Duck fat-fried hot dogs with foie gras at Prairie Dogs' second pop-up

Categories: Last Night
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Alma Guzman
Haute dogs invaded First Course last night
It was total tubesteak takeover last night at First Course in south Minneapolis. Prairie Dogs, a pop-up restaurant/experiment from consultant Tobie Nidetz and chef Craig Johnson, offered up a full menu of lavishly topped Vienna beef hot dogs and a few of their own handcrafted sausages.

The two are using the pop-up model to test drive their latest concept and get a sense for how ready and willing Minneapolis is to accept a hot dog-centered hangout other than the Wienery.  

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Since the duo's first go-around with the pop-up on October 3, which was by all accounts both bustling and successful, they've added new items to their menu and consequently upped the prices here and there. The duck fat-fried dog creation called Pliny the Elder, topped with a squiggle of foie gras mousse and currant-apple relish, jumped from $7 to $10 this time around. The lamb merguez sausage with piquillo peppers, feta, and mint aioli tacked another $3 onto its original $5 price tag.

New to the work-in-progress menu is a Korean-inspired Seoul Dog with house-made kimchi, and the Wet and Wild, one of the handmade sausages that proved to be a very popular order for the night -- Nidetz later tweeted that they sold out their full night's worth in 45 minutes -- but was actually our least favorite of all we sampled.
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Emily Weiss
Wet and Wild brat from Prairie Dogs 
Even though fish sausage isn't immediately appealing as a concept, we've seen it work reasonably well elsewhere. Prairie Dogs' version is made with walleye and wild rice, and finished with shaved pickled fennel, a beautiful romesco sauce, and a few fresh fennel fronds for color. As well as all the accoutrements worked, they couldn't save the overall experience of the sausage. The addition of wild rice, which we know and love in Midwestern brats and sausages, should have provided structure but it seemed almost like it was mixed with white rice or another softer filler. The resulting texture was rather mushy, with none of the snap one looks for in an encased meat, and the whole sausage lacked seasoning.

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Emily Weiss
Bold brats 
Much better was the Backyard Brat, another selection from the handmade sausage side. Though the finely ground meat was a tad drier than we like to see in a bratwurst, it struck a good balance between sweet and savory. This worked especially well with the traditional trappings of  grilled onions and bacon kraut, though the smokiness could have been ramped up even more.

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Bacon-wrapped Sonora dog
The best of the bunch was the traditional Mexican Sonora Dog, wrapped in bacon and unafraid of piling on even more flavor and flair from there. The Prairie team tucks sliced tomatoes, avocado, and salsa verde into the soft poppy seed bun before dusting everything with a generous layer of cotija cheese. It's not quite as saucy or masterful as the namesake one at Sonora Grill, but it does rival the Mexicali Dog at Muddy Waters.

It will be interesting to see where Nidetz and Johnson go from here. Will they keep popping up at First Course periodically? The neighborhood, especially the families with young kids, seemed to flock for the special menu, and with such simple, quick-cooking food, the kitchen was able to serve a lot of people over the course of the night. Perhaps they'll take over other small restaurants, do something with one of the city parks or lakes, build out a food truck, or go the route of a Kickstarter campaign. So far they show promise, and really, who doesn't love a hot dog?

If you want to keep up to date with their comings and goings, check out Prairie Dogs on Facebook.

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First Course

5607 Chicago Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN

Category: Restaurant

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