Into Shelley’s Belly: Hofmann Hots in Trinity Groves Just Opened Today

Hofmann Hots exterior (left); Himalayan dog (right) photos by Matthew Shelley

I rolled my smokes up into my sleeve, polished up with some nice pomade (Dapper Dan’s to be exact), and hustled my way over to the media event for Hofmann Hots on Wednesday night. I love any chance I get to cross the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, and this night was just swell with good vibrations. I stormed in with jazz hands flaring and mouth watering for some juicy hot dogs. The first thing I noticed was the commanding presence of the mastermind behind this new joint, Phil Romano. He hugged me with his eyes, so I thought it appropriate to ask him for a picture. Success. We discussed contemporary metal music, swan migration in South America, and swapped a few recipes for our favorite soufflé. While none of that actually happened, Mr. Romano was warm and welcoming and seemed wildly enthusiastic about Hoffman Hots, in spite of all this lawsuit craziness that’s going down.

Dining area

The place is loaded with ’50s diner appeal, white tiled walls, bright red and blue accents, oversized circular windows, and an exterior that was most certainly lowered into place by an alien ship inhabited by extraterrestrials infatuated with the diner age of beatniks and big body Chevys. It’s a classic, no-frills hot dog joint outfitted to welcome Little League teams on the weekends after a triumphant 9th-inning rally. Or it could host all walks of lunch-time meat lovers who will most certainly become regulars. The menu boasts a formidable variety of hot dogs, Americana sides, and custard shakes. Now that I mention it, I didn’t notice the shakes when I was there, and now I’m disappointed that I couldn’t round out my meal with one.

Flippin’ wieners (left); tater tots (right)
Yes, yes, they do
The Chili Cheese Dog

I approached the counter and ordered three different styles along with two sides. You can choose between “New Hots” or “Good Ol’ Hots,” as well as a Burger Dog made from ground beef or a Sea Dog made from North Atlantic fried cod. I wanted to shove them all in my mouth at once. I started my order with an Avocado Pico Dog with a classic German Frank. It had Tex-Mex zest, light spice, and a cold freshness. The ingredients were stacked high, and it required two chomps to get every component in my mouth. I didn’t fight it. I would suggest the larger kielbasa for this dog, though, since the little German frank was somewhat overpowered by the tower of delicious ingredients. Next up: the standard issue Chili Cheese Dog. With the crumbly ballgame chili, thinly shredded cheddar, and an easy loving sauce atop the mighty kielbasa, this busty little meat wagon was mild and big with substantial staying power and an oh-so-bad goodness. The nuns might reconsider their devotions after filling their bellies with this classic rendition of such naughty indulgence.

More puns (and who doesn’t?); Phil Romano (right)
A beautiful mess

I wolfed down two of their simple sides to compliment my dogs: the tater tots and the chili mac ‘n’ cheese. They won’t make any “best of” lists, but they still satisfy. Finally, I tried the Sweet and Smoky Dog. The name is no lie, and I found myself tenderly huddled in Mr. Romano’s arms after finishing it off, which is why I’m no longer allowed in any of his restaurants. It was worth it. Crunchy bacon sat on top of a hefty kielbasa inside beautifully crisp, grilled buns, and the under layer of smoked Gouda and pimento balanced wonderfully with the maple glaze that was remarkably subtle and rewarding in every bite. It wasn’t terribly heavy, and the bacon did not overpower. I woke up later in the night with the words “Sweet & Smoky” drawn across my floor-to-ceiling bedroom mirrors, written in red lipstick. I don’t know where I got the lipstick, but such is life.

Avocado and Pico Dog (left); bright accents (right)