If I weren't so sophisticated, I could really have some fun with a place called Cap'n Juicy's Super Duper Weenies. It would be so easy, for instance, to play up the phallic innuendo contained within such Cap'n Juicy advertising slogans as "The Naked Weenie Comes Cheap" and "More Than a Lip-Smacking Mouthful." But food reporting is serious business, people. And so, with all the journalistic integrity at my command, and for the sake of that segment of this newspaper's readership with tender sensibilities -- not to mention my granny who looks down on me from heaven -- I will do my best to resist the urge to descend into naughtiness.
Cap'n Juicy's is the latest addition to downtown Spokane's burgeoning New York-style hot dog trade. Instead of a street corner-side cart, however, Cap'n Juicy's owner Josh Baldwin has parked his business inside the Parkade Plaza on North Howard right next to Benjamin's Caf & eacute;, making this one hot dog business that's sustainable all year round. The storefront has the festive feel of a carnival concession stand. There is no indoor seating. In fact, there's no indoors, just an order window where the transaction -- cash for weenies -- takes place. Thanks to the clear and concise menu, ordering is a snap, though first-timers are advised to spend a few moments going over the many weenie options.
Most of the menu's stripped-down and fancied-up creations can be assembled using a variety of dogs. But a hot dog is a hot dog is a hot dog, right? Well, um, no. While it's true that most weenie meat comes from nondescript animal flesh that is ground to within an inch of its life before being shoved into a skin, extruded, or otherwise formed into a tubular shape, the variety of weenie taste, texture and size is staggering. You've also got to decide if you are going with the pig or the cow. At Cap'n Juicy's you can choose the standard-sized all-beef New York deli-style dog, or, for about a buck more, one of the quarter-pounders -- kosher hot dog, kosher Polish sausage or the Longhorn German sausage. There's also a Red Hook Beer-basted bratwurst.
Then you arrive at possibly the greatest of all decisions faced by even the most casual weenie-eater: condiments. Such toppings range from the recognized-by-a-mere-child yellow mustard and red ketchup to sauerkraut, chili, relish, onions, cheese, jalapenos, pepperoni and bacon bits. Jalapenos, pepperoni and bacon bits? You know it, brutha -- that is if you are ordering either Cap'n Juicy's Salsa Dog (your choice of weenie topped with spicy salsa, jalapenos, Colby and Monterey Jack cheese), the Pizza Dog (topped with pizza sauce, mozzarella, provolone, cheddar and pepperoni), or the Police Dog (with mozzarella, provolone, cheddar and bacon bits).
Our Inlander weenie bag held two New York Coneys (chili sauce, mustard and onions over a kosher dog) for $2.69 each, a Reuben Classic (sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and special mustard over a Polish sausage) for $2.69, a Naked Dog (with ketchup over a kosher dog) for $1.79 and finally, a small version of the Big Brat (mustard, ketchup and onions over bratwurst) for $1.79.
Across the board, the dense and sturdy sandwich rolls stood up nicely to the considerable loads they were packing. While there may have been some oozing of the New York Coney's chili sauce from its designated quadrant, there were no messy ruptures. Speaking of the Coney dog, it was extremely satisfying as only a hot dog smothered in meat sauce can be. The sauce had a welcome spicy kick, which nicely complemented the crisp sweetness of the diced onions. The kosher dog underneath it all was generous, tasty and, yes, juicy.
When a weenie has nothing much on it, size really does matter. Thankfully, the Naked Dog delivered in both length and the all-important girth. In its unadorned majesty, it was declared to be "huge," "meaty," and "one of the best I've ever had."
Though the Reuben Classic was Reuben in name only, it too was a winner, with a blanket of kraut-laced melted Swiss (the real stuff) filling the bun gap above a moist Polish sausage. The stone-ground mustard added considerably to this flavor and texture riot.
The only minor disappointment of our outing was the little version of the tempting Big Brat (which mysteriously was the only dog in our bag to come on a chewy poppy seed roll). It was not very juicy; actually, it was pretty dry. Yet aside from that it was, like the other more standout wieners on parade here, delicious, satisfying and easily worth every nickel.
I'd even go so far as to say that our lunch from Cap'n Juicy's was, in fact, lip-smacking good.
Publication date: 12/04/03