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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?
As one of the most popular foods in Cairo, shawerma is a traditional meal that never fails to attract hungry Cairenes. With such a hype surrounding meat and bread creations, it’s no surprise that more and more shawerma eateries are opening up.
Flame and Grill has opened up on Zamalek’s famous Brazil Street, replacing Nola Cupcakes. The venue is simple and slightly shabby, with a seating area comprised of high tables and stools with back rests; as is the case with many shawerma venues in the city, seating places are limited, and the venue relies on patrons ordering their sandwiches to go.
The chalk board menus hang behind the counter and are varied enough to be interesting. Appetisers include fries (7LE), Kobeba (16LE) and Kiri cheese sambousak (12LE). Sandwiches available include flamed kofta (25LE-30LE), shish tawook (18LE-26LE), chicken tikka (19LE-27LE) along with the essential meat (10LE-20LE) and chicken shawermas (9LE-19LE). Many of these sandwiches are also available as dishes, served with rice and vegetables, including a mixed grill platter (64LE). Salads and dips are also present such as chicken Caesar (30LE), baladi (10LE), tabboula (16LE), tehina (4LE), tomeya (6LE) and baba ghanough (5LE) amongst others.
We ordered one medium meat shawerma (16LE), a medium grilled chicken fillet sandwich (20LE), a chicken tikka dish (47LE), one balady salad, tomeya and fries. We also requested the dessert of the day but it was unavailable.
Quick to arrive, our food was served on plates without a tray, peculiar for a fast food restaurant. The meat shawerma was well prepared; not over cooked or dry, although it was over-seasoned with herbs. Our tasty, grilled chicken fillet sandwich was served with a strange, pink coloured dressing which we came to learn was thousand island sauce. The chicken tikka dish boasted a generous, well marinated serving of chicken alongside well cooked rice and vegetables, although we stumbled upon the occasional piece of gristle whilst enjoying it.
The baba ghanough was nicely vinegary and strongly flavoured, just like the tomeya. Despite being served at small portions for their price, they both tasted fabulous. The balady salad on the other hand, while made with fresh cut cucumbers and tomatoes, had an unpleasant after taste which we figured came from the dressing. We were impressed with the French fries since they were golden and crunchy, without being excessively salted.
Whilst its attractive exterior and rotisserie caught our eye, we found the food at Flame and Grill to be average at best. Other than its esteemed location, the restaurant seemingly has nothing new to add to an already saturated market.