A cursory scan of Hot Diggity confirms that everyone associated with Philly’s premier encased-meat emporium (630 South St.) worships at the altar of the wiener. The wall hangings — mostly paintings by local artist Hawk Krall — tell a tale of well-tended traditions around the country. Pittsburgh “Dirty O” dogs, covered in pickle chips and diced white onion. Northern Kentucky “Alligator Coneys,” buried in dog-obscuring peaks of shredded cheese. Adorable mini-franks from Famous Lunch in Troy, N.Y., slathered in secret-recipe “Zippy” sauce.
Diggity’s offerings reflect the quirky regionality that defines American hot dog culture, shouting out the styles owner Keith Garabedian, a restaurant chef turned expert dog-slinger, has uncovered over the years. And though the shop has only been around since 2011, Garabedian has always day-dreamt (dog-dreamt?) about holding court with this great nation’s titans of tubesteak. “I had this romantic notion in my head that we’d be one of those old places serving hot dogs, and only hot dogs, for 80 years,” he says.
Of course, things change — in this case, for the tastier and for the better. “Liberating ourselves from the restaurant we were,” HD has launched a new menu and a new personality, stepping out of the confines of the franks-only format to celebrate some of America’s favorite crowd-pleasing eats.
Yes, that means hamburgers, the hot dog’s spiritual sibling, but you’re not going to find any fanciful $20+ Pat LaFrieda masterworks topped with foie gras and Idiazabal here. Just a quality quarter-pound ground chuck patty, situated on Le Bus brioche rolls with your run of toppings — bacon, spicy house “special sauce” and scratchmade Cheez Whiz, maybe, or Californicated with guacamole, tortilla strips and chipotle mayo. “We’re going old-school,” says Garabedian. “I like this style — the classic American burger.” The edible expansion doesn’t stop there — Diggity’s also nodding to the barroom and ballpark canons, offering HQ versions of buffalo wings, nachos (with housemade chips), battered onion rings and churros.
And that’s just the everyday menu. The well-traveled Garabedian is also making it a point to start introducing unique road-food dishes as rotating specials. “In our research of hot dogs, we started discovering all sorts of other regional foods,” he says. This list, which he’ll start chipping away at this fall, includings chow mein sandwiches, a bizarre-yet-delicious Sino-American specialty of Fall River, Mass.; green chili burgers, popular in Colorado by way of the Southwest; and Jucy Lucys, a queso-stuffed burger that’s essentially the cheesesteak of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.
In September, though, Garabedian will hew close to his roots. Inspired by a recent trip to Maine, next month’s special will be his interpretation of the one-of-a-kind relish dogs offered by Flo’s in Cape Neddick, along with a bottle of Moxie, the “distinctively different” soda loved by some and hated by many. So rest easy, link gobblers: Though Hot Diggity’s scope has expanded, the spirit remains the same. “We’ll never run out of hot dogs,” Garabedian promises.