I reviewed Kalamazoo downtown lunch spot Dogs With Style a couple years ago, but it’s recently come under new management, and the changes are significant enough to warrant another review. The ladies who run the place are taking it to the next level. They still have the usual standbys, like Coney, Polish and Chicago dogs, and they’re all good. But the real draw of Dogs With Style 2.0 is the visionary new hot dogs they have.

The one on the left is the Mad Max, and the one on the right is the Guatemalan. Say hello, boys.

The one on the left is the Mad Max, and the one on the right is the Guatemalan. Say hello, boys.

The two I’m reviewing, the Mad Max and the Guatemalan, are like edible works of art. The Guatemalan is similar to a Chicago, in that it features a number of vegetables accompanying the frank. The Guatemalan includes cabbage, avocado, tomato, and a couple different salsas and sauces. There are a lot of flavors at work here, and they all harmonize wonderfully. It’s a bit spicy, but the avocado helps to cool it down. It’s a great example of the kinds of interesting things you can do with hot dogs if you have a solid imagination and palette.

But on to the main event. The Mad Max is an evolution of the Swanky Franky, a fabled hot dog concept involving cheese and bacon my parents told me about as a child. I never imagined I’d see one in a restaurant in my lifetime. The Mad Max starts with a hot dog frank, split and filled with pepper jack cheese and then wrapped in bacon and cooked. It improves upon the Swanky Franky here though, by topping it with macaroni and cheese and sriracha and serving it on a pretzel bun. It’s a decadent delight. The central frank is delicious and well-crafted. I’ve never had a problem with cheese leakage or bacon falling off. The mac and cheese uses think bow-tie pasta and is dry enough that it works as a topping without making the whole thing soggy. You haven’t had the true Dogs With Style experience until you’ve had the Mad Max.

Just because I've waxed poetic about their specialty hot dogs doesn't mean their regular fare isn't great, as these Chicago and Coney dogs prove.

Just because I’ve waxed poetic about their specialty hot dogs doesn’t mean their regular fare isn’t great, as these Chicago and Coney dogs prove.

The new Dogs With Style is even better than before, and definitely worth checking out. Most dogs range from between $2-4, well worth the trip. As far as I know, they’re still cash only at this point, so keep that in mind. They’ve also expanded the previous hours, so they’re not only open for lunch (11AM-3PM) but for late night snacks from 10PM-2AM Monday Wednesday and Friday nights.

The newspaper I write for, The Kalamazoo Gazette, was part of an ongoing project last week by reporters throughout the state to find the best Coney dog in Michigan.  As a sandwich aficionado, I’m all for this.  A lot of people don’t realize that Coney Island hot dogs originated in Michigan, rather than New York.  Throwing chili, onions and mustard on a hot dog is one of the best things you can do with it (in my humble but correct opinion), and there are places throughout the state which do a great job.

A Polish and Chicago dog from Dogs with Style. I've tried (and enjoyed) their Coney as well, I'll probably be posting a review soon.

The full archive is available here.  I’ve also included a link to my thoughts on some of the non-Coney offerings at Dogs with Style, one of the Kalamazoo spots the team visited.

I kind of try to avoid talking about my personal life on Sandwichtalk, but I was recently hired by the Kalamazoo Gazette as a news section intern (you can see my work here).  One of the effects of this job is that for the first time, I’m in downtown Kalamazoo between the hours of 11 and 3, when the hot dog shop Dogs With Style is open.  Dogs With Style is a bit of a rarity in this day and age; a cheap lunch option with limited hours and a menu of hot dogs and other quick sandwiches, french fries, and a couple of soups.  Seating is limited, and they actually have a walk-up window outside to the street.

The Polish Dog on the left, and the Chicago on the right.

I ordered the Chicago Dog and the Polish Dog, and was impressed by both. The Polish was a bratwurst with sauerkraut and spicy brown mustard.  It was good, and both the bratwurst itself and the sauerkraut were generously portioned.  I had tried a Chicago-style hot dog previously but hadn’t been too impressed with it.  This one was much better.  The inclusion of celery salt was a small but important addition, and while the hot dog frank itself wasn’t quite on the level of Steak ‘n’ Shake’s, the other ingredients, namely the chopped onions and tomatoes, tasted fresher and much more authentic.  While I’m still warming up to Chicago-style, this is obviously the place to do it.

All of the hot dogs and most of the sandwiches at Dogs With Style cost $2.50.  You can get a cheap combo, which includes fries and a drink, but the two hot dogs themselves made a pretty satisfying lunch.  Dogs With Style is on Burdick Street next to the Kalamazoo State Theatre, and if you happen to be going to lunch downtown, it’s a good bet.