Sign in using your account with
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?
The restaurant certainly doesn’t look very Indian either. Owned by the Americana Group, this ‘casual dining brand’ has branches throughout Cairo, and is apparently ubiquitous in the Middle East as a whole.
Americana certainly seems to be the order of the day as far as the Viny Square branch’s décor is concerned. But despite being shiny and clean, the interior was poorly laid-out and felt cramped, with a group of waiters gathered uncomfortably round the counter.
These waiters far and away were the best thing about the restaurant. Attentive and helpful, they really deserve to be serving better food than the greasy, sub-par fare, dished out courtesy of their employers.
The platter consisted of four kobeba, twelve vine leaves, eight samosas filled with either cheese or mincemeat, all accompanied by dipping sauces: tehina and yoghurt. Given that all the above elements relied largely on oil rather than flavour, it was a little difficult to tell them apart. Save the vine leaves, which were drenched in mouth-stinging vinegar. The samosas’ pastry casings were fine, but the salty cheese filling oozed out of the samosa like silly putty. The mincemeat was similarly underwhelming; garnished with an ill-fitting selection of spices.
The two small pots which accompanied the platter apparently contained the dipping sauces. However, they were as sparse as they were ill-fitting. This may have been because the ‘tehina’ wasn’t actually tehina; just an anonymous oil-based sauce in which to dunk our oily comestibles.
We watched the lovely waiter with growing sympathy as he brought out the Tikka Mixed Grill (47.27LE); this was a plate containing a quarter chicken, five pieces of kebab and two pieces of kofta. On the side: oily ‘buri’ bread, bland mixed vegetables, a choice of basmati rice or fries, and tomeya sauce, which was identical to the alleged tehina.
Chicken Tikka claims to serve, ‘exclusively delicious recipes of meat, chicken, quail and farouge’. Accordingly, most of the meat was pleasingly moist and tasty. Apart from the kofta, which was rough and dry.
The menu does have some variation, offering a salad bar at 17LE a bowl and a children‘s menu (dishes roughly 20LE). Tea and soft drinks are both 6LE and there is a selection of juices; the guava juice (9LE) was made of fresh guavas. However, it failed to make up for how unsatisfied and unhealthy we felt upon leaving the restaurant, vowing to eat nothing but raw vegetables for a week.
The result of our philosophical musings? Chicken Tikka is a weird cultural hybrid; an anonymous American chain, failing to embrace or understand any of the elements that make up its hybridism. More importantly, the food is unsatisfying and it’s overpriced.