There is a hotdog that emerges from the desert, as wild and complex as the landscape that birthed it. It makes men thirsty. It makes women sweat.
Its name is The Sonoran.
When Matt Welsch, the Vagabond Chef, and his wife Katie returned to open the Vagabond Kitchen in Wheeling, West Virginia, they brought back with them a collection of culinary experiences, creations, and discoveries. One of the most poignant came from a gourmet hotdog they had while visiting Tucson, Arizona.
“When you go into a new region, state, or a lot of cities, and you start talking about food, you will almost always hear the same restaurant or food mentioned over and over again. In Philly, it’s the cheesesteaks. In New York, it’s pizza. In New Orleans, it’s shrimp po’ boys. In Tucson, Arizona, it was the Sonoran Hotdog. So, as always, I checked it out, and I fell in love. I’d never had anything like it. It was the first hotdog that I’d had where the hotdog seemed like just another ingredient. When we returned to Wheeling, I knew I wanted it on the menu.”
This outlaw hotdog is built on the gastro-foundation of an amoroso bun baked in Philadelphia. The single beam support, and the heart of this meal is an all-beef, stadium style hotdog with a natural casing that is produced locally in Western Pennsylvania – the same hotdog that is used by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The similarities between this hotdog and anything you would find at a stadium ends there however. The all-beef hotdog is then wrapped in thick-cut bacon and served with the Vagabond Kitchen’s own house chili sauce, white and black beans, diced tomatoes, julienned pickled jalapenos, queso fresco, and crème fraiche.
Every bite is a mosaic of complimentary textures and tastes that crescendos in slight tingle on your lips and sides of your mouth, reminding you that you’ve eaten something but not so overwhelming that is sends your hand grasping for something to drink.
It makes you smile. It makes you inwardly giggle and burn for the next bite. You might try to play hard-to-get, but resistance is futile. The stranger that wanders into town always gets the girl.
The Sonoran has been on the menu since the restaurant opened, and those who have tried it, love it. However, Welsch is considering giving something else a try.
“I think the Sonoran is one of our most unique and tasty things on the menu. I mean, who doesn’t love a hotdog wrapped in thick-cut bacon, and that’s ignoring everything else that is on top of the dog. However, the long-term goal has always been to feature other gourmet dogs from around the country. I’d love to do a variation on the West Virginia Dog — traditionally mustard, beanless chili, onion and sweet coleslaw (also called the “All the Way” dog in the Southern part of the state), or the traditional Coney Island dog (chili, mustard, and onion). I want people to get it while it’s here,” said Welsch.
I know you’re going to get lunch one day this week, Wheeling. If you want something that is going to warm your belly while it satisfies its hunger, stop into the Vagabond Kitchen and order up the Sonoran. Tell ‘em the Redbeard sent ya’.