Have fun with your food at DareDevil Dogs

Beth Stallings, Columbus Crave

DareDevil Dogs has the charming allure of a spiffed up hole-in-the-wall. It's long and skinny with a modest order counter. The only seating (about a dozen stools in all) is at a metal counter facing blotchy brick walls decorated with black-and-white motorcycle art. The lone punch of color comes from a gray, yellow and red wall graphic touting odd hot dog-related phrases ("fearless franks," "the apex of gourmet dogs" and so on).

The gourmet hot dog shop opened on the south end of Campus last month. It's the latest from chef Mike Gadd and his business partners Tomos Mughan and Bill Garland-all of whom have made their way around notable Columbus restaurants. Their mission at this tiny shop is to "be daring," hoping to take something as commonplace as a hot dog and dress it up in clever ways that taste good.

While I still can't quite wrap my head around a specialty dog with a dollop of whipped red-skin potatoes onto a chicken brat (the $6.50 Wing Walker), there are plenty of playful toppers that work here. And if you're someone who wants to jazz up your hot dog with more than ketchup and mustard, this is the place to experiment.

The specialty dogs are the best deals on the menu. Sure, you can build your own with a starting price of $4.50. But if you want to sub in a brat or some specialty toppers (like shaved sirloin, pickled green tomato and pineapple guacamole), it'll cost you 50 cents and up for each one-making the loaded $6.50 specialty dogs a value. Keep up with their Facebook page for word on deals throughout the week. Right now, you can get two specialty dogs for $9 every Wednesday; and if you stop in during the week between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m., you can get a specialty dog, side and drink for $10.

Cross a hot dog with a chicken wing, and you get the Fire Eater ($6.50), my favorite of what I've tried so far. It's a chicken brat battered with buttermilk and fried, so there's a crisp coat around the brat that lends each bite a pleasant crunch. It's then sauced with a bright and punchy Sriracha orange Buffalo sauce that left my lips tingling long after I finished, and topped with shaved celery and red onion. The link practically bursts out of the toasted challah bun. Plain and simple, it's a smart dog and one that'll likely make me a return customer.

Coming in at a close second is the Thrill Seeker ($6.50), which takes the classic pork and apples combo for a spin. A pork brat is topped with crisp, thinly sliced Granny Smith apples for a savory-citrus play that may have me adding apples into my brat-topping repertoire. The specialty dog also comes with slightly overworked shaved Brussels sprouts, shaved celery and honey-whole grain aioli on a seeded challah bun. It's definitely a fork-and-knife affair.

Be sure to pair your dog with a side of crispy tots-either classic potato or sweet potato that's served with a side of honey-whole grain aioli for dipping. And if you want to down your dog with a cold brew, walk into neighboring Village Idiot, where you can order anything from DareDevil through a connecting takeout window after 3 p.m.