Hot Dog Wows

Forget Houston's best burgers: Gourmet hot dogs from celebrity chefs are the new hot thing

Forget Houston's best burgers: Gourmet hot dogs from celeb chefs rule

James Coney Island May 2013 Huntin’ Dog” by Chef Randy Evans hot dog
"Huntin’ Dog” by chef Randy Evans of Haven Photo by Jodie Eisenhardt
James Coney Island May 2013 James Coney Island President Darrin Straughan and Chef Randy Evans of Haven
James Coney Island president Darrin Straughan, left, and chef Randy Evans of Haven Photo by Jodie Eisenhardt
James Coney Island May 2013 Huntin’ Dog” by Chef Randy Evans hot dog
James Coney Island May 2013 James Coney Island President Darrin Straughan and Chef Randy Evans of Haven

James Coney Island is a Houston-area institution celebrating its 90th anniversary this year. Despite a cult following that goes back generations (my dad would rather eat at James Coney Island than just about anywhere), I couldn’t tell you the last time I’d been.

I think I took it for granted even though I have plenty of fond memories involving Coneys and Frito pies made with that signature chili.

I didn’t know about the new menu items like gourmet sandwiches, fancy burgers and salads. I didn’t know there were 21 locations and sort of forgot that you can’t get any of it outside of Houston — OK, there’s a location in Conroe, but I digress.

James Coney Island lured me back with an ingenious promotion celebrating its anniversary that has six of Houston’s most distinguished chefs each creating their own “signature” hot dog. It’s an ambitious endeavor, given the fact that these babies are being fashioned with some pretty special ingredients.

 This hot dog screams, “Texas!” and is honestly one of the best things I’ve eaten so far this year. 

Take June’s offering, the “Huntin’ Dog” created by Randy Evans, executive chef and co-owner of foodie fave Haven. Evan’s dog features an Angus beef, uncured, nitrate/nitrite-free hot dog from 44 Farms in north Texas, served in a specially-made jalapeno-cheddar bun from Houston’s own Slow Dough Bread Company. It’s topped with Haven’s well-known Texas Wild Boar Chili — made with meat supplied by Frontier Meats in Fort Worth — and a sprinkling of finely chopped onions and cilantro.

This hot dog screams, “Texas!” and is honestly one of the best things I’ve eaten so far this year — for real. It's $6.29 and will be available throughout June. I actually think Evans will have to offer it at Haven after that because the people will demand it.

“We worked with several iterations of it and wanted to be able to maintain the significance of each component while having the flavors meld together,” says Evans, who grew up eating at the James Coney Island on the North Freeway. James Coney Island president Darrin Straughan, a native Houstonian, hopes these gourmet chef dogs will bring people in to witness the overall changes in the hot dog giant's menu.

Custom dogs from Kata Robata’s Manabu “Chef Hori” Horiuchi, Monica Pope of Sparrow, Hugo Ortega of Hugo’s, Matt Marcus of the Eatsie Boys and John Sheely of Mockingbird Bistro will arrive in the coming months. It’s a good time to be a hot dog lover.