Steamy's franks fall short

Looking for some tube steak boogie? Steamy's dogs don't dance.

Dog Days. The hot dogs are the draw, but Liz Feltham preferred the fish at Steamy's. photo Julé Malet-Veale.

Hot dogs---not exactly up there on the food chain. Full of by-product and a step up from pet food, the lowly tube steak has nevertheless enjoyed a popularity far above its seeming station, ranking high among barbecue fans, arena-goers and late-night snackers.

I'm not ashamed to admit I like hot dogs--- I like them a lot. Sometimes with just a little ketchup, other times with the works---sauerkraut, onions, bacon bits, grainy mustard. (That's the good thing about hot dogs---they're a classic, like a favourite pair of jeans---you can dress 'em up or dress 'em down.) The best thing about Home Depot, to me, is the canteen out front---I've actually made trips there just to get the delicious, fresh hot dogs and trimmings.

When I started reading early press about Steamys, I was pretty excited and couldn't wait to get there to feel the hungry hot dog love. There were rumours of fabulous toppings, and unusual preparations. Different versions of the hot dog, all with steamed buns and wieners.

I finally make it outside Steamys door. There's an ice-cream window opening onto Quinpool, but it's not open on this unseasonably cool evening. Directly across from the door is the counter, and the room is filled with booths. I head to the counter to read the menu, handwritten on chalkboards above the small cooking area.

Much to my disappointment, all I see out of the ordinary is something called a Michigan hot dog (topped with spaghetti sauce). There's not even a chili dog to be seen. Well, that's OK---I'm sure the hot dog willbe incredible.

We place our orders, a cheeseburger combo ($6.99), hot dog combo ($5.75) and fish and chips (2 pieces, $7.25), and sit in a booth to wait patiently. When the counter attendant calls us up to come get our food, I'm taken aback by my first glimpse. All three meals are dwarfed by the large, Styrofoam carry-out containers in which they're presented. We make our way back to the table, only to realize we've forgotten napkins and forks (which we have to ask for at the counter because they're not accessible).

My hot dog dreams will not be realized here: The hot dog is a disgrace to the name. A tiny wiener lost in the depth of an oversized bun, both ice cold and, in the wiener's case, near to raw. The wee pile of pseudo-handcut fries doesn't thrill me either.

The burger fares slightly better, being hot and cooked and all. Mustard, relish, cheese and ketchup go a long way towards lending it flavour, but I suspect without condimental help, this burger would be no better than the Mickey D's next door.

The big surprise of the lot is the fish. Although the portions are tiny, they are remarkably delicious. The fish is moistand flaky, the batter neither too thick nor too thin.

On the wall behind us, there's a neat picture of what is supposed to be the Steamys counter. Sitting around it are all the icons of fast food: Burger King, the Colonel of KFC, Ronald McDonald and Wendy. They allhave big smiles, as though they are enjoying the Steamys offerings far more than their own restaurants.

I suspect they're happy because they know that even for them, Steamys is no competition.

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