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Monday, June 17, 2024

Top Dog

I’ve written about the Fall Festival — that heavenly first week in October when booths with fried food line West Franklin Street — so much that just writing about it makes me feel full. When I heard about the bacon-wrapped hot dog at R.J’s Smokehouse, I rushed over. The dish evoked Fall Festival fantasies.

Robert Jackson, the owner and R.J. of R.J.’s Smokehouse, opened the restaurant in 2005 on Riverside Drive. Then, the menu boasted soul food, but a move two years later shifted the focus on the Kansas City-style, tomato-based barbecue. Jackson’s soul food roots remain, though, especially when touting the Chicago-style hot dog.

Known for plump portions, the Chicago-style hot dog comes clad with ample toppings chopped in chunks or cut in slices. Jackson’s dogs, such as the bacon-wrapped hot dog ($3.75), follow that method as he heaps generous helpings of neon relish (a sweet-pickle condiment with a fluorescent tint), tomatoes, and onions onto the meaty dish. He calls this version, “dragged through the garden.” Served on a poppyseed bun, this monster boasts a smoky bacon flavor, and yet it feels un-Fall Festival-esque. Where is the grease? Jackson credits his use of peanut oil as the reason for this fun and surprisingly light meal. The heartier option is the pit bull dog — a foot-long topped with barbecue beef and onions. Jackson says, “It’s a bad boy.”

For more information on R.J.’s Smokehouse, see our Dining Directory.

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