We're an opinionated country. Political statements are everywhere these days: on cars, on T-shirts, tattooed on bodies, in the media -- especially with the upcoming elections. It is a rare thing, though, to see a political opinion spelled out in sauerkraut across the back of a Vienna hot dog, unless of course, you're at Downtown Dogs 'n Smoothies.
What used to be a run-of-the-mill Frozen Fusion joint is in the process of becoming a civic hotbed, via politically active food. Election placards and pins, so-and-so for president stickers and re-elect me pennants are slowly creeping onto the pinkish walls, just like the names of local and national governmental figures are becoming part of the menu.
The menu is ever-expanding, and has grown remarkably from the days when chips and yakitori sticks were the only option. Downtown Dogs now offers Vienna all-beef hot dogs and sausages, burgers, chicken sandwiches and "Bill Clinton's (a little on the) side orders" plus the smoothies.
But the food isn't the most interesting feature of this metamorphosing eatery -- it's the names of the dishes that delight and intrigue politicos and their groupies. Listen to some of this stuff:
The Lethal Injection Chile Dog (a favorite of the District Attorney's Office), $2.50. Onions, cheese and Jeanne's Smith's homemade chile.
George W. Bush Texas Burger (hold the coke), $3.25.
Mayor Mary Lou (the sandwich with something for everyone), $3. Meatballs and sausage with sauce, onions and peppers.
Al Gore (regular hot dog, plain and boring), $1.50. Try to wake him up with mustard, ketchup, onions or relish.
It's not just elected officials and candidates being good-naturedly mocked, either. The Dolly Parton chicken breast sandwich is TOPPED with mayo, lettuce and tomato; the Pope Dog is a Polish sausage served reverently; The Godfather is an Italian sausage you can't refuse; and the Gloria Estefan Salsa Burger -- talk about HOT.
The smoothie menu is just as goofy, offering Viagra with the regular green tea and wheatgrass energy boosters. With its goofiness, however comes flexibility. There are no set rules regarding smoothies here, so you can break out of the guava-mango-tropical-blast box and create any combination of fruits you want, with or without yogurt. And the frozen drinks aren't mouth-puckeringly sweet and candied like most commercial smoothies. Because Pikes Perk has decided to send their fresh-fruit blends down the river, Downtown Dogs very well may have moved up into the Best Downtown Smoothie spot.
Admittedly, it is hard to get overly excited about common fare like burgers and hot dogs, but the food at Downtown Dogs is a great deal. For a few bucks, normally less than you spend on parking for the day, you can get lunch: a main dish, chips and soda. The sausages are moist and tender, the toppings are fresh, service is quick and the staff always makes sure "that your buns are properly warmed."