Samson’s Gourmet Hot Dogs earns its ‘gourmet’ name with luscious fare
Where is the best place in Dallas to get a 9-inch wiener? Some would say the ilume pool on the Sunday following a gay porn convention. But those who don’t have a perverted mindset need only head southeast along Cedar Springs and hang a right. About a half-mile down Oak Lawn, you’ll find Samson’s Gourmet Hot Dogs. “9 inches of fun in a bun” Samson’s proudly proclaims on its T-shirts, fully aware of the double entendre (and, I assume, fully aware of their location within the gayborhood).
But a dog at Samson’s isn’t all about the meat; it’s not even about the inches. (If you’re not a size queen, it offers Teenie-Weenies, bite-size mini-dogs for your pleasure.) Like all good places that claim the word “gourmet”, Samson’s is as much about the details — the experience — as it is about the final product.
The first step after you sidle up to the counter is choosing a bun: pretzel, lobster roll (basically a bánh mì-style mini-baguette) or a gluten-free.
Next comes the dog (each are $4; toppings are about $1 each). There are at least four options available each day: a bratwurst, an all-beef dog, a traditional beef-pork blend and a vegan version; a fifth, a German brat soaking in Lakewood stout, is also on the menu now. (The franks are cased at Kuby’s to a recipe by Samson himself —chef-owner Troy Gardner, whose dreads hint at his nickname — but the bread is made in-house daily.)
Upon these fundamentals the meal is composed as it would be at a frozen yogurt stand or sandwich shop. Bun-to-frankfurter ratio is smart: The bread merely cradles the center of the wiener, serving mostly as a handle or platform on which the fixin’s can perform their function. And what a performances it is.
The chipotle Texas chili (without beans) is spiced and rich, but the interesting and unexpected complexity of the chicken chili salsa was the first topping to win me over; a third option, a vegan chili, is also delicious. There’s a spicy hummus, curried mushrooms, the creamiest mashed potatoes I’ve ever tried, plus the usual suspects: ’kraut, cheese, mustard. It’s all toasted before they bring it out to you.
A meal at Samson’s typically arrives in a cardboard boat with wax-paper lining. Do not be alarmed: This is still good food, based on the salivatory production scale. The pretzel bun is hearty but not overwhelming, and the toppings ooze over the wiener, which sticks out end-to-end like a giant sleeping in a child’s bed. It is filling and tasty and since made to your specifications, you only have yourself to blame if you don’t like it — all of the components are solid.
We went ahead and tried the truffle-parmesan fries ($4.50). White truffle oil is an overused faux-foodie accent that usually dominates more delicate flavors (and let’s face it: All flavors are more delicate than its imposing profile), but we’re talking potatoes here. A little foo-foo is OK.
The balance worked well enough. But the chili cheese fries ($5) really get it right: the taters serve only as a chili delivery device, with sour cream, guac, quinoa-lentil salsa and whatever else you damn well want. Indulgence is de rigueur.
But you know you’re in foodie heaven when a 9-inch wiener is not the best thing you put in your mouth. The banana foster bread pudding at Samson’s looks like a sad pile of fried green tomatoes when you glance over the counter, but when it’s readied for presentation, it blossoms like a star-gazer lily.
Made of leftover day-old buns, it’s a housemade concoction that includes bourbon (imparting an apple-like aroma and texture — ask for extra; it’s the secret weapon of the kitchen), vanilla, brown sugar, caramelized bananas and cinnamon. My dining companion and I were both instantly gobsmacked by the first mouthful. It was, without exaggeration, the best bread pudding either of us had ever had … and quite possibly the best-realized dessert we’ve eaten anywhere. Cordon Bleu pastry grads could learn a thing or two from this dessert.
And many sandwich, taco and ’dog stands could learn something as well. From the retro-artisan fountain drinks (Mexicane cola! Vanilla crème soda!) to the friendly atmosphere to the infectious enthusiasm (it’s barely a month old, so of course they’re energetic), Samson’s is the kind of place you’re delighted to discover, and even more delighted to return to. It elevates the idea of fast-casual dining to a higher plane.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 1, 2013.