Cheap Eats: 2 Wacky Twists on the Hot Dog

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly
Paddy Wagon's Carmella and Dirty Frank's Hot Dog Palace's Cowgirl Carmen

The only thing Dirty Frank's Cowgirl Carmen and Paddy Wagon's Carmela dogs have in common are their similar names. "A good hot dog starts with the fundamentals: the dog itself and the bun," says Paddy Wagon owner Zach James, who serves gourmet dogs at Little Rock Bar starting at 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Here, we dissect two wacky spins on the classic American food.

Dirty Frank's Hot DogPalace's Cowgirl Carmen, $3, Dirty Frank's Hot Dog Palace, 248 S. Fourth St., 614-824-4673; 2836 W. Broad St., Franklinton, 614-824-4450,

The Cowgirl Carmen is customizable: Opt for a Vienna beef dog, which is shipped from Chicago, or a Tofurky veggie dog. Next comes Coney sauce or vegetarian-friendly chili sauce. "Vegetarians like it because they can get that Coney-dog experience, which they can't get at other diners," owner Liz Lessner says. The poppy-seed bun is steamed to make it softer. Shredded cheddar adds the finishing touch. Topped with crushed Fritos, the dog gets its name from Surly Girl Saloon owner Carmen Owens. "One of her favorite dishes is Frito Pie," Lessner says.

Paddy Wagon's Carmella,$4, Paddy Wagon at Little Rock Bar, 944 N. Fourth St., 614-735-0491,

Paddy Wagon gets their locally sourced, grass-fed beef dogs from The Good Frank, which also offers a vegan option. The honey bun adds a little sweetness to the flavor combo. Red-pepper flakes add a bit of a kick. James uses pearl gnocchi, half the size of regular potato noodles, cooked in rosemary. Diced white onion gives it a slight crunch.

The Carmella is named after Carfagna's vodka sauce. "Traditionally a hot dog comes with ketchup, so it only makes sense to add some tomato-based sauce," James says. Sticking with the Italian theme, which also pays homage to their location in Italian Village, Romano cheese comes next.