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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 are many reasons to fall in love with American cuisine. For many, it’s one of the first international cuisines that made its way to Egypt in the 80’s, while for others it’s the fact that it brings together flavours from other cultures and cuisines.
But for most, there’s just something so appealing about how heart - and occasionally greasy - it is. This has made American diners and fast food joints the most common type of restaurant to be found around Cairo. Chubby Yankees on Aziz Abaza St. in Zamalek is the latest addition to that long list.
Far from the traffic, Chubby Yankees is located in an area void of other shops or restaurants. Consisting of two floors, the first floor holds combinations of wooden chairs and high tables that can hold four people, plus an LCD screen, while the top floor has two seating areas separated by a wooden couch. Across from the counter is a bar seating area that overlooks the street, which is a much better view considering how depressing the decor is.
Black paint and red brick walls make up the interior, which is monotonous and incredibly dull. An attempt to salvage this with black and white wallpaper does little.
We went up to the second floor where we saw four people. We assumed they’re the ones who worked here since there was no one downstairs. The menu was a small piece of paper that comprised of eight items, none of which were labelled with a price.
From the appetisers we ordered Chicken Strips (25LE) which are supposedly served with a dip of our choosing. What we received was 6 pieces of chicken in a foil plate with four packets of ketchup and tomato slices. While the strips were cooked well, the layer of batter fell apart quite easily, and the chicken had no hint of seasoning. After the chef recommended the Thousand Island dressing, we found it to be just as bland as the chicken.
For our mains, we tried an American classic; Mac and Cheese (17LE). Unfortunately, it was just pasta with white sauce in disguise. We thought maybe it would have more cheese than usual in it, but there was nothing discernible to set it apart from anywhere else.
The Tacos (27LE) were probably the highlight of the night, but that’s hardly an accomplishment. The only thing that sets it apart from the appetiser dish is the tortilla bread and lettuce. We did, however, enjoy the plate made from two large tacos and the french fries.
The service wasn’t much better than the food; staff were hard to find, and we had to call for them through the stairwell to place an order.
While the prices at Chubby Yankees certainly aren’t as high as other diners or fast food joints, the quality of food is barely worth any money at all.