When I first moved here, native Winnipeggers asked me “Have you tried eating at [place] yet?” The insinuation, of course, is that these places were both classically Winnipeg and excellent places to eat as well.
Unfortunately, it seems that some people’s tastes have been clouded by nostalgia. Places that have been around forever, that came highly recommended, that were supposed to rock my tastebuds… Didn’t. Not all of them were bad. Some were pretty good, and the recommendation was appreciated. The vast majority, though, I was forced to meet with a resounding “Meh.”
One of those places is Skinner’s. The sign touts their hot dogs as “world famous.” In fact, the Globe and Mail included Skinner’s on a list of Canada’s best hot dogs. I’m pretty sure that this means the writer did not actually try the hot dogs (or the smokies) at Skinner’s because they’re kinda blah.
There, I said it. Please don’t hurt me.
A regular hot dog at Skinner’s is skinny, which I suppose might be a play on the name of the establishment. The skin of the hot dog, though, is disproportionately thick for such a skinny dog. This is the type of skin you’d expect on a smokie that’s bursting at the seams with meat and juice and flavour. Instead, you bite down into the hot dog and feel the skin stretch and stretch until it snaps, almost as though you’re biting into a weiner dog balloon animal.
It might be because I didn’t grow up eating these stretchy, snappy hot dogs, but the texture of the dog snapping as my teeth bite into it really turns me off. Plus, once you’re past the skin and into the meat of the hot dog, the experience doesn’t improve. The hot dogs taste boiled, or maybe steamed. All of the flavour seems to have been removed in the cooking process. Possibly it wasn’t there to begin with. To make the hot dogs palatable, then, Skinner’s loads them up with condiments. Maybe that’s why they’re so skinny – to allow more room for condiments?
If you’re dying for a hot dog, the smokies seem to have taken over in the flavour department: juicy and meaty, although still rather “meh” on taste. The signs around the restaurant indicate that the hot dogs and smokies are from Winnipeg Old Country. If that’s the case, I would stick to their smokies as the better of the two bets.
All is not totally lost, however. The burgers are ok. Not great… Just ok. They taste like frozen patties, but with enough condiments they make for a passable (if thin) burger. With the burger you also don’t have to deal with the strange skin you get on the hot dogs.
About the best thing I’ve found at Skinner’s are the chili cheese fries. An order of these can feed one hungry person, or is suitable to be split by two adults. The fries themselves are nothing to write home about, but the chili is a hearty beef chili with beans and excellent seasoning. With the addition of melty cheese, the chili cheese fries are easily the best thing on Skinner’s menu.
You can get a much better hot dog at Half Moon across the river, or pretty much any hot dog cart in town. If you really do like Skinner’s hot dogs, by all means recommend them to your non-local friends, but please don’t be offended if your friends don’t think they’re the “world’s best hot dog.”