Memorable | One of the Best
Art’s Famous Chili Dog Stand
Review by: Maggie Rosenberg & Trevor Hagstrom
*** THIS RESTAURANT IS PERMANENTLY CLOSED ***
Art’s is a stand-alone shack that has been in South Los Angeles since 1939. Chemical engineer Art Elkind opened it as a way to survive the depression. It is said that Art invented the chili dog. If nothing else, this stand has been selling them longer than anyone else, and it certainly has perfected them. After Art died in 1990, the stand stood unmanned for five years. Those were five tough, chili-dogless years for Manchester Square, a neighborhood also plagued by riots and poverty.
Since 1994, Art’s has been operated by a local family who grew up eating here. The owner is a nice guy, and has done a commendable job of keeping the chili crock warm. There are several basic categories of base-dog to receive the chili. The original dogs eat kind of like “Dodger dogs.” Then there are Jumbo dogs (either turkey or all-beef ), which have a more transparent meat flavor. All dogs are made by the nearby Meadow Farms smokehouse. They’ve been custom making them for decades. The Jumbo Jalapeño Beef dogs are our favorite, but every one has its own appeal. Turkey is a good choice. All dogs are steamed and without casings. They are plump, juicy and soft, not snappy. This is intentional, as Art believed that the chili should be allowed to meld into the dog. He viewed the casing as a barrier to entry, and the snap as a jarring interruption of the otherwise soft textures at play.
Art’s chili is a thin, saucy type, which is the popular style around town to top dogs and burgers. It has a mild, harmonious flavor profile, and it eats light and easy. It is meant to enhance other foods, rather than to be eaten by the cup. After optional mustard and onions (yes please!), the dogs are generously ladled with the chili until they’re coated but not sloppy. Also on offer are meaty, chili-topped beef tamales and Frito chili, or as Texans call it, “Frito pie.” It’s a scoop of chili ladled into a bag of Fritos. Everything on the menu can, and should, be topped with with waxy mild cheddar cheese. The dairy helps sooth the spice of the chili. On Fritos the cheese is especially important. It turns the foil sack into a gooey casserole.
Most diners are neighborhood people walking up for a quick bite and a little conversation. Get a dog and cozy up to the corner shrine immortalizing famous figures in an ever changing neighborhood. They range from the Marx Brothers to Sherman Helmsley to Ice Cube, and even to Art himself.
Directions & Hours
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