What is it about food trucks and food stands that we love so much? The most successful ones roll into town with some eccentric specialty – like Finnish Tex-Mex fusion samosas – park next to an event or bar, and then proceed to make you wonder why you ever thought fast food chains were ever an acceptable answer to the age-old conundrum of the empty stomach. For about the same price of a “value meal” at McDonald’s, you can get food that’s original and thoroughly delicious, and you hardly have to wait.
Plus – wait for it – (I SAID WAIT FOR IT!) they usually get your order correct, to boot!
Thankfully for us Metro Detroiters, the corner of 9 Mile and Woodward in downtown Ferndale, Michigan, has quickly become a breeding ground for the sort of boldly colored, vaguely ironic portable food purveyors mankind was clearly destined to create from the moment we mastered the intricacies of the opposable thumb. Just a mile north of Detroit’s legendary 8 Mile border, our local practitioners of food Jiu-Jitsu are hard at work on authentically inventive portable cuisine options, from Jacques’ Tacos to Motor City Franks.
You gotta love it.
Personally, though, my favorite so far is probably Detroit Underdog, a relatively humble metallic stand that hides out in back of Woodward Avenue Brewery on weekends. Owners Vic Reyes and Carrie Kellogg-Laux, you see, offer a product that for Metro Detroit is truly eccentric: great hot dogs that aren’t coney dogs.
Now, don’t me wrong here. I plan on having coney sauce poured on me in my coffin. Still, an occasional break is nice, and that’s why I enjoy Detroit Underdog.
From what I can gather, The Chi-Town Dog is Detroit Underdog’s most popular hot dog. “Two vegan ‘chai’-town dogs, please,” barks a bearded man in turquoise shorts and Doc Martens, his girlfriend and her incredibly tight floral print pants in tow. “I’ll… uh… have chai-town, also. With, um… meat,” says the slightly affected postteen with the leather jacket and seasonally inappropriate beanie.
So what the hell, I always have to order a ‘chai’-town, too, right? It might be sacrilegious – seeing as how I run the illustrious and insanely popular blog Made in Michigan – but you can’t argue with the flavor of pickled sport peppers, a sort of moderately hot chili pepper. And, hey, they’re at least using Dearborn Sausage brand franks (believe it or not, the company makes more than sausages)!
Detroit Underdogs has a good eye for selecting quality sources, and it shows in the final product. Other winners include The Cubano Dog, “wrapped in swiss & ham, topped with roasted pork loin, pickles, & spicy brown mustard”, and The Seattle, “herb-n-garlic cream cheese & scallions”. I mean, when you’re smashed, it’s hard to imagine anything better than eating screwball hot dog combinations from a nearby food stand. It’s like the holy grail of convenience and indulgence.
Yes, oh yes.
(insert pun about being an “Underdog”)