Uptown Dog

Street Food

This week I finally got to try something I’ve wanted to try for a few years now but due to schedules it didn’t work out until today.  Back before I started this blog I spent most of a years worth of Saturdays in search of the best hot dog in the area and while I found some good ones I wasn’t able to get what was reportedly the best chili dog in the Charlotte metro area, nay the whole of the the Carolina’s, Vic the Chili Man .

Vic sets up his hot dog stand on the corner of 4th & Tryon in uptown Charlotte on weekdays when the weather isn’t too bad.  Therein was my challenge trying one of his dogs, it was too far to drive during my lunch break and he wasn’t there on the weekends.  This week though I was taking some time from work and got the chance but even this wasn’t without bumps.  Thursday I decided would be the day to go and, as per usual when I go uptown, I’d park at the end of the light rail line, ride in and walk a couple of blocks.  When I arrived at the parking area the sign was quite explicit that the deck was full but being an optimist I decided to ride around a bit and see, along with half a dozen others folks who never found a spot either.  Curses, foiled by heavy usage of mass transit in a southern city, that was unexpected.  As I did a bit of cursing on the 20+ minute drive home I didn’t realize I’d been done a favor.  Later in the evening I checked the Facebook page to see if he’d be out tomorrow and I saw a note that he had been driven away before even setting up by a wicked wind from the west (actually I don’t know which way the wind was coming from I just liked the alliteration) and wouldn’t have been there if I’d made anyway.  Silver lining.

Friday was smooth sailing, all green lights, good music and 120 free spaces when I got to the light rail.  Pleasant ride in and a short jaunt later I was greeted by a line already at 11:05 but that’s why I came early.  Planning and setting expectations for the win.

Vic moves pretty fast but nobody was ordering one with just ketchup and mustard everyone was ordering multiple dogs (avg was 3 while I was there) and the buns are warmed so he’s constantly refilling the bun warmer.  Vic keeps up a conversation or is telling a story the whole time he’s making dogs so there’s an entertainment element while you wait that makes it not so bad.  He usually has a special dog of the week as well as some named dogs and build it yourself options.  Here is the standard menu.

I went with the special “Eh, Canada” and a Life Changer.  I was good and didn’t get chips and honestly I’d have added another dog before chips anyway.  After getting my chili dogs I just parked it on bench right next to the stand and started with the Life Changer.

One thing I noticed right away, Vic makes neat hot dog and by that I mean tidy.  A lot of places slop the toppings on and you wind up with crap falling all over the place as you try to eat it, not so much in this case.  It was also apparent from the jalapeno headliners I’d be glad I had water.  In addition to the peppers you can see a nice chili plus some red onions.  You can’t see the spicy Reaper Madness mustard or the grilled cheddar cheese underneath but they are there providing a bed for the all beef dog.  I don’t know that my life changed that much but it was a really good dog and woke up the taste buds for round two.

The “Eh, Canada” was topped first with the inspiration for the name, a homemade beer cheese and browned Canadian bacon fondue.  This tasty sauce was overlaid with Vic’s chili some french fry sticks and a sprinkle of green onions for color.  Compared to the first one this dog was mild but the beer cheese and Canadian bacon sauce was really good and the crunchy potato sticks added some great texture.  And just in case you’re wondering he didn’t use Canadian beer in the cheese as he didn’t want to go to Canada to get the good stuff because what he can get here is swill.  He might have used a different word but I don’t get a chance to use swill often.

I’m glad I finally made it to meet Vic the Chili Man and try his famous chili dogs.  If opportunity presents itself I’d suggest you try one or three yourself.


St. Patrick’s Day


This is the second time for Ireland and was only fitting since it happens to be St. Patrick’s Day.  Not only was this a holiday weekend I had the privilege of sharing the lunch with my sister, two nieces, a nephew and the boyfriend of one of the nieces the lot of who had stopped in to see me.  And my pot of gold was a free lunch (thanks Sister).

I decided we’d give Tyber Creek Pub a shot to be the Irish representative for St. Pat’s and it turned out to mostly be a great choice.  They are on South Blvd in Charlotte in an area that has a lot of reasonably new apartments / condos.  This meant a fair amount of traffic but they have onsite parking to service their two story business so we didn’t have to do any searching for street parking.  Today they had a tent outside in part of their parking lot to handle the crowds which was nice except that made the parking more problematic than it would otherwise have been.  We did luck out and find spots without having to circle and wait for someone to leave.  There was a tight squeeze or two, figuratively and literally because many people are deficient in the skill of parking completely between two lines.

The hostess was outside right by the patio area which was full since it was a beautiful spring day.  We did get seated immediately upstairs though so again the luck of the Irish was on our side.  It didn’t take long for us to make our food choices and we got a varied selection so there are bonus pictures this post.  One thing they do differently than most restaurants is they bring some small glasses that look like overgrown shot glasses and then bring a big glass bottle of chilled water so you can serve yourself.  Water’s nice and all but I opted to have a Magners Irish Cider to drink while we waited and another with the meal

The cider was very smooth, not overly sweet and had a nice crisp apple taste which went well with the meal selection I chose, corned beef & cabbage.

There was a ton of food in this bowl plate.  In addition to the corned beef and cabbage there were carrots and parsnips plus mashed potatoes.  The corned beef deserved its lead billing in the title.  It was so tender it was just about falling apart, sliced thick and the salt and beef taste was excellent.  Honestly I have to say the potatoes were actually better than the cabbage so as I filled up and had to start prioritizing they were in the number two spot.  The potatoes were coarsely mashed so there were small lumps that let you know these were made from real potatoes and I think they had a little Kerrigold butter in the mix.  The cabbage was good, they weren’t overcooked like is common in many places, these were soft but had resistance as you bit them.  I can’t remember the last time I had parsnips and they were better than I remembered but a solid number 5 in the pecking order.  The carrots were ok too but honestly most of them got abandoned along with the parsnips.

The others with me had bangers & mash, fish & chips, shepherd’s pie and a tavern burger.

From all reports the each of those selections were tasty and worth trying.  The house made tartar sauce got a really good review.  You’ll probably have noticed there was no burger picture and that’s because it was the one thing that was not done right the first time.  It was ordered with only ketchup and onion but someone in the kitchen thought it needed cheese too.  While I personally agree with that sentiment it is not what was ordered.  They took it back to the kitchen and scraped the cheese off and brought it back.  That was deemed acceptable but just barely and if it wouldn’t have taken so long for them to make a new one it would have almost certainly been sent back again.  One other culinary point of discussion at the table was the Irish soda bread.  I tried it just to so I could mention it and I swear it was so dry all the saliva in my mouth was sucked into it.  To be fair they did serve it with a big pat of butter sitting right on top and the flavor was actually good once I go a sip of water to provide some additional moisture since my salivary glands were insufficient to the task.  After heeding my warning a few others tried it with the butter and the reviews ranged between “meh”, “it taste like bread” and “it’s good”.

One thing I can say is no one left hungry.  It was a great time visiting with family on St. Patrick’s Day, eating good food and snapchatting with some who weren’t present.  Thank you Lynn, Lauren, Jay, Haley & Chris for stopping by and adding to the meal and the day.



Aubergine or Eggplant?


I normally pick a country for the title but in this case I chose to use the city name that is also the name of the cookbook I used for this blog entry.  This week I decided instead of going out to a restaurant I’d make something.  The road to this decision was short but winding.  I was looking for new places for new countries and was searching for Israel and all I was getting were a couple of delis.  I remembered I had a cookbook in my Kindle library called Jerusalem: a Cookbook that I bought when it was a $1.99 deal.  I’d heard the authors on some radio show, one Jewish and the other Palestinian, both from Jerusalem and they discussed the similarities and differences in the food they grew up with and the other influences in the cities cuisine.  Plus it reminded me of the short 1 day tour of Jerusalem I got to enjoy a few years ago.  Add to this that some of my friends are currently observing Lent and going meatless most of the time and I thought hmm…I bet there’s a vegetable main dish in here that might be worth trying.

I flipped through and found several interesting possibilities but settled on the Chermoula Eggplant with Bulgur & Yogurt.  This sounded like would be filling if nothing else.  There is a link to the actual recipe on the Tell Me More page.  I had most of the spices to make the chermoula paste and almost all of the other ingredients were easily picked up at a local grocery.  There were a few things I had to modify though.  I didn’t have and couldn’t find the preserved lemon peel (there is a recipe for it in the book) but I did have some lemon infused olive oil I’d received as part of a Christmas gift so I used that and some lemon zest.  I also couldn’t find bulgur without going further out of my way on a rainy day than I wanted to so I settled for buckwheat as a substitute.  The last change, I wasn’t feeling the cilantro so I left that out entirely.  Oh and since there is just the one of me I halved the recipe.

Here’s the eggplant or aubergine if you prefer after baking with the chermoula.

The chermoula was easy to make and by itself is very flavor packed and I can see where it would be good on other vegetables and some meats as well.  Here is the final product with the buckwheat and some baked pita bread with za’atar and olive oil.

The eggplant and chermoula were good and would be a good central element for a meal that included side dishes other than bulgur or buckwheat.  As mentioned the paste has a great flavor and the citrus plus heat from chile flakes pack some tangy heat to the meal.  The buckwheat I substituted for the bulgur thickened up during cooking but the olive oil and lemon juice cut the pastiness a bit.  There were raisins, olives, & mint all added as well that ramped up the tastiness of the buckwheat and the whole was topped with Greek yogurt and toasted almond slices.  The toasted pita with olive oil allowed me to try another spice mixture, za’atar, mentioned in the book and which I happened to have on hand thanks to the Christmas gift mentioned earlier which had 12 spice blends from around the world.  Za’atar has a bold flavor and I’d say is a blend you to be used liberally on whatever you choose to sprinkle it on.  The mixture I have is a common variety using thyme instead of the original hyssop or za’atar which gives the mixture its name.

I enjoyed the meal and it was quite filling so if you want to skip the meat for a meal and like bold flavors give this a go.  I’m glad I did.