Once again I’ve met up with an old restaurant friend for good conversation, food and to find out where the restaurant folk dine and unwind.
Man’s Best Friend
Who doesn’t like a good dog? No, not the furry ones, a hot dog. I take us to The Red Hot. An absolute necessity of Tacoma located on the corner of Junett and 6th. The Red Hot has become a destination for the entirety of Tacoma’s diverse community. Everyone from the green money millionaires to the blue collar stiffs can be seen here. And why is that? The idea to visit The Red Hot came from my longtime friend Carol, former general manager of Pacific Grill and now wine/spirits salesperson for Noble Distribution. She and I enjoyed a couple beers, a couple bites, and pondered what makes The Red Hot so attractive to everyone and to her.
The answer wasn’t complex. It came as a faint memory, a comfortable feeling associated with many things we once experienced long ago. That simple fare of a dog and its bun. It was the background noise to so many fond memories and paired with camping, bbqs, ballgames, picnics, or family reunions. Well to do or not, dogs were always on the kids menu. We all loved them then, and part of us still does now. Of course now our appetites have become much more sophisticated, and thankfully so has the dog.
So bring on all the toppings you didn’t know a hot dog could host. Among many others you’ll bare witness to full strips of bacon, cole slaw, bbq baked beans, pickle spears, mac n cheese, peanut butter, sport peppers, celery salt, and my favorite, nacho cheese. Carefully chosen, paired, and layered upon a dog and served in their classic pie tins. Within their names most dogs bare claim to local lore and landmarks, but some are just fun and silly. Don’t be afraid to experiment and venture away from the dogs as well. Filthy Nachos, a must have, and their Frito Pie take bar comfort food to some other dimension. You know you shouldn’t, but we all know you’re going to. Carol pointed out to me there is truly something for everyone. For once the vegans and vegetarians will have to contain their dietary proclamation to the world.
Now add in a grand selection of beers, many local, that even the elitist of hopheads will appreciate and that expression “kid in a candy store” comes to mind. Normally this is where I tell you my favorite pairing, but not this week. Long ago The Red Hot had one of those heart attack inducing contests to eat their entire menu of dogs. Take it from someone who has completed the challenge, there are no favorites and I love them all. Carol on the other hand swears by the North End Not Dog. “A vegan version of our Tacoma Dog: grilled vegan hot dog, yellow mustard, onions, sweet relish, sport peppers, tomatoes, pickle spear, & celery salt.” Plus Carol isn’t even vegan, the “Not Dog” just tastes that damn good.
Typical of many Tacoma bars you’ll find the staff sporting beards, tattoos, and funky shirts. The veteran staff and on point service combined with this casual approach make for a welcoming experience. Over time, Carol has come to call The Red Hot her go to for ending a long day. “You get the atmosphere of a fun niche bar, but without the pretentious hipster attitude that typically comes along for the ride.”
Come to watch the game, or a movie. Make a new friend and take in the 6th Ave vibe. Admire the chalked out beer selection and ever growing collection of tap handles above your head. Asking for water is an amateur mistake, but ok to make. There’s self-serve water in the middle of the dining area. Eat hot dogs until you reach your happy place. When you get there, tell them John sent you.