Portland, OR – Domo Dogs, Worth the Price of Admission

 (THIS BUSINESS IS NOW CLOSED).

Domo Dogs Food Cart, Portland

Domo Dogs Food Cart, Portland

I love story tellers.   I like to tell stories, too.  I’m not so good at it. but I know someone who is.

At the opposite end of the spectrum of my likes and dislikes are words used in cuisine reviews these days – like “fusion”, or “mash-up”. and this prejudice probably comes (as I date myself) from the days when I first started experiencing “nouveau” or “California cuisine,” which were code words for “little tiny portions that we are gonna make you really pay through the nose for.”

But when I raise the topic of words I don’t like to use in my writing, Mrs. BurgerDogBoy gently prods me and sez “But, BurgerDogBoy,” those are words and phrases that people have come to expect when you are talking about something new!”  And I reply (grumble, grumble), and continue to look for new ways to describe food innovation.

But proper, descriptive words and phrases escape me when it comes to trying to define one of the newer efforts in Portland’s food cart scene – the tale of Budd and Grae Lewis with their “Domo Dogs.”   I first encountered them, but didn’t have a chance to try their product, when they started selling their innovative ‘tubular nutritional delivery vehicles” (that’s what franks are called in the trades these days), in front of the Asian hypermart, “H-Mart”  (Open 365 day! their banner proclaims!) on 99w, in Tigard.

The Domo Dog people have since journeyed to a number of other locations, seeking out their own slice of food-cart nirvana.  That having eluded them for now, you’ll catch them at various special events and neighborhood festivals.   Mrs. BurgerDogBoy and I caught up with them last nite at “Last Thursday” in the Alberta Street neighborhood.

What does this have to do with me loving story-tellers?  Simple.  Budd Lewis is one story-teller extraordinaire.  As you are waiting for your order, one can easily nudge Budd into a tale from his most extraordinary life – whether that yarn is one from his days of working for film icons Roger Corman or James Cameron, shooting beloved national television commericals, or weaving a tale of of audio suspense, like this one his recent saga of a Halloween night in his home town of New Orleans, .

Budd, with a gravely, passionate, accented voice, straight out of the heart of Acadiana, weaves a story with the same panache and finesse he puts into creating his very special treats, Domo Dogs, which he has named “Japanese Fusion Hot Dogs.”

What exactly does that mean?   In all cases, it means he starts with a quality, hefty, sake-steamed sausage, finished off on a grill, before placing it in a high-quality toasted bun.

In the case of the “Major Domo”, the sausage is topped with teriyakai marinaded onions, ponzu-mayo, sweet chili sauce, and flaked seaweed and sesame seeds.   You know the joy of biting into a great hot dog on the 4th of July, with all your favorite toppings, crisp and fresh? Compared to that, the Major Domo is like biting into Cirque du Soleil, and having astonishing performers dance around  your taste “budds” such as you couldn’t even having imagined before your first bite!   In the case of the Domo Yaki, starting with the same steamed sausage and bun, but topped with daikon sprouts, coconut cream peanut sauce, and teri-mayo, it’s like sitting in same said performance, experiencing all the joys and wonders in front of your eyes, and having a parade of concessionaires selling sweet desserts, dump their trays accidentally onto your face;  you, slowly, deliberately, licking their wares of your face until you just can’t eat any more.    Order your dog “half and half” and experience “dinner” at the Major end, turn it around, and get your “dessert” with the Yaki end, at least that’s how Grae Lewis first described it to me, and I can’t take exception to her own description.  In the European tradition, these opposites would come from the ‘sweet or savory’ selections of edibles.

As interested as the Lewis’ were in my reaction, Mrs. BurgerDogBoy was watching me intently as I took my first tentative bites.   She knows I’m not much for food innovation, and she would describe me as a food purist and/or snob.  (OK, yes, you’re right, she thinks I am a snob about a lot of things!) (But loves me in spite of that, so pfffffffffffffffffffffft).  (Further update – actually along the way, we discovered she never loved me!).

But she  loves me the most when I flash a smile that goes from ear -to-ear, and that’s what she saw on me last night, with each bite of my dog.

So what’s with the title of my post?   Domo Dogs are worth beating a path to Budd and Grae’s door, wherever they set up (and you can find out where they will be on their FB page), but while you are waiting for the circus in your mouth to launch, get Budd to weave you a tale of wonder and awe from his most astonishing life; or a story that starts with you  asking a traditional Southern Louisiana question, “how’s your mama and them?”

You’ll be spellbound, literally, as your ears feast on his wonderful stories, and your mouth screams with excitement as you bite into a Domo Dog.

These fine people deserve all the accolades and success that Portlandians bestow on the real winners of our creative food cart culture.  And when their success, dogs, and special sauces are everywhere across our great land, you’ll be able to tell your children that you stood in line for a Domo Dog, ‘back in the day’, and  when Budd himself was weaving tales, and tending the grill.   And you heard it here first:   hot dogs will be the next national ‘craze’, pushing “gourmet burgers’  to an also-ran category.  Trust me on this.

(Postscript)  Occasionally, Mrs. BDB reads one of these and points out things I miss.  That’s her job.   She reminded me last night that ‘less adventurous’ diners should note that Domo Dogs also serves some “American Style” dogs as well!  They have a bona-fide chili dog, for example, and also offer an all beef dog with your choice of condiments!  My apologies to all for not remembering to include these important facts – the Domo Dogs has something for everyone!

Portland Food Carts