Though Boiseans seem determined to resist change at any cost, food culture requires innovation to grow. And if there were a list of two things Boise's restaurant scene is stocked up on, it could very well be hot dogs and Hawaiian food. That would seem to make North Shore Hot Dog Company, a new Hawaiian-style hot dog joint downtown, superfluous.
And yet, North Shore manages to bring something new to the lunch counter: pizzazz.
The brightly decorated space at Ninth and Main streets features a simple menu of hot dogs and Hawaiian-style gordo sandwiches garnished with a variety of tropical condiments. Patrons can choose from a few pre-planned dogs or build their own.
The luau pork ($4.95) and huli chicken ($4.95) are both good, things a customer should be able to expect from any Hawaiian restaurant. The hot dogs are hot dogs. But instead of the standard-issue white bun, they're served inside warm Hawaiian sweet bread sleeves, a giant step up in the dough department.
But what really stands out on North Shore's menu is the condiments: habanero aioli, pineapple and coconut relishes, and passion fruit mustard. These are the spoonfuls of sugar Mary Poppins sang about.
Trusting the staff's judgment on how to best combine these new flavors, I ordered The Haleiwa ($3.95), which contains garlic lemon aioli, mango and coconut relish, and passion fruit mustard.
The dog was ready quickly. I took a seat at one of the counters lining the walls and bit in.
Though it was a high-quality meat tube in a high-quality bun, it was still a hot dog. All of the strange delights of the tropics I'd been expecting were MIA. But it grew sweeter and more delicious with each bite until I discovered a reservoir of passion fruit mustard and coconut pooled at the bottom of the roll. It wasn't a tasty-looking color combo, but hot diggity dog, was it delicious. North Shore might do better to ditch the dogs altogether and just serve shots of fancy mustard.
Hot dogs require equal distribution of the condiments for purposes of consistency. Otherwise, what is a Chicago dog in one bite can be a Hawaiian in the next and a chili dog in a third. North Shore doesn't have the bite-to-bite consistency problem licked. But it has managed to add a new twist to something locals have proven themselves willing to eat and at a price they're willing to pay.