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Premium hot dogs: best of show around Los Angeles

CookingRestaurant and Catering IndustryRestaurantsDining and DrinkingVienna BeefAcademy Awards

There ARE a million doggeries in the City of Angels (and Dodgers). Here are some of the places where you'll find new-wave hot dogs.

Boa Steakhouse, with its stylish decor of gnarled tree trunks and colorful cylindrical lamps, has a Kobe beef steak and a Kobe hamburger on its entree menu. Just for fun, it also has 4-inch Kobe corn dogs as an appetizer, though an extra-rich sausage fried in corn batter is a little heavy for appetizing purposes. 101 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 899-4466; 8462 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (323) 650-8383; www.boasteak.com.

Cafe Surfas, in foodie-favorite Surfas Restaurant Supply, offers an "haute dog" in its cafeteria-plain room. Its original haute dog was made from Kobe beef, but Surfas has moved on to smoked venison. Talk about distinctive -- it tastes like a cross between a kosher hot dog and a salami. 8777 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City, (310) 558-0458; www.cafesurfas.com.

The City Bakery is basically a large space with antiseptic white walls, but it does serve hot food. Its dense-textured Niman Ranch organic beef dog has a wonderful beef flavor with notes of garlic, paprika and coriander opening up at the end. The dog is aggressively grilled and served on a brioche roll about 1 1/2 inches too long for it (brioche may be a tad too rich for hot dog bun purposes, by the way) with very sweet pickle relish, Dijon mustard and a couple of half-sour pickle spears. In Brentwood Country Mart, 225 26th St., Santa Monica, (310) 656-3040; www.thecitybakery.com.

Jerry's Wood-Fired Dogs has a classic color scheme for a hot dog place -- mustard yellow and ketchup red -- though it does offer burgers and other kinds of sausage as well. Its specialty is a grilled beef dog in natural casings with decent snap, rather rich juices -- and as many toppings as you want, no extra charge. If you ask them to boil the dog instead of grilling it and request the right toppings, you can have a virtual Chicago-style hot dog (except for not being on a poppy seed bun). 2276 E. 17th St., Santa Ana, (714) 245-0200; 1360 S. Beach Blvd., Suite C, La Habra, (562) 697-4644; and 1701 Corporate Drive, Suite C8, Ladera Ranch, (949) 364-7080; www.jerrysdogs.com.

Let's Be Frank is a Culver City street cart, which you can find by following the mesmerizing aroma of frying onions. The grilled sausage is made from grass-fed beef, which gives it a slightly funky flavor some people prefer. The best thing about this dog is the outstanding "snap" of its natural lamb gut casing -- the sausage literally pops between your teeth, bathing your mouth with hot dog flavor. Helms Avenue between Washington and Venice boulevards, Culver City; www.letsbefrankdogs.com.

Marty D's, based on the Brooklyn dinette where director Martin Davidson worked in his youth,uses a very meaty East Coast kosher beef dog, slashed before grilling and served on a toasted poppy seed bun with little pots of sauerkraut and lightly fried onions on the side. Extra kick is provided by snazzy Streamline Moderne decor and a genuine 1950s soda fountain. 230 S. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills, (310) 273-7771; www.martyds.com.

Mustard's walls are cluttered with Chicago Bears memorabilia, photos of Al Capone and such; this is a Chicago-based chain of sports bars with a hot dog specialty. The basic dog is a Vienna Beef frank garnished Chicago-style: pickled "sport peppers," celery salt, neon-green relish and all. 3630 Katella Ave., Los Alamitos, (562) 598-1662.

Skooby's, a 6-year-old operation right across Hollywood Boulevard from Musso & Frank, serves a grilled hot dog with an impressive snap and a distinctive, appealing note of cloves (the puffy bun is also grilled but can taste faintly underdone). At $2, it's the cheapest primo dog around, though you do have to factor in the cost of parking in Hollywood. Strictly hot dog stand decor: red awning, red stools. 6654 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) HOT-DOGS; 502 Pacific Coast Highway, Hermosa Beach, (310) 376-1292; www.skoobys.com.

The Stand serves a sausage with an ultra-thin casing that doesn't really pop very much. It's a tasty dog anyway, meatier and more garlicky than an Oscar Mayer beef frank but with the same sort of mellow tang. Alongside the usual mustard, relish and sauerkraut range of condiments, it offers wilder toppings such as mushrooms, blue cheese and baked beans. 17000 Ventura Blvd., Encino, (818) 788-2700; 2000 Avenue of the Stars (in the park at Century Towers), Los Angeles, (310) 785-0400; 1116 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 443-0400; www.thestandlink.com.

Taste Chicago, owned by Arlene Mantegna, wife of actor Joe Mantegna (and located not a million miles from the Valley's film studios), is another little place cluttered with Chicago memorabilia. The huge menu includes ribs, pasta, Italian beef sandwiches and deep-dish pizza as well as Vienna Beef hot dogs with all the Chicago toppings, including genuine "sport peppers" and neon-green relish (on request). Excellent balance of elements makes this the most satisfying Chicago dog around. 603 N. Hollywood Way, Burbank, (818) 563-2800; www.tastechicago.biz.

25 Degrees, with its flocked wallpaper, red pressed-tin ceiling and sleek black reflecting tiles, looks like an 1890s sporting house morphing into a hip Westside restaurant bar (it's the work of restaurant designer Dodd Mitchell). Though it moves mostly hamburgers, it does have a mildly smoky, ultra-delicate hot dog that tastes like some kind of elegant German veal sausage. The $9 price is a bit of a shock, but you're right across the street from Grauman's Chinese Theatre, so deal with it, pilgrim. In the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, 7000 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 785-7244; www.25degreesrestaurant.com.

-- Charles Perry

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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