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October 31, 2012

The Taste Bud: What’s this stuff on my hot dog?

I ate a hot dog with peanut butter on it. Think about that for a moment: Of all the condiments one might consider adding to a hot dog, I’d have to say peanut butter would be pretty far down the list — maybe just above motor oil.

But while perusing the hot dog-centric menu at DP UpDogs at Little Chef, 147 E. Market St. in New Albany, the other day, I found myself scanning through oddly named items like the Lulu Dog, the Cocoa Dog, and the Cixer Dog. At this point, server Lacy Streibly offered up the Double Dog Dare You. The ingredients? A hot dog (pork, beef or traditional) on a bun, topped with bacon, cheddar cheese, jalapeno peppers and, yes, peanut butter.

What in the name of Oscar Meyer is going on here? Peanut butter on a hot dog? That’s like putting whipped cream on a t-bone, or putting garden salsa on a funnel cake. But at DP UpDogs, weird is where it’s at, so after checking over the menu one more time, I decided to take Streibly’s dare.

You see, the folks at DP UpDogs — which is in the former cozy site of the well-traveled Little Chef restaurant — are proud of their weird hot dog toppings. They even have a Reuben Dog (yep, that’s topped with sauerkraut, swiss cheese and homemade thousand island). And my buddy Kirk, who accompanied me on this particular lunch trip, chose the Binx Dog, which comes topped with sautéed onions, bacon, jalapenos and cream cheese.

Seriously, the list of stuff you can add to your dog there is pretty impressive: “dill pickle shreddies,” habanero mustard, vinegar coleslaw and pineapple are among the odd notables. In fact, one of the draws of pretty much anything at DP UpDogs is the presentation of the weirdness. Of the Cixer Dog — which, like a Chicago-style dog, is topped with colorful creations such as sweet pickle relish, tomatoes, sport peppers and pickles — Streibly said, “You can’t even make it ugly.”

I guess it would be tough to get anyone to eat an ugly hot dog, now that I think about it. But you’re probably wondering about how the whole peanut-butter-on-a-hot dog thing went down, aren’t you?

Well, that particular flavor combination is hard to describe. I would start by saying it’s exactly as strange as you imagine it to be. In fact, my first bite was almost all peanut butter and dog, as the other ingredients were more plentiful in the middle. I believe my first reaction was, “Hmmm.” It was just, well, odd. Then I took a few more bites and noted that the bacon seemed to assert itself.

By the end, the flavors all seemed to balance out, or at least my taste buds began to perceive it as such. Because, to be quite honest, I rather enjoyed my Double Dog Dare You. Streibly suggested that the peanut butter helps mute the spice of the jalapenos, which may be the case. Either that, or they were just really mild jalapenos, because while the jalapeno flavor was definitely there, the familiar burn was absent. (Although, Kirk and I agreed that if you order jalapeno peppers on anything, it’s the burn you are likely after.)

Speaking of Kirk, he added chili to his Binx Dog. Interestingly, he said the bacon flavor cut through the thick, red chili (which he said he would happily eat a bowl of, hot dog or no), but the cream cheese and other ingredients remained fairly muted. Still, it worked.

“Mine was very enjoyable,” he said, “though I can’t say my girlfriend will be too thrilled when she gets a whiff of my breath.”

But even though weirdness is the thing at DP UpDogs, most opt out of the peanut butter, Streibly said. She said those who have tried the Double Dog Dare You (which isn’t even on the menu) like it — but most won’t even try it. Even Kirk, who isn’t afraid of anything edible, scoffed.

“Even as good as you tell me it is,” he said as I finished mine, “I still have no desire to put peanut butter on a hot dog.”

To be truthful, when I go back to DP UpDogs, I’m opting for the Snugget Dog, which is topped with jalapenos, sport peppers and the aforementioned habanero mustard. I’m hoping to be lit up. No one mutes my hot peppers with peanut butter and gets away with it.