104 W. Pujo St. • Lake Charles • 491-1155
The Local Grubscape • By Justin Morris
It’s strange to me to think that Botsky’s Premium Hot Dogs has only been a part of the downtown scene for about five years. Somehow it seems longer. But I do remember it when it was the new, hip thing downtown.
Founded in 2013, Botsky’s was created by Michael Krajicek, who brought a quirky concept — one that had been proven with New Orleans’ Dat Dog — to the Lake City. Botsky’s not only offers oodles of crazy toppings, but also serves up custom sausages made of everything from pheasant and cognac to wild boar and merlot, not to mention alligator and Kobe.
Having realized that I had only been a couple of times since Mike sold Botsky’s to its present owners, it seemed a visit was overdue. It was prompted not by the desire for a dog, but actually by a Facebook post showcasing a very tasty looking hamburger. I’d only ever had hot dogs at Botsky’s. The burger seemed worth looking into.
I drove over during midweek, just after 12:30 pm, so I was expecting a crowd, but it was only moderately busy, with no one standing in line. Donald was the friendly guy who greeted me at the register, but I had to take a minute to look. They had not one but four burger options and a couple of super-tempting pulled pork sandwiches, as well. Torn, I had to find something quickly, and the compromise was obvious.
I ordered the Cowboy Burger, described as a “short rib, brisket and chuck beef patty topped with grilled onions, barbecue sauce, pulled pork and cheddar cheese on a sweet sourdough bun.” I got an order of fries to go with the burger, as well as a new beer for me — the Abita Hop-On Juicy Pale, which I took outside, since the day was nice. I rolled a smoke and sat looking up at the old Charleston Hotel looming up in front of me. I sat thinking about all that came and went through that building. I wish it was still an old, elegant hotel. There’re not enough of those anymore.
Lost in thought, I failed to notice that my food was ready, but Donald was cool enough to walk it out to me. It looked great. The grilled onions and pulled pork just gleamed on top of the patty on one side while sweet barbecue sauce shone on the other. Once I put the burger together, I saw the nice grill marks on the top of the sourdough bun. I almost dove right in, but I realized that I had forgotten to grab ketchup for my fries, so inside I went.
It was a little quieter in there, as some of the patrons had made their way back to the office for the afternoon, but the quick jaunt to the ketchup dispenser was soundtracked well, to be sure. The ever-eclectic music selection here has always been one of my favorites in town. The near-decade-old Black Keys’ cover of the 1968 Jerry Butler top 20 hit “Never Give You Up” playing over the speakers reminded me that I have always heard favorite songs playing in here that I know I wouldn’t hear anywhere else. It was always a part of what made that atmosphere different from the norm and one I always found appealing.
Sadly, the groovy tunes were left inside as I made my way back for the burger. I thought the music used to play out there, too. Guess It’s been so long I can’t say for sure. I turned to the task of eating the solid hunk of burger in front of me.
The bread got points right up front. I didn’t recognize it as one of the local distributor standards you see around town (jalapeno cheese buns, I’m looking at you). That’s not to say that it wasn’t, but it was new to me, and I liked it.
The burger patty was rich and well-cooked, but I do think that it was the grilled onions and pulled pork, with its sweet smokiness, that really stole the show. All in all, it was pretty simple, but it was a great balance of flavors that really made this sandwich work for me. I think it does need pickles or maybe a little slaw for the whole “barbecue cookout on a bun” thing if that’s your style. Either could really step this sandwich up a notch. But it was certainly a damn fine burger, as it was.
The hand cut, lightly salted fries and the thick, hoppy Abita went well with the big, saucy monster that is the Cowboy Burger. It is a surprisingly filling burger, so unless you’re a starved bull moose (and in that case you’ll need the double-beefed Botsky Burger), it’s a lot to handle. But the Cowboy Burger comes with my highest recommendation.
I always find it interesting when a concept business starts to venture outside of their niche box to try other things. That can always go a couple of ways. After my visit to Botsky’s, I spoke to two of my friends who both reacted the same way when I mentioned having had a burger there. They both said that obviously the hot dog thing wasn’t working, so Botsky’s had to do something else.
But I don’t think that is true. Every business has to grow and develop, and certainly any business that changes ownership will have a very different individual at the helm with their own ideas and innovations. I do think that a business as specifically niched as Botsky’s has to be careful to make those new choices wisely and not dilute the original vision or let the signature products suffer because of the “shiny new apples” on the menu.
I’ll have to swing back through for a Dixie Dog or a Slawdog Millionaire sometime soon. But in my opinion, Botsky’s found some good ideas to freshen up the menu, and they seem to be doing those new things well.
Thanks for all of the killer grub, Botsky’s. Keep it coming and I’ll see you again very soon.