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Happy Belly Dog (Kimchi! Kewpie!) in Golden Gate Park

After yesterday’s lunch at the Thai festival (which continues today), we made a swing by the Academy of Sciences to see how the work was progressing. Before leaving the park, we tried to find one of the hot dog carts on the north side operated by Namu restaurant. Near the Conservatory of Flowers we spotted a small stand and alongside it, a table for self-serve condiments and a folding table and chairs.

Hot dogs and sausage choices are all beef, lemon chicken, and Louisiana hot links for $4. The stand also sells ice cream, soft drinks, and “extras” such as chips and tamales.

A small white board offers a handwritten menu of daily specials:

“Belly Dog: $6.00
Choose any of our delicious, local hot dogs or sausages to be topped with spicy, Korean kimchi and sweet, Japanese mayo!

Special Toppings:
Kimchi, $1.50
Mayo, $0.50
Sauerkraut, $0.50

Homemade Pastries: $3.00
Try the Brownie, Blondie, Raspberry Cake, or the vegan Oatmeal/Raisin Cookie

Sandwiches: $5/6
Ask about our freshmade sandwiches from Namu Restaurant!”

The “Belly Dog” had our name written on it though FN wasn’t too certain about the mayo part. I asked if they used Kewpie, and yes, they do. Mayonnaise is a much underrated hot dog condiment, in my opinion, and when the curlicues of Kewpie are as cute as the ones garnishing this dog, better yet.

Belly Dog -
http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

This was a big hot dog, actually poking out of both ends of the bun. Fully packed with minced kimchi, this achieved my ideal of bun to dog ratio with barely enough bun to hang onto everything. The skinless hot dog was juicy and nicely spiced, but would have been even better with the snap of a natural casing. Kewpie mayo’s actually not that sweet and its richness combined with the tangy kimchi and beefy flavors was a fantastic mouthful.

After experiencing Happy Belly’s kimchi, it’s going to be impossible to go back to plain ol’ sauerkraut on a weenie. My mouth was very happy with the Korean flavors on this hot dog, and my belly too.

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Happy Belly
John F Kennedy Dr and Tea Garden Dr, San Francisco, CA

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  1. Kimchi dog? Maybe we're almost ready for the Bulgogi Dog that Dave Cook found in New York.....

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/eatingin...

    1. The thing that made me worry about the mayo is that it said "sweet mayonnaise," which has connotations of miracle whip to me. But as usual, Melanie was right. It was delicious. My only complaint was that it didn't have a casing. The kimchi was a perfect topping and I can't wait to have it again.

      I had a very busy food weekend -- Slow Food Nation, Thai Festival, and lots of delicious bites. And this hot dog was near the top of great bites.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Fig Newton

        The totality of flavor in each bite of the Belly Dog was so satisfying, I didn't really focus on the individual parts. There was something different about that kimchi, but I couldn't say without tasting it again.

        Yeah, I had just wanted to FIND the cart to return another day. I didn't plan to buy anything because I was too full from lunch and tasting at SFN market in the morning. But I am very happy that you parked illegally and forged ahead. Considering that I wasn't hungry yet still wanted to eat my share of the hot dog says a lot. No taste and spit here. (ggg)

      2. Sounds kind of like the infamous Japadog in Vancouver, which I can report was as good as the hype. Although I wonder if plain mayo and kimchi on the Golden Gate Park Belly Dog can stack up to "wasabi mayo", seaweed, and onions on the Vancouver one.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Agent 510

          I'd heard of Japa Dog, but haven't eaten one and until now hadn't paid much attention. But I just looked at the website, and it looks like the hot dogs/sausages are sliced on the diagonal. Maybe a good way to blend in the condiments.
          http://www.japadog.com/en/index.html

        2. I read your post yesterday, and made plans to search out Happy Belly today. I found the stand on the corner of John F Kennedy and Hagiwara Tea Drive (near the DeYoung). Of course, I ordered the Belly Dog with the beef hot dog. The kim chee was quite mild, and the vendor was very skimpy with the mayo (I had to ask for more, as he originally squirted one very thin line down the top of the dog - nothing like the masterpiece you had). Still... the flavor combination is wonderful. Definitely something I want to try at home with hotter kim chee and a bigger, more flavorful dog.

          BTW - Anyone ever try the Okie Dogs in LA? That was a fabulous cross-cultural creation.

          5 Replies
          1. re: kresge86

            I'm glad I shared the photo so that you would know to claim your full share of Kewpie! A cute Asian girl did the mayo art on our dog.

            If you're brave, maybe try this combination with the Louisiana hot link?

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              So what is it about this Kewpie stuff that makes it special? I always thought (bottled) mayo was all the same, but this thread makes Kewpie sound like the Holy Grail. Is it hard to find or something?

              BTW, I think Vancouver's Japadog stand uses Kewpie too.

              1. re: Agent 510

                I don't think Kewpie's hard to find. I'm not so nuts about it that I've tried to buy a bottle, but I've seen it on the shelves at Asian and Japanese markets. The taste has a richer egginess and more salt (MSG?), as well as a creamier texture than say Best Foods.

                Here's more about Kewpie Mayonnaise -
                http://chowhound.chow.com/search?sear...

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  I think one of the attractions of Kewpie is the soft tactile feel of the squeeze pottle, rather like a certain squeezable part of the female anatomy. I bought a bottle at Cost Plus recently, and the cashier was startled when she picked it up to scan it. "Oooooh," she said, "what is this?"

                  Another attraction is the little insert in the spout that (like a frosting pump nozzle) lets you "decorate" your target.

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    Definitely the key ingredient is MSG. I made a version of this dog at home last night using Nathan's natural casing beef dogs and cucumber kimchee (didn't mince it either). It was totally phenomenal.

            2. Wow, I wonder why one of those kimchi dogs hasn't popped up down here.
              The taste combo doesn't surprise me - think sauerkraut with something extra.
              I've also found that homemade curtido is great on a sausage, same idea.

              Still, I'll Really have to screw up my courage to try the mayo :-).

              2 Replies
              1. re: DiveFan

                My first taste of mayo on a dog was a Mexican style hot dog. The hot doggero explained to me that the best taste is when the mayo is directly on the bun. Since then, when I've ordered a Sonoran style dog, I notice that the stands have the mayo, but they often don't offer it up. But when I ask for mayo, they always break into a smile.

              2. I always thought kimchi would be a brilliant topping for a hot dog, as it's basically spicy sauerkraut. I suggested it to Pink's in LA (their boring hot dogs could use the help, but they do have all kinds of fanciful creations), and got a $10 gift certificate for my two cents, but I don't think they put it on the menu.

                At the Kimchi Museum in Seoul they suggest putting kimchi on hamburger, which I find a bit more far-fetched.

                15 Replies
                1. re: Cicely

                  Shoot, someone stole your IP! Thanks for sharing that story.

                  It's my understanding that American hot dogs in Korea are corn dog style, battered and fried on a stick.

                  I'm wondering whether anyone has tried the Namu sandwiches at the cart, such as the bagnat:

                  "Pan-Asian Bagnat
                  Our version of the famous French tuna baguette sandwich. We use fresh diced Fuji apples, kalamata olives, toasted seaweed, sesame seeds, fresh squeezed lemon, scallions and extra virgin olive oil. No mayo! and No Eggs! $4."

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    Anyone know if these guys' cart in Golden Gate Park is a weekends-only and/or summer-only operation, or am I likely to find them on Tuesday or Wednesday this week?

                    1. re: Agent 510

                      I've actually called Namu a couple times inquiring about the hours, and the cart is usually there on weekdays until 4 or 5 pm. This was sometime last year though, and I'm blanking on the season.

                      edit - searching elsewhere on the web, I found reviews from January and February.

                      1. re: DezzerSF

                        To answer my own question...I called NAMU today, and they're around on weekdays this week (and presumably year-round).

                        Gotta feed the hordes visiting the CA Academy of Sciences, I guess...

                        1. re: Agent 510

                          ...not today - I was at the Conservatory of Flowers at 3 pm - no cart on the corner :^(

                          1. re: Cynsa

                            They told me there's only one and it's near the CA Academy of Sciences (their website lists 2, with the other being near the Conservatory, but they may have scaled back since its not summer)

                      2. re: Agent 510

                        Well, I got to try it today - with the Louisiana Hot Link. Delicious.

                        There are a lot of things about this dog I normally wouldn't like - it's skinless and boiled, it's on a mediocre bun, it's $6 and not that big - but it's all irrelevant, because the combo of flavors was just great.

                        I want to try this at home now. Anyone think Ranch 99 would be the place to find Kewpie and non-industrial-size containers of Kimchi? If not, where?

                        1. re: Agent 510

                          I've seen Kewpie at 99 Ranch (Richmond) and some small jars of kimchi also. But I usually get my kimchi at Pusan(Koreana) Market in Oakland.

                          1. re: Agent 510

                            You'll find kewpie and kimchee at Koreana Plaza on Telegraph or almost any other Korean market in the Bay Area. Ranch 99 has better prices on kewpie mayo, but you'll find more varieties of kimchee at a Korean store. Melanie recently posted a helpful review on locally made kimchees commonly sold at Bay Area Korean stores.

                            1. re: cvhound

                              Kewpie is also found at almost any Japanese market in the BA such as Nijiya, Mitsuwa, Suruki, etc.

                            2. re: Agent 510

                              I've seen Kewpie at Orient Market in Oakland Chinatown also. 7th st between Broadway and Franklin

                              1. re: kc72

                                Lots of options....thanks!

                                Combine that with some Aidell's sausages and decent buns, and this should be very do-able.

                                1. re: Agent 510

                                  Now.. if I could only find a place that has buns like Oahu's PukaDog...

                              2. re: Agent 510

                                Yep, mayo is de rigeur for me on Mexican bacon dogs, and as you found here, mayo is a great condiment for hot dogs. In Xiao Yang's post above, Cost Plus was suggested. If you're a guy, hope you get off on it as much as he did.

                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                  Well, I tried reproducing the Belly Dog with 4 different kinds of dogs (Top Dog hot link, Desi Dog hot link, cheap supermarket hot links, and Aidell's Andouille sausage), a bottle of Kewpie mayo, and a sketchy jar of kimchee from Ranch 99.

                                  Nothing tasted quite as good as the Belly Dog. I bow down to the goodness of the Belly Dog and concede that it's worth $6 (though not good enough to warrant a trip just for that...)

                        2. Sadly, the Happy Belly cart is no more, because of management changes at Golden Gate Park. Booooo!!!!

                          With luck, they'll keep the Belly Dog alive somewhere else.