Joe Schmoe's: House of Meat

I've been mad at Cypress ever since its high school beat my alma mater, Anaheim High, in the CIF Division IX football championship back in 2007. We made up a bit with Cambino's, an awesome Asian barbecue—but that closed a couple of years ago, and I got pissed anew. Why, if it weren't for Cafe Hiro, Loft Hawaiian BBQ and Señor Big Ed's, Cypress could very well have joined Mission Viejo and Brea in my civic doghouse.

And if it weren't for an anonymous letter, which included the menu, it might've taken me months to know about Joe Schmoe's. If I were speeding down Ball Road, as I'm wont to do, I would've allowed my annoyance with Cypress to mistake Joe Schmoe's for a Wienerschnitzel, what with its bright awning, A-frame building and strip-mall existence. And even if I noticed this new restaurant, its streetside sign promising “Classic dogs, hamburgers and frozen custard,” I might've still just whizzed by on the way to Los Alamitos. But thankfully, I'm not petty. After getting that menu, I manned up, visited Joe Schmoe's—and have been returning frequently since.

The tiny place is the latest example of our hot-dog renaissance, an epoch that finds a wiener covered in relish, mustard and ketchup no longer good enough, that has inspired middle-aged men and women to hearken to the franks of their youthful travels (or is it the influence of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives?) and offer them to a new generation. So it's not good enough to have a bacon-wrapped hot dog here; you'll also find a Chicago dog, a Ripper Dog from New Jersey and dogs from Dixie bathed in creamy coleslaw. Those regional specialties are fine, but I prefer Joe's creations: a chile verde dog that seems beamed from 1960s San Bernardino, so Cal-Mex it is; another one filled with pastrami and a prickly Russian dressing; and a monster called a Spicy Redneck Dog that takes a bacon-wrapped hot dog and buries it under chili, coleslaw and fried jalapeños—as filling as it sounds.

Joe Schmoe's is still relatively new, so here's to hoping its hamburgers eventually reach the heights of its dogs; right now, they're good, but just there. Better is the frozen custard: perfect served plain, greater when spiked with everything from peanut butter cups to chunks of Heath Bars. And the draft beer behind the counter, not too far from the milkshake machine? Beautiful. More of this, Cypress, and maybe I'll give you a call one of these days. . . .

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