by Cheryl Baehr
Though referred to colloquially as "Home Depot dogs," the hot-dog carts that grace the exits of the big-box hardware store are not actually Home Depot's. In fact, they're not even owned by the same company. It turns out, somewhere in the city's entrepreneurial collective consciousness, two folks decided that providing DIY-ers with a satisfying, meaty snack made for a winning proposition. And so CC's Depot Dogs (multiple locations including 8901 Page Avenue, Overland) and Dirty Dogz (multiple locations including 1603 South Hanley Road, Brentwood; 314-647-6050) were founded. What these frankfurter geniuses did not expect, however, was that they would become dining destinations in their own rights. As Kim Lander, CC's cart master at the Page Avenue Home Depot explains, "We have people who come in here solely for the dogs. They're not even here to shop."
For this week's Thursday Throwdown, we steeped ourselves in Depot cuisine to crown the top dog.
CC's Depot Dogs
Catherine Carroll runs CC's Depot Dogs at the Ferguson, Page and Kingshighway Home Depots. As Lander, her long-time employee, will attest, CC's dogs have quite a following. "I get here at eight in the morning, and I have people already waiting for hot dogs," Lander laughs. Though she wouldn't dish on the source of the dogs, she boldly pronounced, "These are the best-tasting hot dogs I have ever had." Considering she's had to work with them day in and day out for four years, this is an impressive statement.
We opted for the "Polish," a quarter-pound all-beef hot dog. Do not be fooled by the name. This is not a Polish sausage, but rather a larger version of CC's standard hot dog. The steamed dog was simply presented on a basic bun with relish, yellow mustard and celery salt. Though the dressing was not anything special, the sausage itself dazzled with its bold, beefy flavor. A heaping dose of garlic and paprika gave the CC's dog a deliciously seasoned, smoky punch.
When people hear "Home Depot dog," they typically think of Dirty Dogz in Brentwood. Owner Jason Gaines' cart has come to be considered the gold standard of hardware-store dining due to his quality franks, bratwursts, Polish sausages and large selection of more than 200 condiments. He's been recognized repeatedly for his custom-made dogs, which can be found at the Brentwood, Sunset Hills, and south-county Home Depots. When he's not serving dogs, Gaines runs his own hot-air-balloon company -- so basically he's living the dream.
A soft, yeasty bun cradled Dirty Dogz's quarter-pound, all-beef hot dog. We asked for it dressed with onions and relish and added celery salt, and a sweet and spicy Jack Daniel's mustard (one of the more than 50 mustard choices). The dog had a mild, almost sweet taste with a firm, snappy casing.
Dirty Dogz gets the style points. Its gourmet bun is far superior to CC's standard hot-dog bun. Its selection of condiments is also far superior. One could go to Dirty Dogz for years and never have the same hot dog twice. However, CC's extra bold, super seasoned frank makes the accouterments inconsequential.
Both "Home Depot dogs" are excellent frankfurter specimens, but the crown goes to CC's. No matter how you dress it, this beefy dog is the pack leader.