LinX Is Frankly Great
Is it wrong to look forward to eating the bread at a hot-dog joint? I knew before I went to the new LinX in Orange that whatever sausage I encountered would be nestled in Dean Kim's hot-dog bun from O.C. Baking Co. I've had these buns before, the very best to eat with any cylindrically shaped object made of meat—even Vienna sausages out of a can would attain greatness. Kim's bread is fluffy, with just the right amount of pull in the dough, the interior crumb of a sweet Hawaiian roll and a browned outer crust taut enough to repel buckshot.
Scott Brandon, the chef and owner behind LinX, knows as well as anyone how very good Kim's bread is. He sources three kinds of rolls: a plain potato, a pretzel encrusted with coarse salt, and a poppyseed that's used exclusively for a Chicago-inspired hot dog. But Brandon recognizes his primary job at LinX is to bring Kim's buns and Paddy Glennon's sausages from Europa Specialty together and, in his words, "just not fuck up their hard work." He griddles the outside surfaces of the bread with butter as though he were making grilled cheese. The sausages—especially the thick, juice-spurting, cheese-oozing Sicilian—are scored with a dozen shallow slits before roasted to a glassy sheen.
When Brandon's toppings are piled on, you realize they're just the frame on the artwork—and sometimes, not even a requirement. I ate the Sicilian "naked," just bread and sausage. Yet even Brandon seems to recognize that these premium tube steaks, the kielbasa and chicken Florentine included, can and should be eaten as is. He does not include them on his main list of "Haute LinX," for which he upgrades mostly frankfurters with a preprescribed number of toppings.
Whatever sausage sandwich you end up with, expect your fingers to get greasy and your napkins thoroughly soiled, especially if you get one embellished with a few of the 30 house-made sauces and adornments. You don't consume LinX's sandwiches as much as you spelunk with them. Point the business end of the hot dog toward your mouth, and the toppings will reach to the tip of your nose. You'll spend a good minute seeking the best possible angle to maneuver your lips around it. A common practice is to take a fork and tamp down the toppings, spreading the homemade relishes, the near-liquefied grilled onions and the mustards evenly inside the bun and around the dog. Even still, if the sausage is particularly thick and the bun is slit too deeply, there will be times when the whole thing falls apart. Knife and fork it if you have to; Brandon's sandwiches are possibly the most thoughtfully crafted dogs I've encountered, including those from the late, great Valhalla Table, which was the last sausage house around these parts to be inspired by LA's Wurstküche.
Despite the craft-beer selection, the quirky bottled sodas, the communal tables and the Belgian frites with an array of froufrou dipping sauces, Brandon is less interested in copying Wurstküche than he is in paying homage to America's venerated hot-dog styles. He steams his franks for a New York Dirty Water Dog. For his Chicago Dawg, he slathers on a neon-green relish, then showers it with celery salt. And as a nod to New Jersey, he offers "The Ripper," for which the dog is deep-fried until the casing bursts open. He smears it with an interpretation of the legendary Rutt Hut's mustard relish—a yellow, baby-food mush of wondrous flavor and piquancy. Next time I will ask to turn mine into a "Cremator," a name Rutt Hut uses to describe a wiener that's burnt-fried to a near-jerky state.
Before LinX, I last ate Brandon's cooking when he was the chef at Corona Del Mar's Crowbar & Kitchen. So I expected nothing less than gourmet overkill on even something called the T.J. Street Dog: a shower of bacon, a slathering of very good guacamole, a mayo spiked with chorizo, and carrots in a giardiniera relish chopped so finely it would technically be called a brunoise. The only thing I didn't care for were the fries. Cut into Belgian frite-spears from actual potatoes and double-fried, they're still lamentably limp and soggy. I much prefer the crispier duck fries Brandon used to make at Crowbar. But really, who needs more carbohydrates? Those wonderful buns are all the carbs you need to consume here.
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