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Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Top Dawgs: The Hottest Dogs are in Zamalek
Having tempted us for weeks on Facebook and Twitter with pictures of hot dogs, quizzes that test our hot dog knowledge and just endlessly toying with our appetites; the long awaited, much anticipated Top Dawgs has finally opened its doors to the public.
Located in the high traffic area of Ibn Nabih Street in Zamalek, in between Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and Crumbs, Top Dawgs is the first gourmet hot dog spot in Cairo. A considerably small venue, the shop is easy to find with its glowing red sign and cool grey interior. Made up of nothing more than an ordering counter and some stand-while-you-eat surfaces, Top Dawgs is probably the most exciting thing this city has seen in a while.
Apart from being called ‘dawgs’, the sausages are also unique in their recipe. Created by the Top Dawgs team, the sausages were specially designed for this venture and would not be found for sale anywhere else. Their bread is custom made at Il Mulino bakery, it is 100% organic and preservative free; it is so fresh that it can only be used on the day it is made.
The variety of hot dog choices is enticing and mouth-watering. Not the ones to be unoriginal, choices include things like the Merquez Dawg, which is lamb sausage with harissa, Dijon mustard and caramalised onions (28LE); and the Bratwurst Dawg, which is veal sausage with sauerkraut and French’s yellow mustard. Other varieties include a NYC Dawg, Chicago Dawg and BBQ Bacon Dawg. You are also given the option between a baguette and soft bread for your sandwich.
We finally settled on trying the Original Top Dawg (23LE) with added melted cheddar cheese (2.50LE), the Chilli Cheese Dawg (28LE) and the Blue Cheese Dawg (29LE); all large in size. Served in a basket, the hot dogs are as visually appealing as their taste turned out to be.
The original hot dog comes with ketchup, mustard, sweet relish and onions; the added cheese was definitely a plus. Perfectly simple and greatly delicious, the ingredients together were an absolute delight. The chilli dog was equally yummy; the rich chilli flavour mixed with a hint of jalapeno spice and covered in melted cheese – just be sure to ask your waiter to melt your cheese well. The blue cheese hot dog seemed like an alternative approach to the classic sausage in a bun but proved to be a very good combination. Kept basic with just the cheese and fresh shredded lettuce, it is recommended to have it in a baguette; it makes a good, and lighter, lunch option.
The French fries we got on the side were just as enjoyable. Kept with some of their peel on, they were crunchy on the outside and perfectly soft on the inside – these were some of the best fries we’ve had in the city and although we were full, they were diligently eaten all up.
If you prefer to design your own ‘dawg’ the menu offers a selection of toppings. The basic ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise and BBQ sauce are added free, but as you move into the more serious toppings it starts to cost you. The first level has things such as sour cream, tobasco, Mexican hot peppers and sauerkraut for 2.5LE a topping; the next level is for 4.5LE a topping and has crispy beef bacon, horseradish and blue cheese as choices.
The truth is there is nothing we didn’t like about Top Dawgs; the sausages are flavoursome, the bread is organic, the toppings are generous and creative, and the fries are as the perfect French fry should be. Could we possibly ask for more?
Remember when we used to order pasta from Tomato Street and sandwiches from Wesaya? Yes, it’s been a while since we’ve seen a new Egyptian fast food chain, which made the arrival of Chicken Fil-A all the more intriguing.
There’s not much to be said for a fast-food dine-in experience and, let’s face it, fast food is all about delivery, so we ordered in. Chicken Fil-A’s menu is all about fried chicken sandwiches, with the exception of a dish that brings together grilled chicken with their Flying Rice (15LE-30LE), and they also have a fair amount of sides and desserts.
Sadly, however, Chicken Fil-A failed the delivery and customer service test; after receiving the order after an hour and a half, our complaints were met with sarcasm. It wasn’t a great start, but we were hoping for better with the food.
The sandwiches are largely very similar with just different toppings, so we decided to go classic with the Fil-A Deluxe (28LE) with a side of Hell Fries (19LE). The sandwich came as three pieces of fried chicken strips topped with ‘French cheese’ and lying over a bed of lettuce, tomato and the restaurant’s special sauce, but what was far from what we saw on the menu. The chicken had a very soggy and slightly burnt crust and we couldn’t tell what type of ‘French’ cheese was used, due to how little there was of it, but on the bright side, the chicken was very tender, the bread and the veggies were fresh, and the amount of ‘special’ sauce – which tasted suspiciously like mayonnaise - was spot on.
Coated with Chicken Fil-A’s special spices, the fries, meanwhile, were topped with cheddar cheese sauce, slices of jalapeno pepper and hell sauce. We really couldn’t feel the presence of the spices due to the overpowering spiciness of the jalapeno and the ‘hell sauce’, which turned out to be sriracha sauce. As for the cheese sauce itself, it had a good consistency, but it was on the bland side in term of flavours.
We also couldn’t not go for one of ‘Akbar Sandwiches Frakh Fe Mas’ (the biggest chicken sandwiches in Egypt); between the The Godzilla (38LE) and The Fil (40LE), we went for the latter.
After a rough start, The Fil saved the day. Two pieces of chicken fillet are stuffed with American cheese and served in a soft burger bun, alongside tomato, lettuce, and again their ‘special sauce’ aka mayo. The quality and the flavours of The Fil are very similar to Hardee’s’ Big Chicken Fillet, only it’s much, much bigger and the layers in the Fil make for a pretty picture.
We finished things off with Red Velvet Oreo (15LE) and Watermelon Fil-A Cooler (12LE). The dessert consists of five pieces of deep-fried, red velvet batter-coated Oreo pieces, sprinkled with sugar and served with cream cheese dip. Unfortunately the dough was very dense and chewy, and the cream cheese dip was too thick to be a dip. Somehow, though, the flavours were interesting enough and it just needed better execution. As for the Fil-A cooler, it was simply a can of 7up served with 2 tablespoons of watermelon syrup – the less said about that, the better.
Overall, despite its crowd pleasing concept and the potential gap fin the market for local fast-food, it’s Chicken Fil-A’s poor execution that could see it go the way of Tomato Street and Wesaya.