Hot Dog of the Week: Pauly Dogs on Duke's Campus in Durham, NC

Hot Dog of the Week

A unique hot dog feature each week from hot dog connoisseur and cartoonist Hawk Krall!

[Original artwork and photographs: Hawk Krall]

Pauly Dogs opened for business outside of Duke's campus almost 15 years ago, a crazy hot dog cart run by former bartender and pizzeria cook Paul Konstanzer. Since moving to Duke's West Campus Plaza in 2007—along with other carts like Locopops and the Carribean Kitchen—Pauly has established a loyal cult following with 52 (and growing!) varieties of hot dogs and hundreds of toppings.

Pauly's Dogs start out with a dirty-water-style steamed natural casing Sabrett's hot dog, nothing special if you're in New York but pretty rare for North Carolina. A great base for surpisingly well-balanced wild concoctions like the "Will," one of many named after former students, topped with potato salad, beef chili, sweet thai chili sauce and crushed potato chips.

Some of the other varieties involve things like teriyaki sauce, ranch dressing, roasted garlic, Spaghetti-o's (no thanks), crushed doritos, french fried onions, shredded cheese, Korean chili sauce, old bay seasoning, and a couple shots of Texas Pete hot sauce on almost everything.

Of course you can go with a plain dog or something more traditional like the standard Southern chili and slaw (pretty damn good on a Sabrett's) but at $3.50 for as many toppings as you want, most people opt for the specialty dogs. Or you can invent your own from hundreds of toppings, and it'll end up on the menu if you're lucky, or roll the dice with the "special of the minute" which is whatever the hell Pauly or one of his guys feel like throwing on there.

Along with the "Will" and a really good slaw dog, we also tried the "burger dog" topped with pickles, thousand island, bacon bits, which was awesome and tasted exactly like it sounds. Also, something involving pepperoni and fried onions, some good crunch but It probably didn't really need the pepperoni.

The surprising thing about these dogs is that the crazy toppings are actually well balanced, not overloaded with crap, which probably helps keep at $3.50 but also makes for a "wacky" dog where you can still taste the actual frankfurter.

I wouldn't really put Pauly Dogs in the trendy "haute dog" category. I'm fairly certain that most or all of these toppings come from a can or a jar. He's also been around for almost 15 years, quietly serving up dogs to a loyal student following looking for cheap lunch or post-drinking encased meats. Pauly stays open until 4:30 a.m. on the weekends. It actually reminds me more of the Street Meat dogs of Toronto, where drunk eaters and strange health codes have somehow created a hot dog culture where people top their dogs with things like canned mushrooms and corn salad.

What's really fun about Pauly Dogs compared to a sit-down gourmet hot dog restaurant is that the dogs are cheap and small enough to try a bunch different crazy stuff without spending all your money and eating enough for a horse. It also helps that Pauly is a great guy who has become a fixture of the campus. Students often come back years later just to visit the cart and have one more Pauly Dog.

Pauly Dogs

Duke University: West Campus Plaza (near Bryant Center) Union Drive, Durham, NC 27705 (map)