One meal. One visit. One shot to get it right
Food trends are the lifeblood, and the bane, of the dining scene. On the plus side, they offer diners (and food critics) the opportunity to compare honey-poached apples to honey-poached apples — a horizontal taste tests to see who’s got the goods and who’s just capitalizing.
Innovation arises out of these trends, and sometimes they stick around … for better or worse (Asian fusion and Southwestern cuisine on the better, crème brulee on the worse).
A few years ago, it was gourmet hamburgers (still hot). Could gourmet frankfurters be far behind?
Apparently not. Samson on Oak Lawn set the bar for me last fall, combining fresh ingredients and a winning bun-to-brat ratio (plus a facility with dessert that got my heart racing). But Hofmann Hots — the trendy, ‘’50s-inspired diner across the Calatrava in the burgeoning Trinity Groves development — lacks such ineffable appeal.
It’s not for want of trying. There’s the Johnny Rockets-like décor (neon signage, vinyl booths, old-school rock ‘n’ roll playing on the loudspeakers) and elongated trailer shape that feels like you’ve walked onto the set of a Happy Days reunion. It’s all meant to conjure an era where you’d sit with Peggy Sue over a malted, looking into her eye and pretending you were straight … I mean, in love, updated for a savvy audience of today.
Superimposed over this laminated nostalgia is the concept of high-end hot dogs. But my visit — on a weekend evening, when things should have been buzzing like a sock-hop but were as stifling as the Day the Music Died — what was offered was underwhelming. As with most restos of this sort, you can choose from a set-list of items as well as your bun and the style of dog you can try. The counter staff seemed knowledgeable and friendly and willing to help out. Can’t fault them.
On my visit, I got the German frank (rather than the kielbasa — Hofmann is a German name, and kielbasa is Polish, so I figured I’d go with their strength), which has the snap of a tightly pulled skin on each bite. I ordered it with the Himalayan dog, which listed only three add-ons on the printed menu (onion straws, curry aioli, onion chutney) yet arrived stacked higher than a Highland Park hairdo — nay, as teased out as a drag queen’s on Halloween. The extras imparted a spiciness that was overall enjoyable, but the bun totally absorbed the dog, which, when I finally saw in the end, was colored the pallid pink of a grocery store wiener — not surprising, perhaps, because Hofmann has made mass-market franks for more than a century.
But where was the carbonized skin, the rich juiciness, the … personality? There are the intentionally suggestive posters bragging that they have the biggest wieners. News flash: Bigger doesn’t mean better when you’re talking this kind of sausage. Bulk does not equate with deftness.
The menu includes shakes, but not malteds (who doesn’t prefer a malt to a shake?!) and the tater tots are, well, tater tots, as you’d get at Sonic maybe. Ah, Sonic: Another retro diner that serves footlongs. And you don’t have to get out of your car.
Score one for the Southwest.
Hofmann Hots, 340 Singleton Blvd. Open daily 11 a.m.–9 p.m.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 25, 2014.