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Quick Bite: Otis Jackson's Soul Dog

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The wall is brightened by a large mural riffing on Marvin Gaye's "I Want You" album cover, and eclectic tunes, from Bob Marley reggae classics to the theme from "Diff'rent Strokes" seep from the sound system, and the employees are upbeat. It doesn't take much fine tuning of your own ears and palate, though, to catch the satisfying "snap" as you bite into a loaded dog inside Otis Jackson's Soul Dog, a new hot dog and soul food joint in the NoHo Arts District.

Recently opened, the casual eatery specializes in "conscious comfort food," including a range of playful, and soulful, hot dogs, and southern specialties, like fried chicken. Hungry for a quick bite to go, I stopped in this week to check out the scene and the eats.

One great way to get a whole lot of food and try several selections from the Soul Dog's fun menu is to get the Big Otis Special, which includes any hot dog, fries, a piece of your choice of fried chicken, one side, and a large fountain drink for $13.99. I ordered up a Soul Dog, a breast piece of fried chicken, and some Mac & Cheesiness to cover a few bases.

Topped with collard greens, cucumber relish, sweet potato puree, and bacon crumbles, the Soul Dog is the house dog, and in addition to bearing that distinctive "snap" from the natural casing, the toppings are a nice balance of flavor and texture, from the fresh zing of the cucumber to the mild sour of the greens, the grit of the bacon, and the sweet sauciness of the puree.

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The chicken is moist, and the fried coating delightfully crisp and peppery, and not greasy. High-quality ingredients certainly shine at Soul Dog, and the restaurant's philosophy of using ingredients without any artificial preservatives, nitrates or antibiotics, as well as coming in early each morning to make all of the sauces, relishes, cornbread, and everything else on the menu, is evident in the final product. That includes the Mac & Cheesiness, which is also on the peppery side, and a rich, satisfying side.

Thanks to a little goof in the kitchen, I got sent home with a bonus sampling of Sweet Potato Fries, which far outshone the plain fries, which were on the pale and uninspiring side. Speaking of the kitchen, which is predominantly out in the open, the crew seems to be in the getting-used-to-being-open stages, but are efficient and, above all, welcoming and friendly. As the last item went into my brown paper Soul Dog bag (with its printed reminder to recycle it), the employee sang out the "ooooo-ooo!" at the end of the "Diff'rent Strokes" theme, which helped send me out with a bag full of soulful goodness, and a smile.