4505 Meats' Gigante Dog at Public House
Since the 1960s, when ordinary citizens began to apprehend that a gathering steam cloud of "cuisine" (thanks, Julia!) was making the pure products of America seem kitchen-table basic, we've been a nation embarrassed about the hot dog. Oh sure, an establishment tastemaker like James Beard could wax nostalgic about the ballpark wiener, but it was a pleasure fixed in childhood, the boy scout uniform you kept for the sake of memory, not something you'd ever imagine slipping into again, even if you could.
Leave it to San Francisco ― the city that built an outdoor festival around ass spanking ― to remove shame from the hot dog. The genius of 4505 Meats' Ryan Farr was to take the meaty things the nation had doomed to the industrial grind factories and hand-make them, only without the "gourmet" preciousness that damned them in the first place. Prime specimen: 4505's Gigante Dog, an all-beef link sexed up with cheddar and bits of jalapeños. "Sexed up" is wrong: This is a weenie that doesn't shrink from the hulking, animal taste of beef; cheese and chiles serve merely to harness it, keep the taste from lumbering off into coarseness.
At Public House, the skin on the grilled Gigante Dog snaps, a residue of pale orange fat weeps into the Acme bun that frames without muffling. It comes with a condiment caddy, but you don't need to go there. The dog we snarfed last night disappeared fast, and we would've ordered a second except for the price. That single dog was worth every dollar, though, to effect a restoration of faith.
Public House: 24 Willie Mays Plaza (at Third St. and King), 644-0240.