Over time, to the eyes of this curious vegetarian, the ever-present scorching canine turned a tease. There it was, wherever I seemed — on the ballpark, weekend barbecues, that questionable machine at a neighborhood dive bar — at all times bringing mild to folks’s faces. I needed to know what was so particular concerning the American staple.
A vegetarian finds scorching canine bliss at Lyman’s Tavern in D.C.
Then I discovered my very own scorching canine bliss at Lyman’s Tavern.
Lyman’s caps off a beloved block of 14th Road NW in Columbia Heights, additionally dwelling to fellow ingesting gap Purple Derby, the unique Taqueria Habanero and Mezcalero Cocina Mexicana (the latter two of that are talked about in our roundup of the town’s greatest tacos). Since opening in 2014, Lyman’s has turn out to be the kind of unfussy nook bar to draw regulars — a few of whom even moved to the neighborhood to be nearer to their favourite spot, as co-owner Kevin Perone just lately instructed me. “We used to have an indication over the entrance door that mentioned ‘A Pleasant Place,’” he added, “but it surely bought knocked down in a windstorm.”
What retains folks coming again? The booze, clearly, but additionally a dependable menu. Whether or not you swing by for reasonable beer or the rotation of seasonal drinks — over the summer season, fruity variations on Maryland’s Orange Crush cocktail; in colder months, scorching toddies and the like — there’s at all times bar meals to pair. The choices have expanded through the years to incorporate an assortment of traditional sandwiches, quesadillas, chili, salads and even Frito pies, however the scorching canine have been round from the start.
Which is sensible. Like Lyman’s itself, they strike a perfect stability between whimsical and reliable. As you sit on a bar stool beneath the eclectic decorations Perone introduced over from a storage unit in Montana, the place he beforehand lived, you would possibly think about which of the six scorching canine to decide on. (Costs vary from $6 to $8.) How concerning the Jess Canine — named after Perone’s accomplice and co-owner, Jessica Kleinmann — topped with pickles, onions and mustard, and served with a foolish facet of vibrant orange cheese puffs? Should you’re feeling notably courageous, you would possibly go for the chili cheese canine, topped with Inconceivable meat chili and a housemade roasted jalapeño cheddar sauce (the latter can also be served atop the nacho canine, sans chili).
Skeptics would possibly shrug their shoulders at this plebeian fare. However in an period of Instagram rewarding over-the-top meals creations, it might probably really feel like less complicated accomplishments get missed. Perone mentioned he and Lyman’s chef Tom White agree that their menu “is probably not the fanciest, however the whole lot goes to be high-quality.”
The default scorching canine is made totally of beef. For an additional greenback, because the menu signifies, you may substitute a pea-protein-based choice. An honest vegetarian scorching canine — my white whale. I’ve been a vegetarian for greater than 20 years. I’ve missed little in the best way of carnivorous delights. However a scorching canine? That handheld supply of pleasure on a bun? I nonetheless needed that.
And consider me, I’ve tried to seek out it. Although broad American tradition has come far in its embrace of vegetarianism, a balanced plant-based scorching canine proved elusive. Most store-bought choices had been too rubbery. Many had been too bland. As open-minded as I attempted to be, home made carrot scorching canine strayed too removed from the spirit of their inspiration.
Nonetheless, I refused to surrender my pursuit. However why? A current telephone name to Jamie Loftus, comic and creator of “Uncooked Canine: The Bare Fact About Sizzling Canine,” confirmed that I, like a lot of my fellow Individuals, had merely fallen prey to efficient advertising. The recent canine is offered as a logo of our nation. Nevertheless it “comes primarily from a collection of European sausage traditions which might be tied collectively and have become the new canine by the use of the Industrial Revolution,” in accordance with Loftus, who mentioned she believes it to be considerably of “a weird factor to name it American, as a result of it form of isn’t — however that additionally feels very American.”
A extra beneficiant learn means that the new canine is no matter we select to make of it. It “capabilities as a canvas for the native meals traditions of wherever you’re,” Loftus mentioned, noting that “a scorching canine you’ve gotten in New England goes to be very completely different than one you’ve gotten in Southern California or Chicago.”
What a couple of pea-protein-based scorching canine in Northwest Washington? I first ordered the veg Jess Canine on a random weeknight as a result of I wanted a snack and am a sucker for cheese puffs. I didn’t anticipate a lot of the new canine itself, but it surely turned out to be what has stored me going again — on different faculty nights, some weekends, even the Fourth of July. Consolation meals can often veer into mushy monotony, however the pickles-onion-mustard combo provides the Jess Canine the correct quantity of zing in each chunk.
It seems scorching canine distinctions may even fluctuate by neighborhood. The namesake Lyman’s Canine, as an example, pays homage to the demographics of Columbia Heights with housemade curtido, a Salvadoran cabbage slaw. Its zest provides a jolt to the mild spices of the new canine — detectable within the vegetarian choice as effectively — leading to a dynamic mix of flavors to gasoline a spherical of pinball at one of many old-school machines lining Lyman’s again corridor.
The recent canine, per Loftus, “is the closest I can get to being like, ‘That is the good equalizer meals.’”
At Lyman’s, that’s true for vegetarians and meat eaters alike.
3720 14th St. NW, 202-723-0502. lymanstaverndc.com.
Hours: Midday to 2 a.m. Sunday by way of Thursday, midday to three a.m. Friday and Saturday.
Nearest Metro: Columbia Heights or Georgia Ave.-Petworth.
Costs: $6-$20 for all gadgets on the meals menu.