It’s 10:15 p.m. – well past my bed time – when I walk down the basement staircase and enter the U Street Music Hall. A tall blonde bartender clad in hot-pink tights takes my order. She calls me sweetie and flirts a touch, stroking my ego and inflating her tip. She does the same with the rest of the bar.
DJ Dave Nada pumps his head as his speakers pulsate onto an empty dance floor. I’m not here for the music or people watching. I’m here for the pho dog.
Owner Jesse Tittsworth created the bar snack with Erik Bruner-Yang, who has plans to open a ramen and dumpling joint, Toki Underground, on the blossoming H Street NE corridor. Their Kosher dog starts in a bath of pho broth that Bruner-Yang makes himself.
Sufficiently plumped, the dog is split, griddled, and then slid into a crisp, toasted bun laced with hoisin and Sriracha. The link is topped with a slaw of cabbage, radish, and carrots dressed in Szechwan vinaigrette, a nice crescendo. There’s a final flourish of fresh cilantro and Thai basil. I’m rather impressed with this showstopper of a dog produced in a kitchen with only two George Foreman grills and a crock pot.
I’ve suddenly forgotten the $5 cover charge I just paid to have access to a hot dog with an identical price tag. The throbbing base of the sound system becomes a perfect backdrop as the salty, sweet, and sour flavors dance on my palate numbed with heat. Easily one of the best bar bites I’ve had in recent memory, the object of my affection disappears quickly, leaving only a single strand of oily cabbage behind on my paper plate.
Aware I’m not in my environment, I make for the door and walk home, a thump-thump-thump fading slowly behind me. I take home not the bartender’s cell phone number, but the memory of my first pho dog.
U Street Music Hall, 1115A U Street NW (202) 588-1880