FOOD- THE DISH- Hamdingers: Not an everyday hot-dog cart
When you think of fast food on the Downtown Mall, what comes to mind? We're talking five minutes tops to grab a bite. Pizza, dumplings, hot-dogs, burgers– that's about it for super-speedy calories. Varied, but maybe not the healthiest line-up. Now, thanks to cartmeister Patrick Critzer, who wheeled his gourmet healthy fast-food cart, Hamdingers, to the Mall on April 12, busy folks tired of the same-old have a savior.
"I thought there wasn't enough fast healthy food on the Mall," says Critzer, who helped work a cart in NYC for a year. "Instead of healthy street food around here, all we have are Burger Kings and McDonald's. I think the fast food trend is going to die out eventually. People want more healthy choices."
Critzer, who began cooking at Tokyo Rose before moving to Revolutionary Soup, and for several years did special events for A. Pimento Catering, says his main thrust is promoting local and all-natural food. To that end, he's assembled a menu to make a mere hot dog cart weep: beef from the Organic Butcher in the West Main shops, Twin Oaks tofu, organic Chicago-style hot dogs, bread from Breadworks, locally made sausages, home-made sauerkraut, kabobs with chicken, duck, and lamb, and even bacon-wrapped dates.
"That sausage was ridiculous," says customer Max Fenton. "I just ate three of them. I have crazy allergies, and Patrick customizes his menu for me."
Unfortunately, as customers approach, they assume that Hamdingers is a mere hot-dog cart. It's a perception that Critzer hopes to change with a new sandwich board sign and a little word-of-mouth action. Critzer also has a beef against trash.
"When I get a little money," he says, "I'll start using biodegradable containers, stuff made of sugar pulp and corn. I do things on skewers because I don't want to create a lot of trash."
Critzer started out on the East end of the Mall, but has since migrated to a spot in front of the Downtown Grille, where a short-lived newsstand used to stand. He says there's less competition there, and not as much wind.
For now, Hamdingers is on the Mall for lunch Tuesdays through Saturdays, and stays open till dark on Fridays. But you better start making Critzer feel at home. He says he's already gotten a few catering jobs from being on the Mall, and "Hamdingers" would make an awful nice sign on a storefront.
Smokeless Downtown Grill renovates
Last week, you may have noticed that the Downtown Grille's patio had become a construction site. Dish certainly did. That's why we popped in to ask general manger Robert Sawrey what all the hammering and sawing was about.
Sawrey told us he was renovating the bar area, creating a little more room close to the bar, installing booths along the windows, putting the TVs over the bar instead of in the corner, and adding an "inner" doorway to the entrance. Of course, by the time you read this, the work should be mostly done, although Sawrey says it will be about a month before things are really finished. In the meantime, the Grille is open for business.
Dish recently reported that Sawrey decided to ban smoking at the Grille several weeks ago after customers complained about second-hand smoke and because he felt it was the right thing to do for his staff and customers. So how's the new policy going?
"Awesome," says Sawrey. "I've angered only a few people. We might consider allowing people to smoke on the patio, but we'll have to see. Inside, it wasn't so much the smoke that bothered people, but the smell."
Hmm... Maybe next time, the General Assembly will pass a bill protecting us from the ill effects of second-hand smell!
Last week, we told you that the Inn at Court Square was now serving dinner. This week, Oxo co-owner Alice Kim informs Dish that the Water Street restaurant is now serving lunch... again.
"You're more than welcome to say how schizophrenic we are with lunches," Kim laughs, admitting they keep opening and closing for lunch. "But we're open now, and it's great!"
Better hurry before they switch personalities again.
"I thought there wasn't enough fast healthy food on the Mall," says Patrick Critzer, who operates Hamdingers.
PHOTO BY DAVE MCNAIR