Steppin’ Out – Umai Savory Hot Dogs, Sacramento

Umai ArdenAs I am sure you have figured out, I love checking out places that serve hot dogs and this place sounded unique enough to be worth a drive to Sacramento. They serve hot dogs that are a bit different, with toppings not found elsewhere, such as seaweed, bonito flakes, Yum Yum sauce and many more things.

In 1992 Loi Tran opened his first hot dog cart in San Jose, serving what he felt were the best hot dogs from around the world “without compromise.” In 2014 they opened a restaurant in Roseville, followed by Natomas and Arden. with more in progress.

According to their literature, they source only the best hot dogs, sausages, buns and ingredients. You can choose from over 27 of their signature flavors or create your own custom hot dog with all the toppings and sauces, any way you want – all made fresh to order.

Russ Salazar and I dropped in at the Arden location, which is located at 1310 Howe Avenue, just north of Hurley. We had a bit of trouble finding it, but finally…

Their menu is both on the wall and a brochure. We looked at the list and finally decided to try four and having them split in two. We selected: Bacon Cubano, Tokyo Signature, Seoul Storm and Shinjuku Shadow. Just the names seemed exciting.

We also ordered some of their House Fries, which were doused with their soy sauce and a creamy sriracha sauce.

This is their smallest restaurant, but we were able to find an empty table near the window. However, we had to level the table with a folded napkin, which the staff helped us do. I guess the floor is not flat.

The Bacon Cubano is a bacon wrapped chicken dog with Swiss cheese, dill pickle slices, red chili flakes, yellow mustard, mayonnaise, celery salt and pepper. It was very good, and probably our favorite. Everything seemed to just go together. Next time I would order it with an all beef dog.

The Tokyo Signature introduced us to some new tastes. It is an all beef hot dog with sauteed onions, roasted seaweed, teriyaki mayo, Umai teriyaki sauce and white sesame seeds. The hot dog itself was very good, but the roasted seaweed was a bit much. It was a bit too “fishy.”

Now to the Seoul Storm. It is a Polish sausage with kimchi, sriracha sauce, bulgogi sauce, green onions, along with white and black sesame seeds. It was very good, but the casing on the sausage was so tough it was difficult to chew. We were not the only customers that seemed to be having difficulty with the casings.

By the way, Bulgogi is a traditional Korean grilled beef dish with a sauce/marinade made with garlic, soy, rice wine, sesame oil, etc. Nothing unique except for the juice of an Asian pear.

Our final dog was the Shinjuku Shadow, which is a bratwurst with diced daikon, spicy Cheddar sauce, Umai teriyaki sauce, bonito flakes, green onions and furikake, which is a dry Japanese seasoning typically consisting of a mixture of dried and ground fish, sesame seeds, chopped seaweed, sugar and salt. It was a bit fishy and next time I would maybe leave off at least the bonito flakes. Unfortunately, like with the Polish sausage, the casing on the bratwurst was nearly unchewable. Sadly, that detracted from everything else.

Their menu, which varies a bit from location to location, also includes hot dogs with names like: California Bae, Shibuya Honey, Texas Roundhouse, Kyoto Fire, Buffalo Banger, Houston Honcho, Manhattan Pride, Blitzkrieg, Sonoran Swag, Honolulu Bang Bang, Chicago Chopper, Thai Thunder, Saigon Hustle, Mucho Magnificent, Umai X Truffle Dog, Kentucky Hot Brown, Nashville Brisket, and ones made with speciality sausages like the Philly Me Up, Sicilian Classico and Baco Maco (yes, Mac ‘N Cheese on it).

They also have several different vegetarian hot dogs, along with Hot Dog Sliders, Brisket Sliders and Musubi Sliders made with Spam on sweet Hawaiian rolls.

Not finished yet: Tori Wings, Poku Wings, a waffle dog, lots of kinds of fries, noodles and, for dessert, a Fried Banana Dog and Sugoi Waffles on a stick.

You can try their combinations or design your own. You can add or subtract what you like or don’t like to make your perfect dog.

I had quite a lengthy e-mail “conversation” with the home office about the casing on the bratwurst and Polish sausage. Although they had discontinued the natural casing on their all beef dogs some time ago because of customer comments (Russ and I figured that out with the first bite), they had no choice with these two. They are looking for a different supplier and checking their method of preparation.

It was an interesting meal, to say the least, and worth the trip. I would recommend the experience. The dogs run $5 and up.

For more information go to their webpage at umaihotdogs.com. Lots of pictures and a complete list of toppings, along with their locations.
As a Japanese chef would say, “douzo meshiagare” or have a nice meal.

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