Matt's Gourmet Hot Dogs
1301 NE 45th St, 545-4490
Sun-Thurs 10 am-10 pm, Fri-Sat 10 am-midnight.

Hot dogs are dangerous. Not just for the choking hazard they represent to toddlers and drunks, but because of the power they seem to hold over fanatical followers. Give those people a decent dog, it seems, and you'll have a pack of nitrate-stuffed zombies who'll follow you anywhere.

Which is likely the business model of Matt's Gourmet Hot Dogs--a bid for world domination. I thought I was immune to such mind control, but after trying a diabolically good "Chicago style" hot dog ($2.59) at the local chain's new U-District location (there are five stores and counting), I'm not so sure. I felt this strong need to thank the hot dog guy, like he'd somehow improved my life. And it wasn't just me--in the space of five minutes, two other customers complimented him.

This "Chicago style" business might sound like a dumb gimmick, but Midwestern acquaintances confirm it's the way things are done. Basically you get a boiled Vienna Beef hot dog, put it on a poppy-seed bun, add some mustard, and dump a small compost pile's worth of vegetables on top--diced onions, tomato wedges, a dill pickle spear, sport peppers (medium-hot), and a crazily bright blue-green relish. Artfully arranged, and colorful, it's perhaps the most attractive fast food you'll ever come across. The final ingredient, a dash of celery salt, is the coup de grâce to hot dog opposition: Who can resist the lure of sweet, sweet salt?

Whether the meat sandwiches ($5.79) or other dogs at Matt's are any good I'll never know, because ordering them would mean not ordering a Chicago dog, and that would be butt-ass stupid. Which is probably a sure sign that I'm hooked--yet another hapless draftee in Matt's growing hot dog army.

Oh well. It beats the National Guard.

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