Sunday, November 13, 2016

Where We Eat: The Vegan Hot Dog Cart

My refrigerator is currently overflowing with vegan versions of sausages and hot dogs. I blame some of this on game seven of the World Series, the rest is due to the giant squashes that covered my local farmer's market shelves. What I've found with most prepackaged vegan hot dogs is that they are really harsh on my stomach. If I eat more than one, which I sometimes get a hankering to do, I wind up with a stomach ache. As a result of this, I watch my vegan hot dog intake more than any other fake meat.

Yesterday was the annual Tampa Bay Veg Fest. Z-Bot, J-Fur and I arrived at Cotanchobee Park late in the afternoon when a lot of the crowds seemed to have thinned out. We had free reign to move about the park and explore the anti-animal cruelty product vendors at our leisure. There was one pretty long line in the park so I moved to explore it. Wouldn't you know it, Orlando's Vegan Hot Dog Cart had made the trek over to Tampa. The cart was offering three hot dog versions: the "Merica dog had ketchup, mustard, relish and saurkraut, the Olde Reliable was covered with five bean chili, vegan cheeze, onions and paprika and the Holiday dog included Florida orange-cran chutney, Carolina BBQ mustard sauce and fried onions.

I bookmarked the Vegan Hot Dog Cart (web, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter)  about a year ago as a place I really wanted to try. Back in 2014 the Holiday Dog was ranked by PETA as the number one vegan hot dog in America. Seeing that it was here, right in front of me, it only seemed fitting that I would be all gung-ho about shoving a dog down my throat. But then I thought about my refrigerator. All those dogs I've been eating recently. It took all I had to pass the cart by. I wondered through the rest of the park looking for something vegetable based to eat. I passed by Ethiopian food, two Asian booths, a Caribbean stall (that had a lot of vegetables) and a falafel joint. I turned my back on BBQ Jackfruit Nachos, Banh Mis and plant based milk shakes. I reached for my wallet on numerous occasions but I always let go without purchasing anything. Deep down I knew why. I knew I was going back to that hot dog cart whether I liked it or not.

     The Award Winning Holiday Dog

I returned to the Vegan Hot Dog Cart and waited in a line that was, at this point, about six deep. The dog I longed for, the Olde Reliable, had sold out during my cruise around the park. I figured if the Holiday Dog was good enough for PETA, it was good enough for me. So I went there.

Holy f*** was this dog good. It went down much smoother than the prepackaged versions I've eaten. Texture wise, it wasn't as chewy as those versions. The dog (and bun) basically melted in your mouth. The orange-cran chutney, bbq mustard and fried onions flowed nicely with the dog. None of the flavors stood out, instead they morphed into one giant swirl of sweet, sour and crispy. Despite all the toppings, this wasn't one of those dogs that you have to clean up with a fork. They stayed nicely pillowed in between those two bun walls.

The only thing that I was less than enthusiastic about was paying $5.50 (with a credit card). This price seemed a bit steep for the size of the dog. But when you are an award winning food developer, you have a right to charge for your craft. Ultimately the price didn't deter me yesterday and it won't deter me next time the Vegan Hot Dog Cart and I cross paths.      

I'd pair this Holiday Dog with the swirling electro-pop beats in Erin McCarley's "Good."