Behold the great American hot dog: smoky and so adaptable to our regional whims and condiment preferences. Whether you dress it in a simple stripe of bold mustard, top it with a mound of kraut, or bling it out with chili, cheese and onions, you still have the most beloved bite of American summer.
And locally, nowhere is that bite more delicious than at the Dune Dog Café, the tropical, open-sided shack perched on Alternate A1A in Jupiter. These dogs are particularly tasty when devoured at the wrap-around counter overlooking Dune Dog’s bustling, steaming kitchen window.
There’s something beautifully democratic about eating at a counter such as this one, populated with a mix of hungry diners. You sit elbow-to-elbow with the fresh-from-the-beach folks in swimsuit cover-ups, the Sunday bikers who roar into the place in droves, the suburbanites in golf shorts. Unlike the rustic tables here, which often are wait-listed, the counter is first-come, first-served. You grab a spot where you can find it, belly up, and take in the island-y setting and the breeze of overhead fans (and surprisingly good cross-ventilation).
This is the perfect place to drumroll the Fourth of July: American eats cooked by enterprising hands, and served in a road-side hut with island house ambitions.
This is where the other day I had a footlong Pushcart Dog ($4.30, $3.40 regular), topped with an oniony-tomato pushcart sauce made popular by New York street vendors. The sauce is tangy, though not quite spicy, and it seeps into a toasted New England-style bun that barely contains the footlong and filler. Taking this dog on requires fork and knife.
But I enjoyed it so much, I returned a couple of days later to sample another dog, this time the Chicago Dog ($3.70 regular, $4.60 footlong), a particularly flavorful one. This dog is flanked by long slices of pickle, then topped with chopped fresh tomatoes and raw onions. For the signature Chicago pop of flavor, it’s sprinkled with celery salt, which lends a bright, herby touch.
Of course, this isn’t Chicago or New York. The Atlantic Ocean is less than two miles away from this delightful shack. So it’s not surprising that the best “dogs” here are not of the meaty sausage variety – the best are the Sea Dogs ($6.50), twin fish fillets, fried crispy and tucked into toasted New England-style rolls. These fresh fish fingers are laden with lettuce, tomato, scallions and shredded cheddar cheese. The toppings are staggering on this dish, so you might wish to opt for some of them served on the side. But these dogs are outstanding, and made even better when served alongside Dune Dog’s crisp, sweet onion rings ($2.30 small, $4.20 large).
Speaking of onion rings, a good option for sharing is the Fries n’ Rings Basket ($3.60), a combo order of waffle fries and onion rings. One order is more than plenty for sharing between two, even three, as a side dish. Another of the tasty items from the “Slap It On” menu is the fresh, creamy coleslaw ($1.60).
Craving something less street-food-like? A nice choice is the mixed grill platter ($15.50), a combo plate of grilled chicken, dolphin and shrimp, all marinated and nicely grill-infused.
Whatever you order, here’s your must-have starter: the Dune Dog clam chowder ($3.75 small, $4.75 large). This rendition of the New England-style classic is creamy, flavorful and satisfying.
The chili here ($3.50 small, $4.50 large) is very good as well, especially when crowned with shredded cheese, raw onions and scallions.
All dishes are served fast and fresh by Dune Dog’s friendly, hard-working staff. Their hectic pace contrasts sharply with the leisurely rhythm of the banter of diners at the counter. Then again, they know there’s often a line snaking outside in the parking lot, as diners wait for tables. Smart people, the wait list folks. They know the food here is well worth the wait.
R E V I E W
Dune Dog Café
ADDRESS: 775 Alternate A1A, Jupiter
PRICE RANGE: Inexpensive
HOURS: Open Monday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
CREDIT CARDS: Major cards accepted
RESERVATIONS: Walk-ins welcome
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes
WHAT THE GRADES MEAN:
A — Excellent
B — Good
C — Average
D — Poor
F — Don’t bother