Restaurant review: DareDevil Dogs aim to put a thrill in your wiener
When you think about restaurants trumpeting the quality of their ingredients, a hot dog place doesn't readily come to mind. Then again, DareDevil Dogs is no ordinary hot dog shop.
Taking over the former Commonwealth Sandwich Bar space south of the OSU campus, DareDevil focuses on local sourcing. Their groceries include all-beef wieners (when cooked, they're hefty, grill-marked, juicy and garlicky) plus pork and chicken bratwursts made from Ohio Proud products by Cleveland's Blue Ribbon Meats. DareDevil's excellent, bean-based vegan dogs are supplied by a great Columbus company called The Good Frank.
High-quality buns come from Matt's Bakery in Whitehall, and vary from gluten-free to puffy challah to terrific pretzel rolls. Most sides, garnishes and condiments are made in-house by the energetic DareDevil team.
This primarily means co-owners Tomos Mughan, Mike Gadd and Bill Garland - three friends with a wealth of restaurant experience honed in part at Yavonne Sarber's FAB Dining Group. They hustle to get the food out quickly, get it right and make sure the flavors are big.
Unlike those flavors, this clever upstart is pocket-sized. There are no tables inside its exposed brick walls, and only about a dozen seats are lined up along an outward-facing, L-shaped counter.
Decoration is provided by flashy photographs of incautious motorcyclists and a conceptual art-type mural blaring words like "daring," "wild" and "fearless." Comparing the consumption of hot dogs - even unusually garnished ones - to daredevilry might be hyperbole, but it functions fine as a theme.
If while eating you prefer to stretch out, watch a game and/or have an adult beverage, DareDevil conveniently shares a service window with Village Idiot - an amiable and clean campus dive bar. Patrons can choose to order and dine there.
The menu is primarily wieners. Side-wise ($3), I wasn't a fan of the appetizer-friendly but overly sweet pineapple guacamole with fresh chips. I did enjoy the crisp sweet potato tots, but thought the homemade baked beans and red cabbage slaw were lackluster. When gracing the excellent hot dogs, though (e.g. the picnic-on-a-bun "Sky Diver"), the sides work.
You can "build your own dog," but I stuck to the better-valued, seven "specialty dogs." Every one was messy, amusing and delicious.
They arrived in perfectly toasted rolls and loaded with toppings - two would feed most ambitious eaters (pro-tip: halving four different specialty dogs with an accomplice translates into a fun "flight"). Though not cheap at $6.50 apiece, I think they're fairly priced.
The exception to that $6.50 cost was my top dog here, the $7 Stunt Double. Cradled in a sturdy pretzel roll is a frankfurter plus tender and splendid flatiron steak, sharp gruyere cheese, spicy giardiniera and caramelized sweet onions and peppers. This conjured a delightfully silly collision between two junky Chicago favorites - hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches.
Hot dogs collide into chicken wings with the giggly-yet-inspired Fire Eater. A chicken brat clad a thin sheath of golden-brown batter is slathered with hot Buffalo sauce bearing orange and Sriracha nuances. Providing contrasts are blue cheese plus crisp and paper-thin shaved celery and onion.
Apple and pork is a reliable combo, and they merge through a mildly aromatic bratwurst and thin Granny Smith slices on the Thrill Seeker. The fresh fruit brought an interesting brightness to the sausage and other accompaniments: shaved Brussels sprouts, shaved celery, a grainy mustard-mayo sauce and poppy-seeded bun.
The Base Jumper is one of the richest and heartiest vegetarian sandwiches around. It's a vegan weenie layered with caramelized Brussels sprouts, shaved celery and mashed potatoes.
Mashed potatoes? Yeah, that's crazy. And, OK, a little daring. But with an enlivening shot of mustard, like DareDevil Dogs, it's a pretty good time.
Photos by Meghan Ralston
1437 N. High St., Campus