May 12, 2011

Guest Post: Sonic Hot Dog Tasting!

You may remember my friend Hoosh from her previous post on a Sonic Burger taste test. That post remains one of my most-searched and viewed posts to date(Hoosh also remains one of my favorite people)! She was lucky enough to do a hot dog tasting recently, and sweet enough to do another guest post. Thanks, Hoosh!!!

I like to eat and I like to tell people what I think. Surely there’s a place for me in this world?!

It turns out Sonic Drive-In was looking for people exactly like me this week to take part in a hot dog taste test. They want to add one or two new varieties of hot dogs to their $1.99 hot dog menu. (Have you tried the new menu yet? No? Go! Go now! I highly recommend the New York Dog.)

My first experience being a Sonic taste-tester was about a year ago. It was across town, utilized computers and video equipment and engaged testers in open discussions. My second taste test was in Downtown OKC, used paper tests and Putt-Putt pencils, and we weren’t supposed to speak unless spoken to.

Unfortunately, this week’s taste test was the same low-tech variety. But they still gave me $20 cash and a $20 gift card for my trouble. Plus free lunch, free parking and a free slushy on my way out the door!

There were about 30 there for the testing. We were given water, saltine crackers and a test. Then they handed our four hotdogs, one at a time and asked us to follow the instructions on our paper to rate them. Here they are…

Chipotle BBQ Chili Cheese Coney

Description – Beef frank topped with shredded cheese and a chipotle/BBQ-flavored chili sauce, with several fried onion strips on top.

Looks – If I didn’t know what it was, I would have said it was a mistake. The chili wasn’t very meaty, and it looked like someone spilled their leftover onion rings on top. I kept wanting to pick them off and eat them, but I’m glad I left them on the dog because they wound up adding great texture.

Taste – The first bite was incredible. But I was very hungry and thought it might have affected my first impression. So I took another bite. And another. Can you believe it actually got better with every bite!? The chili sauce was just spicy enough and just sweet enough. It’s rare to find that perfect balance. The texture of the onions made up for the lack of meatiness you’d expect in a chili sauce.

Suggestions – Such a wonderful hotdog deserves a more unique bun. Perhaps a specially-designed Texas Toast bun might be better for this hearty combination of foods.

Bacon Lettuce Tomato Dog

Description -- Hot dog on a poppy seed bun, topped with lettuce, tomato slices, bacon and blue cheese dressing.

Looks -- I noticed my hotdog didn’t look the same as the ones given to the people beside me. Mine had less of everything. Especially the blue cheese dressing. :(

The poppy seed bun felt unusual in my hands. I kept wanting to flick off the seeds before I got the hotdog to my mouth. (Like when you put scotch tape on a cat’s paws just to see him shake them frantically. Does anyone else do that? Just me? Don’t call PETA.)

Taste -- The first bite tasted wrong. Like I didn’t get a good combination of all the elements. But the second the third bites didn’t taste much better. The tomato wasn’t ideal, so that might have thrown everything off. The bacon was boring. The lettuce was tasteless. The blue cheese dressing was watered down. Without any significant flavor, the not-so-good tomatoes really stood out. But even if they were good tomatoes, the hot dog would still be very un-extraordinary.

Suggestions -- I would have added thicker dressing with a heartier blue cheese flavor. The veggies would have to be fresh. The bacon should have been heartier.

Cheeseburger & Fries Dog

Description – Beef frank topped with pickles, French fries and cheese sauce

Looks – All I could see was the cheese, with limp fries poking out awkwardly.

Taste – There was such potential with this one, but it didn’t quite meet my expectations. The fries were soggy, but they did add a nice saltiness. I didn’t get a pickle in every bite, and the bites without pickles were boring. The cheese was mediocre at best, and it just got worse as it cooled. (I hate the word congealed, but that’s exactly what it did.)

Suggestions – Thin pickle spears on each side so that there’s pickle in every bite. Crispier fries, or perhaps fries on top rather than under the cheese. And the cheese needs to either stay warm or stay runny, or perhaps grated cheese would have been better. The dog needed mustard. Perhaps it was there and I couldn’t taste it?

California Dog

Description – Beef frank on a poppy seed bun, top with a generous portion of guacamole, diced onions, tomato slices and Monterey jack cheese.

Looks – All I could see initially was the cheese. I expected very little guacamole, and therefore, flavor.

Taste – Holy guacamole! It had the perfect amount of creamy guac under the cheese. The onions added an awesome crunch and kick to an otherwise smooth and mellow dog.

Suggestions – Dice the tomato and sprinkle it on with the diced onion. Maybe some bean sprouts would make it even more “California-y”.

Final Thoughts:
Overall, I’d definitely choose the Chipotle BBQ Chili Cheese Coney as my favorite. In fact, I’d probably order it on a regular basis instead of my usual New York Dog. My second favorite was the California Dog. I know I’m going to crave that guacamole and frank combo now that I’ve tasted it. Someday, I might consider ordering a Cheeseburger & Fries Dog if I’m feeling particularly gluttonous. And, while the Bacon Lettuce Tomato Dog might sound good idea in theory, some foods just don’t belong on a dog.

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