Longtime readers are familiar with my encounter with "Yocco's... Hot Dogs with Personality." As former roomie and good friend Lehigh Annie once said in regards to the Yocco's tagline and logo, "Yeah... a horrible one!" Just take one look at that evil frankfurter and you'll know what she means.
While cooking up a couple Nathan's Famous Beef Franks (recently named as top, uh, dog in the Cook's Country Supermarket Hot Dog taste test) I realized that I'd neglected to weigh in on my recent visit to Zack's Hot Dogs, a local Baltimore-area chain with two locations.
I popped over to their Carney location which sits in what looks like an old convenience store, perhaps even a Wawa, and was disappointed to see the place nearly deserted on a Friday afternoon at lunchtime. I realized, however, that it was during Lent and some residents may have been more concerned with the afterlife than me.
After giving the menu a quick scan I settled in and selected a trio of offerings from their 14 dog styles. I had the Classic, a "snap" dog" topped with kraut and mustard (bottom), a BBQ Dog (all beef dog topped with pulled pork, top), and the Baltimore Dog (all beef Kosher style dog wrapped in bologna and then grilled, middle). Right off the bat I will say that your food is cooked to order and they use substantial, not wussy, hot dog rolls that stand up to the toppings.
The Classic was definitely the best of the bunch. Meaty with a slightly spicy bite and reminiscent of the dogs I had at Pink's in LA. In other words, the kind of dog that I'd have again.
The BBQ dog was a great concept (my love of meat as a condiment is well documented) but the pork needed to be more shredded – even my big mouth had problems with big hunks of pork atop a big dog – and the hot dog seemed like an afterthought. It was as if somebody had snuck a hot dog into my pork BBQ sandwich.
The Baltimore Dog was intriguing but bland. I eventually had to hit it with some Andy Nelson's Carolina Sauce for a little added kick.
A hot dog joint is a tough sell. You have to have really good dogs or do something mighty interesting with them – like Yocco's or the Greekers I used to wolf down when visiting friends at Lehigh University – to get my attention. Don't get me wrong, Zack's is good and I would definitely grab a Classic or three next time I'm in the area. But I can make a good hot dog at home, in fact I just did.