Steve's Snappin' Dogs slings hot dogs and deep-fried things, like panko-breaded onion rings and skin-on fries. The kitchen also cooks up chili con carne and green chile from scratch to top its various creations. So it makes perfect sense that hot dogs would end up in the deep fryer at some point, attracted to the hot vats like drunks to a hot tub. Not content with that perennial crowd-pleaser, the corndog, or even the Garden State favorites known as rippers -- both of which have photo-bombed the colorful menu -- Steve's combines the ingredients of two of the world's great culinary regions, Mexico and New Jersey, into one intimidating torpedo of excess known as the chimi dog.
Regulars might order the monstrosity by its street name, the deep-fried Homey, or they might just skip it in favor of something a little more traditional.
According to owner Steve Ballas, the chimi dog is the third partner in the joint's Three Amigos series. His kitchen manager, a native of Mexico, had already built a Sonoran-style bacon-wrapped delight called the Mex-si dog and Steve's had already seen success with the burrito-wrapped Denver Dog, so Ballas says the the next logical step in the birth of this brainchild was, "Why not take it one more step and deep fry?"
Why not, indeed? The chimi dog starts by laying out a parachute-sized flour tortilla, slathering it with refried beans and nestling a hot dog -- Thumann's out of Jersey, for you aficionados -- into the mess before tossing in some tomatoes and jalapenos and bundling it up tight like a shameful secret. Into the hot oil it goes, until a perfect golden-brown is achieved and the tortilla becomes more armor than blanket. The chimi dog is presented to you perched on a bed of lettuce, anointed in Steve's house chile verde.
As ridiculous foods go, it's a clever concept. Sloppiness is an important part of the equation, as is size. Processed meats earn additional points, and fusing two or more time-honored ingredients puts the chimi dog into rarified territory. Its dual citizenship means it can be an affront to multiple groups of traditionalists -- and long-standing enemies can come together and hate the very notion of the deep-fried Homey, even untasted.
I, however, went where many refuse to go based on principle or ethics or weak constitution. I stared down the beast and won, but not without cost. Heavy on the refritos, the construction was missing the briny wallop of nitrite-pinked hot dog; perhaps two dogs in one chimi would have tipped the balance in the favor of the pork. The green chile sauce was tasty but got lost in the pile of lettuce. The cloak of crisped tortilla, especially the wrapped ends, was delicious on its own but overwhelmed its contents. A brave idea, yes -- but one that ultimately falls short of more tried-and-true combos.
Bun, meat, something tangy like mustard or sauerkraut: It's hard to beat a simple presentation of such boisterous flavors, which Steve's menu fortunately features. Next time, I'll stick with a spicy Chicago dog or the Jersey dog with its sauerkraut landslide. But if you want a chimichanga with a hot-dog core, Steve's is the only place in town to get one. Is this a Denver original? "Absolutely," Ballas promises. "Unless people start copying us."
In Yeah, I Ate That, we'll occasionally run stories about fun, unique and over-the-top foods from metro area restaurants. Cultural collisions, fast-food mashups and the culinary offspring of evil genius are all fair game. Have a suggestion? Post it in the comments section below, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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