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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?
The healthy eating trend, make no mistake it is in fact a trend, has taken Cairo by storm. Every neighbourhood now has some sort of salad bar and/or diet-friendly restaurants catering almost exclusively to the people willing to sacrifice flavour for less calories.
We say it’s a trend because the last few trends before it were all sweets and confectionary items. Before the healthy eating trend hit the capital though, perhaps a decade before that, the original perpetrator of ‘healthy sandwiches’ and practically an icon of the 90’s was Subway.
Famed for their healthy options and tasty sandwiches, Subway were even known for their commercials about weight loss using models who had nothing to do with Subway.
The Maadi branch has been around longer than we can personally remember. Quite modest in size it occupies a corner across from the Duty Free Store and Tabla Luna.
Sporting the original sandwich bar layout, this particular branch hasn’t been renovated in quite some time. You’ll never find it particularly crowded either.
Opting for a Steak and Cheese Foot Long (49LE) as well as a Chicken Parmesan Foot Long (47LE) we watched the pleasant servers put our sandwiches together in the types of bread of our choosing. We opted for Sesame and Parmesan Oregano accordingly.
To top the meats off, we also requested tomatoes, lettuce and sweet onion dressing on the first sandwich, and pickles on the second.
The Steak and Cheese, while sufficiently stuffed with meat, wasn’t very filling. The flavours were decent but we do remember tasting better. The Chicken Parmesan was a complete miss. Made with frozen pre-cooked chicken breasts—the stuff that’s called chicken but barely resembles it, that wasn’t even fried properly. The rest of the toppings were quite scarce leaving much to be desired from this sandwich.
Sorely disappointing without much of a dining experience to salvage it, were surprised what keeps Subway going here in Cairo. The standard is definitely not what it used to be, the sandwiches just aren’t the same, and the competition is much stronger than what it used to be in their field.