5801 Detroit Road
Cleveland, Ohio 44102
216 651 9474
by Ryely Reubenesque
Frank DeSantis and I are going to eat hot dogs. And tater tots.
We leave Frank's and drive east on Detroit. Trees lining the street have bloomed. We pass charming storefronts. A backlit sign says HAPPY DOG. Frank says we can park on the street or....see over here?....there is a little parking lot with a white picket fence.
We walk in. A row of suspended, round lights hang over a row of booths. It is softly lit, but not dark. There is wood paneling and scalloped trim. There are framed concert posters. Red vinyl and chrome barstools. I feel relaxed. A friends' parents' un-updated basement. A college apartment living room. Except, squeaky clean.
Frank says sitting at the bar is fun. So we do. A lovely, much-tattoed, young woman with dark, long hair and a calm smile takes our drink order. Guinness is on tap. Many craft beers are available. I ask for iced tea. She offers to brew some for me if I don't mind the wait. She was not being sarcastic. I ask for Cherry Coke instead? She says she could add grenadine to regular Coke? I like her.
Happy Dog's menu has three food items: hot dogs ($5) (with a vegetarian version available), tater tots and french fries ($2.50.) If there are other choices, they are neither apparent nor necessary. You may choose from no less than 50 toppings for your hot dog. Some are traditional, many are foodie. A few seem like a friendly prank. House-made ketchup is first on the list which also includes black truffle honey mustard, saffron aioli, Fruit Loops, American Cheez Whiz and chunky peanut butter.
Orders are placed with a worksheet. Little golf pencils fill open circles next to your choices, like an elementary school Iowa test. This seems like an impressively appropriate way to ask for tater tots. My circles are filled neatly, to assure accuracy. Frank has used dramatic slashes through the circles. They are similar to the marks Frank uses to sign ceramics. I worry that the Scantron machine will misinterpret Frank's order. I am in the 95th percentile for worrying about things I don't need to worry about.
Frank D. gets a call. Frank Borcher is on the phone. Tater tots are mentioned and the phone call ends abruptly. Frank B. arrives only a few moments later and happily places an order.
Our orders appear on white oval plates. Glorious piles of perfectly crisp, short cylinders of golden potato goodness. My hot dog is hidden under caramelized onions, carribean coleslaw, cheddar cheese, dijon mustard, a pickle spear. Frank D's hot dog has cucumber and tomato slices. Who knows what Frank B. got. I can't be bothered to look. I have knife-and-fork hot dog business to attend.
The poppyseed bun is yielding, but not mushy. The hot dog is not small. The flavor is nice. Nothing like its often questionable convenience store cousin. The tater tots are delicious and not greasy. This is very good stuff. Happy Dog indeed.