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    Does a city need a sit-down hotdog restaurant? Seems like carts, food trucks, sporting events and backyard grills service the hotdog scene well. Perhaps I’m not qualified to make that assessment, though, because I would argue a hotdog craving requires a prompt — the whiff of a barbecue or wedging oneself into a hard plastic seat, the fuss and energy of a game on a field. That, to me, is hotdog time. But now anytime (well, 11 a.m. until 9 or 10 at night, except on Mondays and Tuesdays) is hotdog time, thanks to Red Top in the Shelby Park neighborhood.

    On a recent Friday, I tell my kids that hotdogs and only hotdogs are on the menu. Squeals upon squeals. My family is the only one in Red Top on this early evening. Fortunate, because my two little ones are acting way too casual. Perhaps it’s because their hotdog dinner is on a stick, encased in a waffle and lying in a bed of tater tots, but: We are still in a restaurant, children, so please don’t take off your shoes and socks. And, yes, that’s a train passing, but stop screaming, “I CAN’T SEE THE CHOO-CHOO!” Kudos to Red Top for having knickknacks for kids to play with, along with plenty of beer options for adults. (The restaurant also has “15 styles of root beer and craft soda.”)

    Red Top offers several inventive, “gourmet” hotdog and sausage options, each an exercise in creative condiment-ing. Ever had a hotdog with blackberry jam or mushroom barley porridge? I order the Tatanka, a bison sausage on a pretzel bun with Cheddar beer cheese, fried onions, pepper veggie relish and horseradish cream. My husband decides on a vegan dog generously topped with grilled onions, guacamole, veggie relish and yellow mustard. We split some super-smoky grilled Brussels sprouts. Our hotdogs disassemble when lifted, toppings plopping into the cardboard boats they arrived in. It takes care and silverware to eat, and it’s not pretty, but I’m embracing the novelty, enjoying each hearty bite. (Worth noting here that the Tatanka and the vegan dog are $9 and $10 respectively.)

    Red Top started as a food truck. Now housed in the former Keswick Democratic Club, it’s a pleasant space with exposed brick, dark wood and, near my table, a framed People magazine featuring an article about the best hotdogs in every state. (Guess which Kentucky spot is listed.) After our meal, we treat the kids to Dairy Del in Germantown. I notice a family devouring hotdogs and chili dogs at a cost of less than $2 per dog. They appear wholly satisfied. I wonder what their reaction would be if I leaned over with the news that, hey, the dogs are gourmet just down the way.

    You can follow Red Top on Facebook and Instagram.

    This originally appeared in the October 2018 issue of Louisville Magazine as the Dish. To subscribe to Louisville Magazineclick here. To find us on newsstands, click here.

    Photo by Mickie Winters, mickiewinters.com

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