Cleveland is good at all levels of food. On the "cheap eats" end of the spectrum,
while walking alking through Ohio City, we came across this interesting little place attached to the back of the Old Angle Bar: Bogtrotter’s Doorstep
(full review here
), which specializes in Au Jus Sandwiches, and it looked like the exact sort of place we should stop in for lunch. Bogtrotter’s is an interesting sort of place. It’s isn’t it’s own restaurant, it’s actually just a service counter located in what used to be a side entrance to The Old Angle bar next door, with just two stools and a shelf for eat-in dining. But they also have a nice arrangement with The Old Angle, who doesn’t mind you eating a Bogtrotter’s sandwich in their dining room, particularly if you are washing it down with one of their tap beers.
As far as the sandwiches go, the basic idea at Bogtrotter’s is the au jus sandwich. You know, like a French dip, or a Hot Italian Beef sandwich. And, indeed, one of their menu items, the “Chicago”, with beef, peppers, and provolone, is basically a Chicago Style Hot Italian beef sandwich. But they go far beyond that, with a full menu board of different sandwiches, ranging from the “Philly” (basically a variation of the Philly cheesesteak, with beef, grilled onion, mushroom, and cheese sauce) to the “Porkopolis” (roasted pork with spicy greens and provolone) to the vegetarian “Haight” (roasted veggies, provolone, marinara, and mushroom jus). All served up on crusty French baguettes, with your choice of how much jus to be applied (“dry”, “wet”, or “soaked”), and whether or not you want “crunch” on it (broken up kettle-cooked potato chips). And they aren’t cutting corners here, Bogtrotter’s seasons and roasts all the meats themselves, and makes their own jus.
So, looking over the menu, I opted for the Porkopolis, wet, with crunch. The resulting sandwich, shown here, was pretty much the definition of a “hot mess” (I barely managed to actually eat the thing with my hands, with plentiful napkin usage), but oh what a tasty mess it was. The sandwich ended up combining some of the best aspects of a good roasted pork sandwich (like I would get from Tony Luke’s
) and a Hot Italian Beef Sandwich (like I would get from Al’s
). The pork meat itself was a rich, flavorful, and tender pork loin, with a good spice rub on it, served up in thick slices. The spicy greens were flavorful and complemented the pork quite well. The pork jus was a wonderful thick and garlicky pork broth that thoroughly soaked the entire sandwich, but the French loaf was crusty enough to (mostly, it was a close call at points) hold up to the liquid onslaught. And the “crunch” turned out to be a nice textural addition to the sandwich; I’ve never been much of a fan of potato chips on sandwiches, but once they slightly softened up from soaking up the jus, they just, well, worked:
Carol did the "Philly", which was inspired by the Philly cheesesteak. A cheesesteak it wasn't, but it was still damn good:
Another truly Roadfood worthy place was Happy Dog
(full review here
)on the West Side, known known for their wide variety of hot dog toppings.
Okay, I can already feel the skeptical vibe coming from some of my readers. The world has a lot of hot dog places, what makes a place like Happy Dog worth some of your precious stomach sapce? And I’ll be the first to admit, hot dogs as a menu item are often a high-risk item: while there are a lot of really great hot dog places out there (Indeed, I’ve reviewed about 20 on my site
), there are a lot of dubious ones as well, and for every lovingly-assembled Gold Coast Chicago Dog, or pepper-relished-covered Blackie’s hot dog I’ve had, I’ve also been served up more than my share of Oscar Mayer 10 per lb hot dogs slapped onto a stale bun with ketchup and mustard to know that hot dogs generally aren’t the sort of thing I get without doing some research first. But I’ll tell you that from my visit, Happy Dog isn’t one of those places, instead, they are a great dive-ish joint that’s serving up some really great hot dogs with some good toppings.
So, let’s work our way through all the things that make Happy Dog great. First of all, despite the focus on hot dogs, Happy Dog is a bar that serves hot dogs, not a hot dog place that sells beer. There’s an important different there, especially when it comes to ambiance, but this is definitely a “bar”. Walking in the door, the interior of Happy Dog, it’s like you are walking into the bar area of a bowling alley on the wrong side of the tracks: the colors are subdued, the lighting a bit dim, the seating a little dilapidated, and the floorspace dominated by a bar and a small impromptu stage. Nothing wrong with that, indeed, I usually like divish places like this, since it means the people here care about their beer more than maintaining a TGI Friday’s atmosphere. Then you sit down, order up some beers, and the bartender then comes by with a couple of stubby pencils (again, like a cheap bowling alley) and half-sheet menus for ordering your dogs:
The hot dogs are $5 each, with your choice of a real hot dog or a fake veggie one, and then all of the toppings you can cram on there from the list. Let’s start with the building blocks, however. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill generic hot dog, the hot dogs at Happy Dog are custom-made, quarter-pound each, coarse-ground and extra spicy hot dogs from Blue Ribbon Meats, a local purveyor of sausages. After a bout of indecision due to so many choices: I started with one with chopped Roma tomatoes, escarole, pickled onions, and chopped applewood smoked bacon:
Next was a combination of my favorite spicy toppings (Black truffle honey butter, sriracha, chimichurri, onions, and sport peppers), and I was pleased with this:
Carol's dogs were good as well, #1 being caramelized onions and mole:
And dog #2 baked beans, mole, and mac and cheese(!):