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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?
After a more than satisfying experience at Butcher’s Burger in Westown Hub, we couldn’t help but pay a visit to its partner in crime, Gourmet Fried Chicken. Owned by the same restaurateurs, the two diners sit beside each other, almost meshing into one super restaurant – the two venues are separated only by a thin wall.
After being seated, we instantly fell in love with the artwork and the atmosphere of the Gourmet Fried Chicken. Much like Butcher’s Burger, wood is the main aesthetic theme, but there are hints of kitsch peppering the place – especially with the tallow minibus prop piece outside.
Serving specialties from the soul food kitchen, Gourmet Fried Chicken menu offers American-style eats including Fried Chicken Meal served with Butter Waffles (59LE), Big Mama Special – a platter comprised of three fried chicken pieces – mac and cheese served with corn bread and coleslaw (69LE) and the Soul Food Platter – pairing 3 pieces of fried chicken with gravy sauce, mashed potatoes and a corn on cob (69LE) – as well as many other luscious Southern choices.
Anxious to test the authenticity of this scarce type of cuisine, we opted for Mushroom Gravy Chicken served with butter waffles (59LE) and a GFC Tower – a fried chicken sandwich with toppings including onions, jalapenos, pickles, ranch dressing and served with fries (44LE).
Thirty minutes after ordering, our food was arrived and we were keen to try the restaurant’s interpretation of a southern American classic pairing of chicken and waffles. For those who haven’t tried it before, it’s not as peculiar a combination as it sounds – stripped the dish down and you have chicken with cooked batter. Unfortunately, however, the waffles were not stuffed with chicken as stated in the menu, while the chicken and mushroom gravy served on top was sparse.
The GFC sandwich was, on the other hand, the definition of a perfect fried chicken sandwich. The chicken itself was cooked perfectly, boasting a crispy exterior and a tender interior, while the sweetness of the coleslaw perfectly balanced the chilly spike from the jalapenos.
Of the dessert options, we ordered the Churros (24LE) – a Spanish fried-dough pasty that has its roots in Spain, but has seeped into American south-western cuisine via Latin America. Golden, crispy and incredibly tasty, there was little to complain about with the simple dessert – which one might compare to the Middle Eastern bala7 el sham – especially with the rich chocolate dip that comes with it.
Simple is a key word here; when you break down the food at GFC, it’s all very uncomplicated. But what will keep us coming back to the restaurant is that, Mushroom Gravy Chicken aside, it delivers with big flavours. As for the dreaded question of longevity and consistency, GFC is the kind of place that can become a go-to favourite – a valuable trait in Cairo we are, more than most, creatures of habit.