Thursday, June 10, 2021

The Dog House

The Dog House on Miami Boulevard, Durham, NC
I’ve been going to the Dog House for years, literally since the first one opened back when I was about 9 years old. I should have featured the Dog House sooner; better late than never.

It’s a cute theme. The building looks like Snoopy’s dog house. Trash cans are fire hydrants and mailboxes. And the hot dogs have names like Collie, Puppy, Ol’ Yallow, Boxer, German Shepherd, and my favorite, the Bull Dog. They used to have a Chiahuahua, my second favorite, but I haven’t see those in a while. 

Dog House table, shaped like a dog bone with puppy paw prints

I grew up in Bahama, and on Friday nights, it was a big deal for us to “go to town.” Lots of times, we’d visit family or shop in downtown Durham before Belk, Thalhimer’s, and all the other stores moved from the center of the city to the malls in suburbia.

On these trips, we’d “eat out,” and that usually meant grabbing a hot dog at King’s Sandwich Shop or the newcomer, the Dog House. I loved the Dog House back then. And I’ve loved it throughout the years.

When I was a kid, the only location was the Miami Boulevard spot. 

The Dog House sign and trash cans shaped like fire hydrants and mail boxes
When I was in working in a grocery store on weekends in college, the Guess Road location was my favorite. Back then their employees stuck around, and I remember watching several familiar faces age through the years--always delivering awesome Bull Dogs, my dog of choice.

For a while, my grocery store transferred me, and I lunched on Miami Boulevard, at the location of my childhood.

Later, when I worked at a software company in Morrisville, I’d grab a satisfying lunch at the now-departed Dog House on Airtech Drive. After that closed, I’d sometimes make the trek to the one closer to the intersection of NC54 and NC55 on Allendown Drive.

I even remember when one Dog House sat near where the Durham Farmers’ Market stands now. 

According to their website, now they have locations in Hillsborough and Kinston. There’s even one in North Durham, near where I went to high school.

The most convenient Dog House for me is the one on Hillsborough Road. I like that it has a drive-thru window. Sadly, it's not my favorite.

The Dog House on Hillsborough Road in Durham, NC
Hillsborough Road, Durham

For most of my life, I found their hot dogs to be near the best one could get.

As time goes on, things, change. That’s true for the Dog House, as well. 

I noticed that sometime in the last 10-15 years, their dogs changed. Gone were the older ladies who served me great dogs over the years. And along with them, some of the magic also disappeared.

It’s hard to put my finger on just what changed. 

Until the past decade or so, I never got a wrong order, but I’ve gotten my dogs home upon occasion to find poor hot dogs smothered in a nasty cheese sauce with fake bacon bits—something I’d never order. Other times, I’d pay for a quart of slaw and find I received a pint.

It’s not just the accuracy, the look and taste seem to have changed, as well. 

I think it’s mainly the care. It all seems to have happened when they stopped wrapping the hot dogs in the white tissue paper and started using an unbleached, thicker paper, but I doubt it was the paper that caused the change. The slaw doesn’t seem as fresh—and I really loved their slaw. 

Maybe it’s just because I’m older and have romanticized my earlier experiences. But I’m not so sure.

Despite all that, I still find myself hankering for a couple of Bull Dogs. And sometimes, I give in. I gave in a couple of weeks ago—and I decided to go back to where I first experienced the Dog House: Miami Boulevard.

I ordered two Bulls and a large fry. 

Two Bull Dogs: mustard, slaw, chili, onions
Two Bull Dogs

Despite being wrapped in the new, unbleached paper, my dogs were pretty darn good. I wouldn’t say they were as good as my memory, but they were pretty decent. And the fries were delightful. These fries are beautiful crinkle-cut fries. The salt sparkles on them, and they’re best when they slightly burn your fingers. The slaw isn’t quite as delightful as I remember, but it was homemade, and that’s the key to a good Carolina dog.

Crinkle-cut fries, piping hot with sparkling salt
Crinkle cut fries

I think the original location is the closest to what I remember as the Dog House I grew up with.

My verdict: 4 weenies