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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?
There’s no food you love-to-hate more than greasy, fried fast-food. There’s just something about it. But think about when you order that late night burger or fried chicken; it’s a process of moving between several restaurants and picking the one you’re least bored of.
Having originally found fame in Heliopolis and Nasr City, Welatain has since expanded into Maadi, occupying an impossible-to-miss large space on the intersection of El Nasr Street and El Laselky Street.
Welatain doesn’t offer anything you can’t find at KFC, Cook Door or Hardees - let’s be serious, these restaurants don’t differ much. What it does offer though, is a relatively cheaper alternative.
The spacious venue is brightly lit and occupied by several seating areas in the typical fast food diner fashion. The servers greet you from behind the counter with a smile and take down your order promptly. You can then either wait to take it back to your table, or just sit down and have them bring it over - the usual, really.
What Welatain specialise in is the spicy food and offer their sandwiches in different sizes, including the Torbiny - a 50cm monster that’s not for the faint of heart. We opted for a Sub Chicken combo (25LE) and a Hareeka Sandwich (19LE) with an additional Crispy Fries order (8LE) side.
The Sub Chicken is a very standard chicken fillet with cheddar cheese, mayo and lettuce - neither terrible nor awesome. The chicken is cooked well, the cheddar and mayo work and the lettuce is crisp and fresh. The fries, however, fluctuate in quality as was proved by two separate visits. At the time of the review, they were cooked to a near perfect crunch, though during a visit two days prior, they were coarsely cut, soggy and just overall unpleasant.
The Hareeka Sandwich – a fried chicken breast topped with a surprisingly tasty buffalo sauce – was definitely the winner of the two. The chicken was fried well, retained an excellent crunch and the seasoning packed it with flavor despite being smothered in sauce.
The Crispy Fries – regular French fries coated in a seasoned batter – were also a treat, providing a different texture and an interesting take that is every bit as addictive as the popular Hardees curly fries.
Though there’s nothing to wow diners, here, Welatain does what it aims to do: provide affordable and tasty fast food. Even if it doesn’t become one of your favourites, it’ll definitely become a fast food alternative to the other chains whose menus we have all come to know by heart.