Corn dog cravings can show up like a thunderclap; they’re sudden and loud. If you are to speak while in the throes of a corny dog craving, your voice will most likely come out in a shout that rumbles the windows. The cravings are born from that first bite into a bronze-crusted hot dog—it’s the sound of a crackle of batter and salt crystals crashing together with snappy beef on a stick that gets you. Maybe the ability to serve hot dogs is the reason Thanos, the enemy of the Avengers and Earth, craves the obliteration of the human race, after all, we have battered dogs, and Thanos does not.
Katsu dogs, armored with a coarse panko batter, at Sumo Shack, are heroes. They’re fuss-free but executed with the exactitude of a NASA rocket. On an achingly blue-sky day, birds dart around the Sumo Shack patio on SMU Boulevard. The kitchen steams. It’s sunny and crisp everywhere, which is the right feeling for Chef Dien Nguyen’s newest snack. House-made panko batter finding salty sausages is the precise flavor of Texas summer—somewhere in between a Rangers Independence day game and running indoors to avoid a hot thunderstorm. The katsu dogs are served as simple as a corn dog should be. Three to a paper carton with two dipping sauces. Spicy mayonnaise and tangy, sweet ketchup come with it. The dish is less than five bucks.
“I tried to do it with the original corn dog batter, but it didn’t hold up too well with our panko crust,” says Nguyen. Ngyuen has found a comfortable compromise of simple, nostalgic dishes infused with street food flavors of Japan (like takoyaki) that the University Park area has sorely missed. Late-night food has, simply, never been this good in the SMU area. Forget Jack in the Box tacos forever.
“I’ve been trained to do all the traditional stuff in my lifetime. It was always kind of a no-no to go outside the box with people that are training me,” says Nguyen. The real joy of Sumo Shack’s quick bites are in this niche. Easy wins like cheeseburgers and deep-fried hot dogs don’t feel jaded or perfunctory—they’re executed with a love of comfort and nostalgia that call up a few good memories from the vault.
“When I finally had the shot to do things on my own, I just went completely opposite,” Nguyen says. “I always want to respect the flavors, I just want it to relate to the people here.”
One dog disappears, each crunching as cacophonous as 100 bags of chips, and as salty as a baseball game. They are the best little corn dogs in Dallas.