Our great city still has a long way to go before carts line downtown sidewalks and grabbin' a hot dog for lunch becomes commonplace. Until then, inroads are being laid through San Antonio with more than the usual suspects. Though a chili cheese dog, a brightly colored Chicago dog or a 'kraut-filled New York-style dog have been found in Saytown for years (we'll tell you where to get those later), a new wave of dogs has invaded the city's core. And we're more than excited about it.
The San Antonio Current sat down with the guys behind the three concepts that San Antonians should jot down as each adds more flavor than the next to the area's landscape. Here's the scoop on all the doggies.
The OG Gourmet Dog
It would be foolish to write about hot dogs without checking in on chef Kris Martinez, who introduced RockerDogz Gourmet Street Dogz in 2011.
"When I came, I changed the way people experienced hot dogs. It gained momentum because there was nothing like it," Martinez said.
Sure that sounds a little boastful, but the dogs have amassed a following for a reason — and without a brick-and-mortar location. Instead, Martinez has persuaded San Antonio bar-goers and scenesters to chow down on upgraded dogs made out of a tiny cart.
"When I started out at the St. Mary's Strip, people flipped. It was the scene of nightcrawlers and locals that really helped," he said. He's pulled late-night shifts that extend past 2 a.m. for the last four years.
Martinez's culinary journey didn't start with the opening of the cart. It actually began off the side of a snow-covered mountain in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, where the then 26-year-old lied on a job application.
"I was a snowboard bum. I got into cooking because I had gotten a job working at the ski resort, flipping burgers 'cause it was easy," Martinez said. "I said I was a great snowboarder ... I had three weeks learning how to snowboard and spent three weeks busting my ass."
He later began washing dishes at a French restaurant where curiosity and a taste for fine dining led him down this career. Martinez eventually relocated to Los Angeles, where he jumped on board with Tada Catering, a service that had him on a 12-person team that catered the Vans Warped Tour. They prepped lunch and dinner out of an 18-wheeler mobile kitchen for more than 600 people daily.
Martinez eventually returned to San Antonio and served as banquet chef for Sunset Station, pushing the boundary with nitrogen margaritas and other treats. He decided to branch off on his own in 2011 by opening RockerDogz and serving gourmet dogs outside of the long-gone Pedicab Bar and Grille and the St. Mary's Strip, often setting up shop outside of Hi-Tones.
Because of the cart's size, the menu was and has always been limited. The Thai Kickboxer, inspired by his days backpacking through Thailand, includes a tomato, Serrano, mustard and sweet chili glaze, red cabbage slaw and a cilantro, mint, Thai basil, sesame vinaigrette, cucumber slices and Sriracha dots. The Nori dog packed in more Asian flavors, including seaweed salad, crab meat, avocado, eel sauce, spicy mayo and nori strips. Other classics included the creamy Bella Blue, a barbacoa hangover cure and a carne guisada number with spicy avocado sauce.
"People get pissed off at me all the time because I don't have what they want. They have to understand I have a small cart," Martinez said.
Though plans for a permanent location fell through this summer, you can still find Martinez's cooking around town as he and Angel Castorena of The Korova on Martin Street partner to open Droogs & Lolitas, a full-service kitchen that'll open for lunch and provide food during nighttime shows. A patio overlooking the river is in the works, as is the menu, which will include playful takes on grilled cheese and other sandwiches.
"Cooking at Korova reminds me of my Warped Tour days, but I get to go home at night," Martinez said.
Don't count out RockerDogz just yet, either. Martinez is hopping around downtown spots like Southtown 101 off Presa Street, The Phantom Room on St. Mary's and Clamp Light Artist Studios and Gallery on Blanco.
"It's still out there, I can't let it die out. There's no way I will let it. There's no date on it ... a brick and mortar will come. I believe it. If anything, I'm the OG of it, gotta keep it rolling," Martinez said.