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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)
  • littleloo

    Not a fan of the blurry photography

  • Karen Habbestad

    I think the photography is great. Shows that the photographer actually knows what he’s doing. Clever use of WA :-)

  • rttndsply

    are you an idiot

  • Mara

    Bad writing and photography. This guy is a goofball.

  • Jeff Hayden

    Can we trust the taste buds of a smoker?

  • Carol Shih

    Matt does not smoke. He does make his own tea, though..

  • cb_foodie

    Loved the article and the photos. Can’t wait to try it.

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  • dkv

    Photos look good to me, keep it up Matt.

  • Sandy

    This photography is lovely and I find Matt’s words fun to read. Keep it up. You guys always have great pictures and reports of new places.

  • Staying north of the Trinity

    Between the awful writing and extreme over use of sophomoric hyperbole I’ll pass on this one, sure would be nice to see an objective reviewer and not just a “yes man” to whatever new thing comes along. Then again maybe he’s just worried if he writes a less than glowing review Phil will sue him too.

  • Hospitality Instructor

    I have to agree with several above posts. I cannot read this guys reviews. Someone at D-Magazine, please coach this guy. I’m going in for some dogs either way but it makes me less likely to read these reviews in the future.

  • twinwillow

    Soooo, you’re telling us he smokes his own tea?

  • Carol Shih

    Shelley’s a weirdo, but we like him just the way he is. I’m sure his momma would say the same.

  • Carol Shih

    No, but the closest thing he rolls are his own tea bags.

  • Scagnetti

    How do you open a restaurant or bar in this day and age and NOT have a web site?

    Hoffman Hots doesn’t have one.

    The recently opened Pop Diner doesn’t have one.

    And don’t mention using Facebook as a site because it blows.

  • Mark Halfhill

    What information do you want that would not be on a Facebook page? FB is replacing websites for smaller companies as a low cost, easy to update option for information. There’s no need for a website for the two restaurants you mentioned.

  • Hospitality Instructor

    I have no beef with wierdos. Just the writing. God forbid his mother is an English professor.

  • joeat

    Isn’t it just a little too early in the game to assume EVERYBODY is on Facebook??

  • Mark Halfhill

    You don’t have to have an account to use a search engine and access their FB pages. The demographics of Pop Diner and Hoffman Hots would have a VERY high % of customers with a FB account.

  • Daumier

    I’m sure Mr. Romano’s hot dogs are much tastier than his painting.

  • Lisa

    @Hospitality Instructor
    wierdo=weirdo
    Let’s hope your mother isn’t an English professor as well. You sure sound like A LOT of fun.

  • shp

    I think the interior looks like a carbon copy of the James Coney Island chain in Houston.

  • Jeff Herrington

    shp —

    Here is a link to a James Coney Island restaurant. I have been inside both it and Hoffman Hots…and they look absolutely nothing alike.

    http://www.markcarterassociates.com/images/image_JamesConeyIsland_int03_04-08-09_web.jpg

  • Jeff Herrington

    The reason it has no Website is that it is an experiment, not a full-blown restaurant…yet. The entire idea behind Trinity Groves in West Dallas is allowing restaurant ideas to move into existing bldgs and try out the idea for a short time. If successful, it may be Romano’s next chain. No need to invest in an entire Website when it may not be around 6 months from now. That’s why.

  • Pastiera di Grana

    Is this the same Hoffman’s from Syracuse, NY? Growing up in NYC, we used to get Hoffman’s “cooney’s.” They were the white, veal hot dogs, and they were the best thing in the whole world. My grandfather would cook them on the grill in his backyard in Douglaston, NY and we’d stand around waiting with paper plates and Mister Mustard, drooling. Their regular dog was really good, too. When we moved down here to the land of elbow macaroni and ketchup, my uncle in Syracuse used to bring us Hoffman’s care packages when he came to visit.

  • Steve Davis

    Lawsuit? Is it called Cucina Hoffman Hots?

  • Steve Davis

    Total carbon copy of JCI. Good call.

  • Anonymous

    This is hilarious! Great article; it made me chuckle. And holy God that sweet and smoky dog sounds incredible!

  • John Giroux
  • Jeff Hayden

    They both use red and blue. That’s about it.

  • tmwillia

    Let me add to the people that find Mr. Shelley’s writing overwrought. The use of five adjectives when one will do is painful to read–I ignore the post about Shelley’s belly. Let this guy stick to fixing the computers.

  • scorereader

    the only thing that should go on a Hofmann Frank is mustard.

  • twinwillow

    We had lunch there today and, I totally concur with your comment!

  • Phil

    You obviously didn’t ignore this post. Life is too short to hate.

  • Chefh

    The very best thing about Hoffman’s is the bun.
    It is absolutely brilliant.
    Like the bun at The Varsity in Atlanta, it is split down the top so that all the lovely toppings don’t fall off the side of the dog. The bun is crispy on the edges, yet soft and just enough chewy inside. There is a hint of sweet to set off all the meat and garnish.
    Truly the best I have ever had.
    And that’s saying a lot.

  • MariaB

    Thanks to you fand your sour attitude for staying north of the Trinity. ‘ppreciate it!

  • twinwillow

    Personally, as an ex-New Yorker who grew up eating great hot dogs, I feel just the opposite. There’s waaaay too much bun to enjoy the Hofmann dog! I felt like I was eating a loaf of bread with a hot dog stuffed inside. Plus, piling all those toppings on defeat the whole purpose of eating a hot dog.

  • Tom

    Thats alot of money to invest in an experiment and no website.

  • Ansel Adams

    Really?
    where is it “blurry?”

  • A2Z

    Would have appreciated a link or something that would have fleshed out what the heck “Trinity Groves” is. I looked it up, and I get it now, but it’s not exactly a household term yet. Weird to use a new term in a headline, and give no explanation in the body of the piece beyond mentioning that it’s something, somewhere, on the other side of the new bridge.

  • A2Z

    He’s talking about the shallow depth of field chosen by the photographers, that gives everything around the edges of the close-up shots a blurry effect. I have to agree, it was the wrong choice for these images. Fro example, no need to set the DOF so shallow that the center section of the Chili Cheese Dog (above, red background) is in focus, but either end of that same dog is blurry. Looks goofy.

  • Mandinka

    Do you know how much money probably went into those neon lights? A ton, I’d wager! Enough to invest $1500 in a website.