What’s better proportioned than a bulky ballpark frank?
Try the svelte Scandinavian pickled polse, a slender, bright red hot dog considered the national late-night nosh of Denmark.
When I order one at a recent happy hour, the server confirms the status, saying, “It’s pretty popular because it photographs so well. It’s all over Instagram.”
The pork and beef polse is 9 inches — long enough to extend cartoonishly out the ends of the bun. It is made to McLean’s specifications by Fritz’s Specialty Meats. McLean pickles the slender polse in a garlic and vinegar marinade for days using a recipe created by her great-grandfather, who owned a butcher shop in Elsmore, Kan.
The Kansas City-made polse gets another local twist when it’s nestled in a Farm to Market egg roll cut from the top down like a lobster roll, instead of sliced from the side.
This beauty queen’s crowning glory: a uniquely Scandinavian combo of condiments, including senap (a sweet and spicy mustard), a cucumber-onion salad, double yolk-mayo, a generous handful of crispy fried leeks and curry ketchup.
“I’m really proud of it,” McLean says. “You think of a hot dog, and then you think of what it could be.”
I personally abhor the spongy texture of supermarket-brand hot dogs that were popular when I was a child. I vastly prefer the texture on the Copenhagen Street Dog. And because it doesn’t have a casing, it lacks that weird snap when you bite into it.
Instead of sweet relish, the cucumber-onion salad has a fresher, less cloying flavor that balances the creaminess of the mustard and mayo with the fatty fried leeks, which are familiar to those who have ever had a Thanksgiving green bean casserole. The curry ketchup adds an earthiness and spice.
The perfect side for your Copenhagen Street Dog?
That’s easy. The “thrice-fried” Danish fries ($5 on the happy-hour menu). The thin plank fries are pickled overnight in a mixture of cider vinegar and pickling spices. (Pickling is one of the most common of Scandinavian flavors.) The pickled potatoes are fried, frozen and fried golden again to order.
The pickling potato procedure comes from McLean’s mom, who used to soak potatoes in lemon juice “because she thought they would turn brown.” The process gives the fries what McLean refers to as a “tartness.” Think English fish and chips.
The unusual shape also came from her parents.
“My mom likes fries and my dad likes chips,” McLean says. “These are more flat than tall to work as a scoop.” And you’ll definitely want to scoop up drizzles of the house-made mayo and bits of green onion. My son and I shared two orders.
The fries are served in a grandma-style cut crystal dish for one of the most elegant french fry presentations you’ll find anywhere in town. But it’s not all looks: While I might be mixing my foreign terms, these fries are uber tasty — and exactly what McLean says she was shooting for — a cross between the crunchy chip exterior and the fluffy fry interior with a modicum of salt.
I recently wrote about Corvino Supper Club’s late-night cheeseburger — a thin, lacy-on-the-edges burger inspired by the iconic Town Topic and served on a squishy house-made Parker House-style roll with sesame seeds for $8 — so I was curious about why so many classically trained chefs are sprucing up iconic foods for their bar, happy hour or late-night menus
“It’s what we want at the end of the day,” McLean says. Simple, well-made food. In the wee hours after work she often makes herself a midnight ham and cheese sandwich, only she uses Wesphalian ham and aged Danish cheese.
But don’t ask McLean to serve her haute dog sans fancy toppings, unless you’re willing to sit at the bar: “I don’t feel comfortable sending a plain dog across the dining room when other people have come in to have a nice meal,” she says.
And even then, why mess with a home run?
Availability: The Copenhagen Street Dog is available at the bar, for happy hour (get $1 off from 4 to 6 p.m. every day). Starting June 16, it will also be available on the lunch menu. Lunch is served 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Jill Wendholt Silva is The Star’s James Beard award-winning food editor. Reach her on Facebook @kcstarfood on Twitter and @jillwsilva on Instagram.