Diggitty’s Hot Dogs and Ice Cream
That’s My Dog: The Burchell family celebrates an all-American classic with the new Diggitty’s.
Thursday, November 3, 2011
For more than a century, the hot dog has been an iconic staple of American comfort foods. Globally, the hot dog can be traced as far back to Homer’s Odyssey, written in the 9th century B.C.: “As when a man beside a great fire has filled a sausage with fat and blood and turns it this way and that and is very eager to get it quickly roasted… ”
Ol’ Homer was on to something. Something so big that, these days, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, each American eats an average of 60 hot dogs every year. Another frankfurter-related factoid: From Memorial Day to Labor Day, Americans consume about 7 billion hot dogs, or 818 hot dogs every second. That’s enough to make hot-dog eating champ Joey Chesnut choke.
For brothers Brad and Greg Burchell, and their father Keith, that helped make opening a hot dog joint a no-brainer. But before the Burchells – the onetime operators of the now defunct Del Monte Gardens Skating Arena – unveiled Diggitty’s Hot Dogs and Ice Cream in Prunedale back in September, they had a lot of tasty research to perform. Brad and Greg went on a yearlong hot dog tasting spree that took them as far as Alabama before settling on Nathan’s premium all-beef hot dogs and Polish kielbasas. After the star of the show was settled upon, the supporting cast – ample condiments, strong sides, a classic setting – fell into place.
As a result, Diggitty’s, located next to a Starbucks and Safeway in the Prunetree Shopping Center, is a little slice of the American county fairs that come around every summer. In the front of the spot sits a miniature, coin-operated carousel, and the walls are covered with bright paintings of nachos, fries and of course, hot dogs. Continue past a few tables and the small, back area houses a few classic arcade games like Frogger, Ms. Pac-Man and Donkey Kong.
At first glance, the menu is simple, but on further inspection, there are limitless varieties at your disposal to create your own perfect dog day. First order of business entails choosing a dog: a Diggitty dog ($3.75), Foster Farms turkey dog ($2.50), big digger foot-long ($5), Polish hot ($4.25), Polish mild ($4.25) or a hand-dipped, turkey corn dog ($2.50). All of these options (the corn dog is always fried, natch) can be steamed, charbroiled or, most fiendishly, fried.
Everything is made to order. For an additional 50 cents, add-ons include chili, coleslaw, grated and nacho cheese, sauerkraut, sautéed onions and/or peppers, sour cream and, for adventurous eaters, peanut butter. Bacon, guacamole and tomato are available for an additional $1.
For my first Diggitty, I go with a charbroiled original with sauerkraut on a grilled Le Boulanger sourdough bun (delivered fresh daily) and beer-battered West Creek onion rings ($2.50) over other sides, which include fries or garlic fries ($1.75 small; $3 large), nachos ($2-$3) and sweet potato fries ($2.95-$3.95).
The assembly continues at the massive fixings bar, which hosts an array of free goodies for dressing your dog: sweet and dill relish, banana peppers, jalapeños, black olives, salsa, ranch, Saag’s spicy brown mustard, yellow mustard, sprouts, barbecue sauce and ketchup.
In order to truly experience the quality of the dog and bun, I keep it simple with spicy brown mustard and a few jalapeños. My first bite whisks me away to a warm, summer day standing at the pinewood counter of a Nathan’s hot dog stand at a Jersey boardwalk.
The only difference: Diggitty’s does it even better. The snapping skin of the dog juxtaposed with the soft artisan roll is a match made in hot dog heaven. And the Steinfeld’s sauerkraut adds even more depth with a medley of tangy, sweet and crunchy. Though the onion rings are quality and not greasy at all, the superiority of the dog makes me forget that they’re even there – or the possibility of a dessert like the churro sundae ($3.50): layers of chopped churro and soft serve ice cream topped with hot fudge, whipped cream, cinnamon and sugar. There are also two soft serve options (chocolate and vanilla) – the family concedes the place is really all about its dogs.
On my second visit, Brad and Greg throw me a curveball: six new and tasty specialty hot dogs including the sweet and sour ($4.75), a Diggitty dog generously topped with coleslaw and sauerkraut. I decide to roll with the Prunedale western ($5.75) with an additional dollop of chili. (Greg says after they attempted to make their own chili they came across Chefmate chili and decided its consistency and seasoning was the most fitting chili for a weenie. I concur.)
I tackle the mountainous dog with a fork and knife and line my shirt with a shield of napkins. Onion rings, nacho cheese, bacon, chili and barbecue sauce work in unity with the frank. The bun just soaks up all the madness to create a loving gut buster that would have drunk college kids lined up around the block.
The Burchells aren’t creating any global culinary wave and they will never earn a Michelin star. But any Michelin-starred chef worth her homemade mustard would definitely enjoy the simple goodness and quality of their franks after a long day of churning out duck confit and prosciutto-wrapped scallops. Take it from Homer the poet, Homer Simpson or even the late, great movie star Humphrey Bogart, who said, “A hot dog at the ballgame beats roast beef at the Ritz.”
DIGGITTY’S HOT DOGS AND ICE CREAM Prunetree Shopping Center, Highway 101 and Vierra Canyon Road, Prunedale • 11:30am-8pm Monday-Friday; noon-8pm Saturday; noon-5pm Sunday • 663-6100, www.diggittys.com.