26 Sep 2021
Charleston and the Lowcountry are well known for gourmet cuisine. As I covered in our last blog, Charleston Restaurant Week showcases a culinary scene that’s among the best in the country.
Recent rankings by Tripadvisor had four Charleston area restaurants in the top 25 in the nation - more than any other city in the United States. That’s more than the foodie destinations of New York, San Francisco, Napa and Sonoma, or New Orleans.
Well, it’s not just haute cuisine where Charleston excels. A beloved local institution recently made a national top ten list, besting even some of the most famous ones in the land. I’m talking about the all-American classic, the hot dog.
What's So Great About a Hot Dog?
I won’t get into the fiery debate about whether a hot dog is a sandwich or not. Just Googling the subject shows that everyone and their brother seem to have an opinion on the matter, and they are extremely set in their views. For the sake of peace and goodwill, I’ll stay out of the fray on that one.
But I will contend that the hot dog is a dish that, when prepared well, can be pretty close to sublime.
Chances are it also taps into some pretty rich nostalgia. Memories of going to the ballpark with your dad, perhaps. Cookouts in the backyard, and neighborhood July 4th celebrations. Hitting one of the famous hot dog vendor carts on a trip to New York City, or the local hot dog shack when you’re at the beach or boardwalk. It’s easy to eat, delicious, and a classic for good reason.
Seems like everyone has an opinion about what should go on their hot dog, as well. It says a lot about a person, what their preference is. Are you a ketchup (No!) or mustard (YES!) or both, eater? Sauerkraut (again, YES)… onions… chili… peppers… relish…. slaw. The combinations can get pretty creative.
So, too, can specialty dogs. It seems like every Major League Baseball park in America has their particular special version. The Atlanta Braves have The Everything Dog. It’s a foot-long hot dog with queso, nacho chips, jalapenos, sprinkled with popcorn (!) and then drizzled with barbecue sauce. The Boston Red Sox serve the Fenway Frank, featuring a Kayem beef dog (made locally since 1909) that can be grilled, steamed or rolled, then served on a classic New England roll - split top and crustless on the sides, just like New Englanders use for a lobster roll. The Chicago Wrigley Dog boasts a bunch of veggies like tomatoes, onions, sport peppers, pickles, neon relish, celery salt and a bit of yellow mustard.
Top Hot Dog in the Lowcountry
But back to the top dogs in the nation. A popular Lowcountry eatery has been declared one of the top dogs in the land. It’s right here in Mount Pleasant, just over the Isle of Palms Connector and up Highway 17 (2805 N Hwy 17).
It’s Jack’s Cosmic Dogs, and it’s most definitely worth a visit when you’re here on the Isle of Palms.
The ranking of the top ten Best Hot Dogs in the U. S. A. for 2021 is by Gayot, aka “The Guide to the Good Life,” an international lifestyle, entertainment and restaurant authority. They’ve been cranking out the opinions since 1969.
Jack’s Cosmic Dogs came it at number six on their list - topping even the very famous Pink’s on Los Angeles’ iconic La Brea Avenue. Pink’s has been an L.A. institution ever since 1939 and serves dogs named after celebrities like Ozzy Osbourne, Martha Stewart, Marlon Brando and Carl Reiner.
Jack’s Cosmic is more than just great dogs and special custom condiments, some of which are for sale in area grocery stores. It’s also the décor and the vibe, which is ultra-cool and retro and all about the fun. Here’s how Gayot describes it: “Spacey décor evokes mid-century TV cartoons like ‘Flash Gordon’ and ‘The Jetsons.’ Boar's Head franks provide a quality base for varieties such as the Cosmic Dog, a local favorite loaded with blue cheese slaw and sweet potato mustard, for which the place is famous.”
The names of the dogs tie into the theme. In addition to their specialty Cosmic Dog, you can take your pick from these: The Astro Dog, The Atomic Dog, The Earth Dog, Galactic Dog, Morph Slaw Dog, Blue Galactic Dog, Krypto Kraut, Omega Dog, Orbit City Dog, Planet Dog, Sky Dog, Rocket Corn Dog, and Bunny in a Bun (a grilled carrot topped with slaw in a bun).
No hot dog at Jack’s costs more than five bucks. They even have kielbasa, bratwurst, corn dogs on a stick, the “Vegeroid,” a sausage dog made of tofu, and a few sandwiches as well. The chili is homemade. Be sure to try some of the delicious extras like hand-cut crispy fries with cheese, bacon, chili and spicy ranch; draft root beer, Kool-Aid, vintage long neck sodas, ice creams floats, plus soft serve ice cream and sundaes like the Milky Way, Moonpie Magic and Nebular Nut.
Check out the whole menu on their menu, it’s fun reading!
Jack’s Cosmic Dogs is no newbie to accolades. It’s been named the top dog every year since 2000 by the City Paper’s Best of Charleston Awards.
Also, famed Food Network foodie Alton Brown went absolutely bonkers for Jack’s Cosmic Dog. He featured it the program, “The Best Thing I Ever Ate!” which aired on the Food Network.
I happen to know Jack (aka “Big Dog”) Hurley personally, and he is a great guy. Just what you’d expect from someone who’s cooked up such a cool local institution that loves making people happy.
So be sure to check out Jack’s Cosmic Dogs next time you’re here. It’s a great place to take the kids, or to just feel like a kid again.
your Isle of Palms vacation blogger