com
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/.
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