Dining Reviews

Dog Days

DINING hdog241st Avenue’s favorite hot dog stand, and a Cremer House check-in

There I was at Home Depot on 41st Avenue, foraging for plumbing supplies for my latest DIY project when the sudden, irresistible craving hit me for a genuine, bona fide hand-held hot dog. I was in luck. My assistant and I were face to face with Best in Dogs, a no-frills old school hot dog stand that has been a favorite of 41st Avenue locals for close to a decade.

Liberally tattooed with vintage rock posters—John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, Rolling Stones, even a testosterone-drenched movie poster featuring John Wayne—Best in Dogs specializes in a lineup of hot sauces, condiments and serious 100 percent beef hot dogs. Yes, there is a Polish dog, and a Bratwurst, but the whole point (for me) is the classic, non-designer beef hot dog served up hot on a non-Ciabatta bread bun. We ordered a plain hot dog ($4), and a Chicago dog ($6) which came topped with pickles, tomatoes and hot sauce in addition to mustard, peppers, celery salt and relish. I requested “no onions.” Add one can of Diet Coke and you’ve got lunch for one big contractor, or two basketball players, or a family of four. Huge, hot, with that sort of tantalizing tight but pliant skin, these hot dogs delivered the classic beef. The gooey bun did exactly what it was supposed to do: Hold onto the dog until about halfway through the eating process and then gradually degrade into carbo-goo slathered with whatever relishes hadn’t already squirted all over our hands. Take extra napkins when you go. Lots. This is a baguette-free pit stop, offering a short list of dogs, condiments, soft drinks, and two outdoor tables. That’s it. What is it about a hot dog? It’s so basic as to be ridiculous. Yet, it inspires serious cravings in grown men and finicky women. When in the neighborhood … you know what to do.

Cremer House Pop-in

Now that the oldest building in Felton houses the newest restaurant in Felton, I thought I’d stick my head in for a quick peek last Saturday. On a rainy afternoon there were quite a few couples enjoying Cremer House bar snacks and tall glasses of ales, pilsners and lagers—some of the 22 varieties on tap at any given moment. The gorgeous copper back bar design really grabs the eye, even in a gleaming interior of custom woodwork. My companion loved the padding on the banquettes, but we were both surprised at the small amount of indoor seating at Cremer House. Also, bear in mind that there are no reservations, unless you’re a party of six or more. I loved Cremer’s light Lunatic Lager, and a shared spread of fresh potato chips with hearty beer-braised onion dip ($5). Dinner doesn’t begin until 5 p.m., so I’ll have to return another day to sample the very attractive menu of hot dishes. Open 3-9 p.m., and until 10 on weekends. Closed Mondays.

Set your clocks for Pinot Paradise

Those obsessed with the outstanding Pinot Noirs generated by Santa Cruz Mountains winemakers can swill their fill at the 11th annual Pinot Paradise event on March 21 and 22. Two days of tasting, workshops and oeno-schmoozing —what’s not to like? Saturday, March 21 features a self-guided tour, from noon to 5 p.m., of over 25 wineries. Tickets are $25—and that’s a serious bargain. Technical wine session happens on Sunday ($45) and for the very serious, Sunday’s Pinot Noir Grand Cruz tasting offers wines paired with fine food offerings from 1:30-4:30 p.m., with a general admission of $85 at the Mountain Winery in Saratoga. Check the SCMWA website for full details at: scmwa.com/event/pinot-paradise-2015

PHOTO: Colton Fontes with a hot dog from Best in Dogs on 41st Avenue.  CHIP SCHEUER

Christina Waters was born in Santa Cruz and raised all over the world (thanks to an Air Force dad), with real-world training in painting, music, winetasting, trail running, organic gardening, and teaching. She has a PhD in Philosophy, teaches in the Arts at UCSC and sings with the UCSC Concert Choir. Look for her recent memoir “Inside the Flame” at bookstores everywhere.

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