Da Hotdog King
400 S. Main St.
Salt Lake City, UT 84101
Troy King is called Da Hotdog King––as are his fleet of hotdog carts. As Salt Lake’s only genuine Chicago hotdog cart, this newest soon-to-be Utah legend sits on the corner of 400 South and Main Street on weekday afternoons not three hundred feet from where Led Zeppelin twice played and Dylan Thomas once stumbled drunkenly past. The Chicago-style hotdog is an archetype and Mr. King makes his dogs with pride in the case of the traditional versions and with Wild Mouse-rollercoaster daring in the case of his original selections. The proud owner of two carts in Chicago and two in Atlanta, he
is the friendliest high-powered executive you’re ever likely to chat with over a steam table.
King also happens to be as affable and nice as any person I have met this year. As I do with these columns, I bought one of everything (or one of everything that looks good, on bigger menus). While I labeled my parceled out hotdogs, he told me how he only sells regular Chicago-style dogs at his carts in Illinois and in Atlanta. Salt Lakers, he says, have an extended palate. As a result, many specialty dogs appear here, courtesy of his inventive daughter,
Alexis, who is his test kitchen when she isn’t studying at college. People back in Chicago just won’t eat this kind of thing, he says. ‘Now who’s conservative,’ I think to myself.
You could call Da Hotdog King cutting edge: His social media empire extends to the realms of Facebook and Twitter. If you friend or follow him, you get access to a secret hotdog, which will not be revealed here and is most unexpected.
The hotdog selections are themed into traditional, local, and nouvelle cuisine styles, and they can be made with meat or vegan franks for the same price. Start with the Maxwell Street Polish Dog ($4.00) served proudly as it would be on the street of the same name in Chicago. Most of the traditional hot dogs have celery salt, which is just a good idea and a Chicago custom. The Maxwell Street also has grilled onions marinated in Dr. Pepper and is dressed up in your mother’s plain mustard and a couple of tasty sport peppers. The Kraut Dog ($3.50 or two for $6.00, as are all the regular hotdogs) features a house-made sauerkraut with mustard and caraway seeds, which is soft and slightly sweet. Get it with the sport peppers: It’s my favorite of the tasty bunch here. There is also a Chicago Dog, which comes on a poppy-seed bun with these great marinated onions, celery salt, tomato slices, green relish, a spear of dill pickle and sport peppers. There’s more tasty veg here than you’ll find in a San Francisco Bloody Mary.
The Kilby Dog is a surprising set of flavors that go down pretty darn well––covered with honey-baked bacon, coconut-flavored mustard, raspberry BBQ sauce and those delicious onions. Pretty wild stuff inspired, I suppose, by the variety of exciting and unexpected bands that come through Kilby Court, Salt Lake’s most interesting music venue. The Ute Dog is a smoky-like sausage, grilled with its skin scored for easier bite-sized eating, striped with house-made fry sauce and then wrapped in pastrami and grilled.
As for nouvelle-styled fare, The Picnic Dog is the wildest of the breed, covered with potato salad—again custom and very tasty—raspberry chipotle sauce, and a little rail of bacon bits. I don’t know what I expected, but this dog certainly surprised me. It didn’t shake me to my core or send me into the wilderness, but it confused me in a pretty essential way. The Southwest Dog is a pretty classic chili cheese dog done up with guacamole and tortilla chip curls for an unexpected swagger around the molars. I was largely sympathetic with the case for the chips, but not entirely won over. The rest of the dog was just fine, and I enjoyed it. The Lemongrass Chicken Dog is the most ambitious of the dogs, with lemongrass chicken on it and a personalized Thai sauce, which I savored. It was plenty good, but not as daring as I expected it to be.
I feel better about Salt Lake City knowing that we have Da Hotdog King. I expect that this summer, with all the folks that should be walking around downtown, there should be plenty of time to take a friend for a tasty and unique lunch on the cheap and under the nicest roof the city has to offer.