Los Olivos is a tiny town filled with tasting rooms for local wineries. In most such wine country villages the food options are limited to a few fancy restaurants, all catering to the wine club set. Los Olivos is lucky to have The Doggy Door, a place where wine tasters can enjoy a causal hot dog lunch.
The Doggy Door is a shack. It really isn’t much bigger than an actual dog house. All that was on the menu when we stopped in were four different original hot dog creations. One thing that makes these dogs stand out is that they are served with a topping of crushed chips: a playful touch that adds not just flavor, but textural interest. The dogs are Chicago-style Vienna all-beef and would be satisfying enough without their dressings, but we enjoy the crazy creations.
Each dog has its own personality to complement the various local wine varieties and craft beers for which the region is known. The couple that opened this place now has a wine and beer bar pouring local stuff right behind The Doggy Door for those who want to try out some hot dog pairing.
The classic hot dog is like a backyard grill creation, also recalling the potato chip-studded street hot dogs of South America. The combination of tomato, mustard, ketchup, and pickle eats fairly acidic, but is balanced by cubes of onion, sharp cheddar, and potato chip crunch. This would be a nice match for a fat chardonnay or a spicy wheat beer.
When we visited, the day’s special was a Reuben dog. This is topped with Russian dressing, sauerkraut, brown deli mustard, Parmesan cheese and, of course, potato chips. This one tests the limits of having so many wild toppings in a tiny shack. We don’t mind Parmesan instead of Swiss, but cold sauerkraut on a hot dog is an error. It sinks the dog. In spite of this, the tangy dog itself is enjoyable enough. It would be a nice match for a piney IPA or some of the under-rated viognier produced in Santa Barbara County.
The better dogs are those that use unusual chips for crunch. The Nacho dog combines cheese with a sriracha aoili to create a queso-like flavor along with firm black beans, tomatoes, onions, and crushed up tortilla chips. Tortilla chips on a hot dog is a painfully obvious trick that we hadn’t tried before, but really love. We would like to add guacamole to this one, which would be a harmonious match with a darker malty ale, like a porter, or a full bodied, aromatic rosé.
Our favorite dog is the Pesto. Its flavors are consistent with wine country, and right for a hot dog. Garlicy pesto mayo and nutty Parmesan cheese provide bold flavor and onions, tomatoes, sour cream, and onion potato chips give it salad-like crunch. This would be delightful with a drier Belgian golden ale, or the rich, wild cherry-scented Pinot Noir that for which Santa Barbara County is famous.