A few weeks ago in a roundup of new sandwich shops, our own Andrea Damewood took a controversial position: The hot dog is not a sandwich. I’m not going to refute that, since frankly, I don’t have a dog in that race.
However, I want to make sure the sandwich artists and hot dog aesthetes know that whether or not it’s a sandwich, we Portlanders are unequivocally pro-hot dog.
Between Zenner’s, the nonagenarian sausage company that provides the “official hot dog of the Hillsboro Hops,” to the even older operation at SP Provisions, which began in the 19th century, we know Portland loves sausage.
Right now, relatively new kids OP Wurst are the darling dogs of the sausage-on-a-bun scene. Though Olympia Provisions is less than 10 years old, salumist Elias Cairo is carrying on a family tradition, both in schmancy charcuterie and Wrigley-inspired franks.
You can’t go wrong with the classic frank at OP Wurst. It’s long, gnarled, ugly, and juicy under a reasonable amount of ketchup, mustard, onions, and relish. Most importantly, it has that uniquely hot-doggy feeling on every bite, offering just enough give before the snap ($7).
Hot dogs aren’t perfect for baseball just because the games are long and hot dogs are small enough you can have two—it’s because that snap when eating them is at least sort of exciting, and except for the split second when you think the Hillsboro Hop mascot is a Battletoad, baseball is not usually exciting.
But if even a hot dog isn’t fun enough for you, OP Wurst has you covered. There’s a brat, a spicy Italian, a Pok Pok collab with green papaya salad on it ($10.50), a käsekrainer (cheese in the middle!), a hot dog with Frito pie on it ($10), and many more oddball options.
OP Wurst’s Portland Dog is a tasteful combo of Portland’s fave ingredients: braised kale, pork belly, and hazelnuts. Unlike most foods with “Portland” in the name, nothing feels like a joke; even the rough chopped hazelnuts add a unique, but not obnoxious flavor. Basically, they didn’t put a bird on it, and it’s unironically delicious ($10.50).
However, they do put mac and cheese on a hot dog. It’s backwards: Everyone knows you put the hot dog in the mac and cheese. And the cauliflower cheese sauce at OP Wurst is basically a soup, which means it commits the cardinal sin of mac and cheese: grit in the sauce. I appreciate the ambition, but they flew a little too close to the sun with that one ($8.50).
OP Wurst has similar menus at its three locations: Pine Street Market, OP Wurst Sausage Bar, and at Oregon City Brewing Company. Pine Street focuses on cafeteria handhelds, even including a classic corn dog.*
The Wurst Sausage Bar has the best art—a mural that says “IT COULD ALWAYS BE WURST”—and liquor, with house cocktails like an amaro and rye sour called a Doc Holladay. With pepper bitters and Averna’s dark, warm bitterness, it’s a surprisingly excellent pairing to sausage ($10).
In Oregon City, OP Wurst shares a huge patio with OCBC’s brewhouse and taproom, which features one of those fancy Crowler machines. So once you take a few recreational rides on the municipal elevator and realize you’re basically done with Oregon City, you can stop to grab a hot dog and a giant 32oz can of Oregon City suds and head home.
However, if you want sausage exclusive to Oregon City, check out Kehoe and Co., a new bar and sausage spot on Main Street. The recipes are unique, but are made by the experts at SP Provisions, and on top of the roll-your-own pork, beef, chicken, and brat options ($12 with a side), the menu includes rarer breeds like bison, lamb, and a delicious British-style pork and beef banger ($13) with mashed potatoes and veggies.
Of course there are hundreds of thousands of hot dogs around here, from Woodstock staple Otto’s Sausage Kitchen to Donnie Vegas’ deliciously casual Alberta hot dog bar. OP Wurst may currently be the hottest, but Portland’s been a dog town for as long as anybody can remember, and I’d put a Portland Dog against a Coney, Chicago, or Sonoran any day.
*SPEAKING OF CORN DOGS...
...down on the rough edge of the South Waterfront area (AKA Portland’s own Stepford, Connecticut), under an awning along the side of a warehouse, is a row of food carts including Dipped and Flipped, a nostalgia-bomb of corn dogs and grilled cheese sandwiches, and you can get a breakfast corn dog of chicken-maple breakfast sausage dipped in French toast batter, with maple syrup. (Two cinnamony, sweet snacks on sticks for $5.)