What came first, the hot-dog-shop boon or the arctic-cold economy? Because indubitably the two trends must be (pun alert!) linked. Well, whatever their chronology (and maybe they are perfectly synched), the newest merchant of buns with cheap and easy fun food for expensive and hard times is Clintonville's Wunderdaug.
Tucked in behind a prominent Panera on High Street, this locally owned place couldn't be simpler. Wunderdaug's playful, umlaut-freighted logo (but only on the first u) is seemingly ripped from the pages of a comic book and comes displayed along with some comic-y thought bubbles with corny messages. These keep company with a scaled-back menu offering sides, wieners and corn dogs, too.
Otherwise, it's a pretty bare-bones operation, with fast-foody tables and a couple of proud and conscientious workers who curiously labor behind a curiously tall wooden partition that separates them from the counter-ordering clients.
Wunderdaug's setup will seem as familiar as its fare to anyone who's ever eaten at one of these ever-more popular joints. So you choose a weenie (the house standard is a thin-waisted, garlicky kosher dog with a minimal "pop") or a mild, much larger bratwurst. After the meat tube gets plopped into one of Wunderdaug's hoagie-like buns, you can choose to dress it up with any of a cart's worth of condiments or opt for a predesigned doggie style.
I and a self-professed dog hog went with plan B. For an inexpensive lunch munch (sandwiches cost $3 to $4), we swallowed the following well-made treats: a Wunder (with decent, standard chili; cheese; onion; tomatoes; mustard and a very fresh, rough-chopped, mayo-lavished coleslaw that countered banana peppers); a Haute (chili, cheese, hot sauce, jalapenos, banana peppers, chili flakes and hot mustard) that pleasingly singed but never seared; and a fat brat with mustard and kraut.
Overall, the thinnish dogs got a little lost in the profuse piles of toppings, but the sandwiches were carefully made and all toppings were of good quality.
The sides are said to be house-made daily, and I guess I don't doubt that. But if so, they're clearly prepared using fairly conventional, family-picnic-quality recipes (my faves were the soft and homey mac and cheese, and that good slaw).
4511 N. High St., Clintonville
11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday-Monday
11 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday