Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Weiner In Review: Hot Dog Establishments of Portland
-----------------Nick's Famous Coney Island Food--------------------

Attention Readers!
This post marks the first of what I hope will be many in-depth culinary reviews:

Before I dive in with relish, I should describe which establishments I'll review and on what aspects of dog-dining I'll focus. Basically, any purveyor, griller, cooker, or boiler of sausage, any shack, stand, restaurant, or backyard bbq, any Tom, Dick, or Harry... I'll review them. Recommend them to me. Here are the categories, with each criterion amounting to 1 point (for a perfect total score of 5):

1. the sausage
2. the bun and the bun's accessories
3. the cost
4. the presentation
5. the 'tude

NFCIF has a soda fountain feel. There was this little girl sitting in a booth wearing a zebra stripe undershirt and matching tie. She looked like Paula Abdul at age 6. Can't argue with that. The place was just remodeled this past year, and now all the red vinyl is shiny. The Blazer game was playing on 3 giant flat-screen TVs. The NFCIF website details a pretty interesting history of this Hawthorne establishment. Before the total remodel (and--I just found out--new ownership) of 2008, I remember that the hours were totally weird, the floor looked much older than me, and their were no veggie options. All good signs... This has changed, however, perhaps not for worse.

1. the sausage. Nice and pink, not too long, piping hot, tender, all the best. 1 full beefy point.

2. the bun, etc. The bun was a traditional puffed top-loading bun. Nick's only serves one variety of dog--the Coney Island: chili, American or cheddar cheese, onions, and pepper. The bun sustained heavenly texture even beneath that mound of chili, so I give full marks there, but the chili was a little lean. I could have used more chunk and spice. .8 points.

3. the cost. $6.75! Way too much. Apparently, I'm paying for the Red Robinesque pictures of Babe Ruth and Elvis on the wall. If I see baseball on the wall, I want baseball on the TV. Otherwise, I don't really want any TV. But let's talk dollars for dog... 6.75 dollars is ridiculous. 0.1 points.

4. the presentation. White plates. My fries in a white bowl. Chili slathered over the entirety of the plate. Not bad. But not amazing. I definitely could not eat the hotdog without a fork, which is both a good and bad thing. Service is prompt and they say "order up," and I like that. 0.6 points.

5. the 'tude. Attitude is part of hot-dog service. The waitress was smiley and cordial, even a little bouncy. That's cool if you're bringing out a plate full of orange slices or cheesecake. But this is a hotdog: a symbol of the working class, the industrial revolution, the eternal need for escape, sports, women, men, children, and pets. On these counts, she was probably agnostic. 0.5 points.

NFCIF succeeds in creating a fun throwback atmosphere to the days of it's inception (1935). There aren't too many places in town that do that for me. They offer some good microbrews and a full bar, as well as full Coney Island-style menu (cheeseburgers, mac and cheese, sandwiches, and totally new vegetarian options). The beer was great, and so were the Blazers, but--as I mentioned earlier--my primary objective is the hotdog, and I must remain steadfast.

Nick's Famous Coney Island Food wins a 3.0 (out of 5).