Cherished Indy hotdogs, chevapi invade city’s snacking scene
Van Camp’s pork and beans. Wonder bread. Clabber Girl baking powder. Into the national lexicon of foodstuffs, Indiana has contributed a number of the most iconographic brand names. Would Wonder bread be as recognizable if Elmer Cline of Taggart Baking Company hadn’t looked up at a balloon race over the Indianapolis Speedway, later turning what he saw into the colorful dots on that familiar bag?
Of course, not all our regional brands have gone countrywide. Indianapolis natives will undoubtedly remember the King David hotdog brand, which the Hene Meat Company on Capitol Street produced from the ’40s through the early ’90s. While Hene’s dogs never became as famous as Oscar Meyer’s wieners, they did have a lot of local fans. So much so that Brent Joseph, grandson of William Hene, along with friend Matt Hursh, have brought back the dogs and are cooking them up in a storefront dog shop on Market Street downtown. Open for less than a month, their frankfurter outlet is one of the few places to get a dog that’s actually got an Indianapolis character to it. Sure, you can get a Chicago dog here, but you’re eating a juicy, only-in-Indy quarter-pound frank that you won’t get anywhere in the Windy City. Or anywhere else, for that matter.
Close to a dozen topping variations include such saucy concoctions as the Chihuahua (nacho cheese and jalapeños) or the Reuben (with thousand island dressing). One wonders what version would best allow diners to taste a true King David Dog. The classic “New York” dog ($4.79) I ordered had plenty of spicy ballpark mustard, but sauerkraut and a New York-style onion sauce rendered the bun mush in the few blocks it took me to drive home. Rescuing the dog from the goo, I could taste the difference between a King David and your average hotdog. This juicy, skinless whopper packs plenty of garlic and spice and has a very beefy flavor to it, which is good, since it’s made entirely of beef. Hursh and Hene are working to get them back into local butcher shops. They’re currently available at Joe’s Butcher Shop in Carmel (317-846-8877).
I typically reserve my corndog consumption for the Indiana State Fair, but I was willing to break tradition on a blustery December afternoon. The “State Fair” dog ($3.99) is an impressive, macho affair made to order. Unfortunately, such a big dog requires a lot of batter, and while that slightly sweet batter had a lightness to it, it was a tad raw and gooey just around the dog itself. Somehow that didn’t keep me from eating my way down to the stick.
White chicken chili, certainly the most newfangled thing on King David’s menu, had a spicy bite, but it lacked other seasonings — namely salt. Next time, I’m trying the good old American red version.
For now, King David is open only for weekday lunch, though they’re currently staying open until tip-off of Pacers home games. But they’re willing to extend their hours if the public demands it, so stop in and see Brent or Matt and tell them you want your dogs in the evenings and on weekends too.
To the growing list of culinary curiosities only a sprawling metropolis like Indianapolis can offer, add this one: a gas station pizzeria in Brownsburg owned by natives of Zagreb, Croatia. Now, before you string this restaurant critic up for suggesting you drive a half hour out of the city for what you can get in every strip mall in town, consider this: the “Adriatic,” a delectably original pie with a rich, buttery crust under plenty of tasty cheese, prosciutto, asparagus and olives. How about a four-cheese pizza with gorgonzola and fontina? Better yet, skip pizza altogether and go for a surprisingly large serving of chevapi, traditional lamb and beef sausages served on warm, house-made flatbread with onions, peppers and a garlicky seasoned salt.
Open for just under a year in exceedingly modest but quite clean digs mere feet from gas pumps off U.S. Highway 136, Adriatic Pizza calls subtle attention to the owners’ homeland. Diners can while away the time waiting for their pizzas with a magnifying glass and an atlas, albeit a pre-Balkanization one, to locate the Adriatic coast and the capital city of Zagreb, a 900-year-old cultural center on the southern slope of the Medvednica mountains. Or you can chat with the amiable owners, who will smile through any language confusion to make you feel utterly at home.
With nearly two decades of pizza-making experience in Italy, Switzerland and Stuttgart, Germany, these restaurateurs are no neophyte entrepreneurs. True to Old Word recipes, saucing is light, and while the crust isn’t as crisp as it might be on the other side of the Adriatic, it’s made by hand daily. Cheeses, meats and veggies are clearly a notch above those you’d get at any other pizza takeout. Additional topping options include shrimp, pineapple, corn, broccoli, chives and sage. Large pizzas range from $8.99 to $13.99.
A few quirks of service added to the charm of the meal. Our request for ice water brought us an individual bucket of ice, paper cups and two bottles of water from a cooler. Included with every pizza order is a crunchy cabbage salad with banana peppers, herbs and vinegar. Definitely not the typical bowl of iceberg with ranch.
While this place might be more in the category of “when you’re in the neighborhood,” anyone who appreciates the diversity of the local restaurant scene will want to get to the outskirts of Brownsburg soon.
King David Dogs
15 N. Pennsylvania St.
Monday-Friday: 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
1447 Main St., Suite C
Monday-Sunday: 11 a.m.-11 p.m.