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Corn Dogs in San Francisco: Not Just Carnie Fare

Fancy corn dogs at Bourbon Steak. Photo: Urban Bohemian/Flickr

Leave it to San Francisco to turn something as humble as a corn meal-batter-coated hot dog into an exercise in culinary wit. At its best, a corn dog should be hand-dipped and deep-fried to order—none of this pre-frozen business. At its purest, the meal should be eaten standing up, or while perched on a stool, al fresco, of course. But after asking around town, it's clear that corn dogs have broken free from their carnie stereotype, graduating onto many a San Francisco menu. Here goes our list, running the gamut from quick and dirty deliciousness to posh, dine-in "dogs."

At Hayes Valley's new carnival-themed restaurant Straw, unswerving popular demand convinced owner Ari Feingold to put corn dogs on the menu after the restaurant's first month in existence. Now chef Naomi Beck uses pieces of Niman Ranch all-beef hot dogs as the jumping off point for corn dog bites wrapped in a traditional-style batter, made fresh daily. Each order comes with a trio of dipping sauces: curried mayo, honey mustard and Heinz 57 "straight from the bottle."  Straw plows through roughly 100 orders per week.

Jesse Herzog of two-year-old Zog's Dogs in the Financial District serves turkey dogs wrapped in a honey-laced cornmeal batter and fried to order in soybean oil. The dogs are served with creamy, curry ketchup, though Herzog notes the purists prefer their corn dogs straight up. There's also an off-menu "extreme corn dog" wrapped in bacon and drizzled with honey and powdered sugar for an extra buck.

The almost-one-year-old Unwind on Union does a lobster corn dog on its appetizer menu. The blend of fresh lobster, red and yellow bell peppers, green onion and a touch of jalapeno is lightly deep fried and served with a "super hot ballpark mustard." Owner Kai Vance says its the perfect foil to sweet lobster meat.

At 4505 Meats' Ferry Building Farmers Market Stall, Ryan Farr makes his corn dogs with bacon-studded beef dogs. Farr prefers a corn batter that gets crunchy as opposed to cakey. And might we add that these corn dogs are absolutely huge? Although 4505 doesn't always have them on hand, Farr's putting them on the menu for you guys this coming Thursday and Saturday.  

And for one of the only "corn dogs" in town where you might just get a wine pairing to go along with it, Michael Mina has a lobster corn dog to the menus at Bourbon Steak and Michael Mina. He decided to add it on a few years ago when his kids went through a "corn dog phase." A lobster mousse is shaped into bite size cakes, deep-fried in a yellow cornmeal batter, then served with mustard dipping sauce. Yeah, we know it's just a deep-fried mini lobster cake in the guise of playful street fare, but that doesn't make the creamy, crunchy combination any harder to finish off.

Feeling passionate about some other corn dog in town? Please do add it to the comments section here.