Restaurateur Micah Camden has been on a hot streak. Boxer Ramen is multiplying locations, Blue Star Donuts is big in Japan, and Little Big Burger—after infiltrating every neighborhood in Portland—was bought out by Hooters. Having already taken over burgers and doughnuts, Camden apparently had a hot-dog-sized hole in his heart.
Enter Hop Dog, the next in Camden's parade of vaguely artisanal fast food. All of Hop Dog's franks come from Olympia Provisions or Bronx-made Sabrett, and its buns are an unholy mash-up: pretzelized brioche by Nuvrei made using "bagel technique."
A recent menu had a banh mi dog, a Cincinnati chili dog and a Chicago dog—each named after an actual cute pet dog. The tiny shop's walls, meanwhile, are adorned with pictures of celebs who've been caught loving their hot dogs too much.
The branding is on point, but there's a problem: The hot dogs don't work.
There are two big problems. First, the meat. Also, the buns. The Sabretts lack their signature snap and have no char, a result of boiling in Olympia beer with no grill finish: They get a slow-and-low cookout on 7-Eleven-style metal rollers. The bun is confusing. Perhaps I'm old school and set in my opinion, but I feel a hot-dog bun's job is to get the hell out of the way.
This thick-crusted, grain-forward, almost-burnt-tasting distraction refuses to do so.
And so a simple dog like the Harvey ($4.75), with a huge pile of excellent sauerkraut, gets torpedoed by a nagging graininess on the palate, as does the Hubert, a celery-salted riff on old Chicago ($5.75). The Naga ($7.50) is an aggressive take on banh mi—tons of peanut, a salad of cilantro and cucumber and carrot—that could have benefited from a classic Binh Minh baguette.
One final insult: The shop has a 20-strong "Multnomah Mustard Library" cabinet filled with enticing honey curry mustard and "moutarde forte au vinaigre." But they're not for customer use. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
EAT: Hop Dog, 1122 SW Stark St., hopdogpdx.com. 11 am-9 pm daily.