Rosa here. Maybe you’ve noticed my recent absence from the digital pages of encore. Or maybe you haven’t—there’s a lot going on. While I’ve been cooking up a storm, perfecting my takeout ordering skills, and oh-so-carefully dipping my toes in the dining out pool (mask on, hands washed) now just doesn’t seem like the right time for restaurant reviews. Who has time for advice or criticism when the notion of going out to eat is so sacred in a time like this? When restaurant workers are putting their lives on the line for others to have date night or brunch?
In the meantime, we’ll be re-running some of my previous reviews—the ones where there’s a lot of gushing about what’s great. These restaurants are open for business, in various states of takeout, curbside, delivery, and in-house dining, and we at encore encourage you to patron them and enjoy. As always, if you’re feeling sick, stay home, keep at least 6 feet a part from others, wear a mask, and wash your hands.
Until we meet again, happy eating.
As the year winds down, and the influx of holiday parties, music and decorations ramps up, I find myself reflecting on the last 12 months. Was I naughty or nice? A girlfriend and I decided to explore our reflections at Carolina Beach’s newest hot-dog-and-cocktail joint (yep, you read that right), Nauti Dog.
We heard about its opening in late fall. Unique dogs and an adventurous booze program sounded like a win-win to us. So off to the Carolina Beach Boardwalk we went. Nauti Dogs is close to Krazy Kones and next to Silver Dollar. As my date and I walked in, a beachy motif of navy and blue greeted us, along with an extremely friendly bartender. We had the place to ourselves at first, but not for long. The restaurant filled quickly, despite it being a drizzly Monday during the island’s off-season.
First things first: drinks! I tend to be strictly a beer girl unless my husband and I are having a fancy date night. But the extensive list at Nauti Dog enticed me with its Italian 75. My friend chose the “Knot So Nauti Margarita.” After glancing over the list initially, I had sticker shock … in a good way. The value of their cocktails is immense. Mine featured Tanqueray, St. Germaine, Prosecco (on tap!) and lime for only $10. The Knot So Nauti was composed of Espolon silver tequila, Patrón Citrónge, agave, lime juice and orange juice for only $9! I might sound like a used car salesperson, but these cocktails ain’t no clunkers. They are fine, off-the-line models. I was a little surprised when my Italian 75 came with a sugared rim, but the herbaceous, acidic libation really benefited from the addition of a little sweetness. The marg was delightfully balanced; I was particularly pleased with the orangey, rich Patrón Citrónge; it played well against the bright sour mix.
Since gin and tequila were on the lunch menu, we figured an app to snack on while we chose our main course was in order. Plus, after a religious experience with fried avocado tacos at a popular spot in Houston, Texas, I’ve never since turned it down. So the battered avocado it was: half of an avocado, cut into “fries,” and slathered in a sweet and spicy batter before being dunked into the fryer to golden perfection. The menu listed Sriracha ranch as the dipping sauce, but it seemed there may have been a little mixup in the kitchen; regardless, we definitely enjoyed the blue cheese dip. There was enough spice for me in the avocado batter that I didn’t miss the Sriracha situation. My only thought: The avocado could have ripened a touch longer. I know the finicky fruits only have a 15-second window of perfect-ripeness, but ours were just a little too firm and fibrous. Still, that didn’t stop us from finishing our first course.
When the enthusiastic, friendly bartender overheard us deliberating dogs, she mentioned it was “Mini Monday,” so any of the beef dogs on the specialty menu were being offered in miniature size for just $3 each.
A flight of hot dogs? Um, OK!
My girl went with the chili dog, German dog, and Gouda dog, with a side of house-made chips. I decided to go Carolina dog, Gouda dog and Nauti dog with a side of slaw. (I’ll be back for you, Green Guido; I need to know what broccoli rabe on an Italian sausage is like—need.)
The chips were extra crunchy and dusted in some sort of barbecue-y seasoning and just addictive. I kept reaching over to my friend’s basket to steal them (she was nicer than I would have been). Unfortunately, the slaw didn’t hold as much oomph. On the dogs, it was a great team player, but on its own, it was more cabbage, and light on the creamy mayo and sweet carrots.
The heart of the meal—the hot dogs—were just a delight. It’s worth noting upfront, when diners participate in “Mini Monday,” they don’t get the various breads that come with the full-size dogs. They’ll end up with a standard-issue, mini hot dog bun. Not a problem, if you ask me, but I like to offer transparency.
Readers may remember I don’t like onion, so I had to rely on my friend to let me know how the German dog was. On the menu, it’s served with bratwurst, so they just subbed in a beef dog for the mini. She mentioned, while she is indeed an onion lover, the volume of them on the mini might have worked better on the full size. They overwhelmed the sauerkraut and spicy mustard.
We both loved the Gouda dog! The smoky, rich pimento cheese and spicy mustard were a delicious combo, and my friend loved the house-fried onions.
The chili on my Carolina dog was a perfect texture—not too soupy—and went magnificently with the slaw.
The Nauti dog was all of my favorite things: melty, tangy cheddar, sweet-and-salty bacon, and spicy mustard. I can’t wait to go back and try it on a full-size pretzel bun. And my date said her chili dog with fried onions, melted cheddar, and yellow mustard was fantastic.
If diners are feeling extra adventurous, or in the mood for a classic ketchup-mustard-only dog, they can also opt to build their own. Other house specialties include but are not limited to a traditional Chicago dog, a Cali dog (turkey-dog base, cucumbers, tomato, red onion, guacamole and cilantro), and a Beyond Mi that uses a Beyond bratwurst for the plant-based eaters.
My overall thoughts? Why be nice, when you can be Nauti?