This evening I finally got to try the place that I had literally counted down the days until it opened its doors to the Missoula community. My anticipation for the opening of this joint exceeded my excitement for the debut of any other business that I can ever remember opening in the area (with the exception of maybe Hooters). Tonight I ate dinner at Tom Dooley’s, a gourmet hot dog shop located on east Broadway right next to the Campus Inn.
As a huge hot dog fan, something really delights me about the prospect of a restaurant that specializes in just that…hot dogs. When the place happens to be a one-of-a-kind, local establishment it just makes it that much better. When I walked through the doors of Tom Dooley’s with an empty stomach earlier this evening, I was ready for business.
The storefront of Tom Dooley’s
The set up is simple at TD’s. You walk through the doors and the main counter is right in front of you. A black board hanging behind it creatively presents the menu in a variety of different colored chalk. To the right of the counter (from the vantage point of the customer) is a sectioned off area where the “hot dog artists” prepare your order. To the left is where the narrow but long seating area begins, complete with high tables and low tables. The soda fountain is right at the beginning of the seating area, the single unisex restroom at the end.
The ordering process is even simpler than the set up. A very nice and attractive young lady took our order. As first timers we kind of stumbled through what we wanted, making tweaks here and there. She got every detail and simply told the hot dog artists a generic word for each item we ordered (i.e. “dog”, “brat”, “fry”, “tot”). We went and sat down at a table and within two minutes, the nice TD’s worker brought us our food. Everything was exactly how we ordered it, every sauce accounted for. Not bad for a new business with new employees.
The set up inside Tom Dooley’s
Because I wanted to try both varieties and because I am a pig, I ordered both a brat and a hot dog. I selected “The Fargo” brat and “The Cowboy Luau” hot dog. My main man and eating partner, Money Mike, ordered the “Shout Bamalama” hot dog. We also got sweet potato tater tots.
A nice look at the food we got at Tom Dooley’s
“The Fargo” is a brat that came on a pretzel bun with pepper jack cheese and sautéed onions. As I ate it, I generously dipped it in their volcanic radish sauce and their special BBQ sauce. What stuck out to me first was just not the warmth of the brat but also the warmth of the bun. Mind you, it is not a regular bun from a sack at Albertsons, it is a high quality pretzel bun. Anyway, every part of “The Fargo” was at the same temperature, the pepper jack cheese was perfectly melted on both the brat itself and the bun, and the sautéed onions topped it off. So the presentation and temperature of the brat was perfect, how about the taste? It was good! The freshness of the bun and quality of the brat contributed to a very positive taste. The pepper jack cheese was pleasantly noticeable and the sauces brought out extra flavor. The onions were so-so with many of them falling from the brat/bun and into the boat tray.
“The Cowboy Luau” is a hot dog that was served smothered in BBQ sauce and then topped with grilled pineapples! The original Cowboy Luau also comes with relish but I requested that they hold it. I had never tried a hot dog with pineapples before so I did not know exactly how it would taste, but it worked. I found it very tasty and once again, just like the brat, the temperature of both the bun and the dog were the same. The hot dogs definitely have a much more BBQ-type taste than the brats so that is probably what you want to base your decision on when deciding between the two. Or, you can just do what I did and order both.
I love you Tom Dooley’s! I gobbled down both my brat and hot dog in no time.
Maybe the best part of the whole dinner though was the sweet potato tater tots. The small, reddish-brown gems tasted amazing. You would eat a couple and you would get that clean, sweet potato taste and then you would eat a couple more at the bottom and you would still get the sweet potato taste but added in would be a pinch of what I made out to be cinnamon-sugar. Although Mike ordered them for himself, I pretty much ate the whole order. Speaking of Mike, his dog, “The Shout Bamalama,” came with cole slaw, BBQ sauce, and french fries! I had not seen french fries on a sandwich since I visited Pittsburgh last year. Mike said it was good but he was too busy talking about sports and the new Adam Sandler movie coming out for me to get much more out of him.
The final breakdown on Tom Dooley’s? It is a well-organized, clean spot to pick up a bite to eat. The food quality is good. Both the brats and hot dogs run around $5 with the brats being about twenty-five cents more if I remember correctly. One thing to keep in mind is that you pay the $5 price for quality, not quantity. The hot dogs/brats are not gigantic. In fact, they are regular size. Before going in I guess I kind of envisioned sausages more along the size of what Costco serves…this is not the case. Because of the size and because of the atmosphere and quick production of the food, I recommend visiting Tom Dooley’s for lunch. For someone like me, if you were to order a single hot dog for dinner you might leave the place still a little hungry. For lunch, it is perfect. Idea wise, the place is awesome. Missoula definitely did not have a gourmet hot dog place before but now it does. I am just hoping that the city likes the idea as much as I do because I would love to see it be successful. Don’t Blink.