There used to be a chain of hot dog stands in the 70’s called “Pup n’ Taco” that were scattered all over Southern California. Just like the name suggests, they served both hot dogs and tacos – a weird combo for sure. I don’t think I ever had one of their tacos, but I do remember loving their hot dogs – which isn’t saying much since I was probably six years-old the last time I ate there. I was thinking of the good old Pup n’ Taco days today as I pulled up a stool at Pup Hut in Richmond.
Pup Hut is mostly about hot dogs, but they also serve burgers and an assortment of sandwiches and breakfast items. Housed in a faded blue and white chalet style building in a somewhat rundown part of Richmond, this hot dog stand has the look and feel of a bygone era. The interior is well worn but kept very clean. A wraparound counter with six powder blue vinyl swivel stools looks over the small kitchen area that features a small wood fired grill, a couple deep fryers, a griddle and a steam table for their dogs. In addition to the counter, there are three booths and a couple small tables. Slightly cloudy floor to ceiling windows bring a ton of light into the dining area and offer views of the traffic on busy San Pablo Avenue.
Orders are taken at the counter and the menus can be found on just about every wall. The two main ones with the little plastic letters are on the back wall and a dozen or so homemade signs are placed throughout the restaurant with specials and combos. Their burgers are one third pound and are cooked on the mesquite grill. I decided on a burger with cheese ($3.79 plus $.35 for cheese). A preformed patty was set on the grill and started to sizzle with the occasional pop and spark of the mesquite. Flames would periodically flare up if the patty was touched or flipped. There is nothing like watching a burger being cooked on a wood grill.
Served in a red plastic basket that was tightly wrapped with faded yellow paper, the third pound cheese burger was also packaged nicely with the same paper. It was a simple burger, very much like the one you get down the street at the Red Onion. A thick slice of half melted American cheese clung to the patty that was wedged between a plain toasted bun with a generous portion of sweet mayo, mustard, a thick tomato and a handful of iceberg lettuce. I peeled back the paper and began to mow down the decent sized burger.
Thanks to the mesquite grill, the burger had a nice touch of smoky flavor but the meat was somewhat lifeless and cooked well done. It wasn’t a dry burger, in fact it was actually pretty moist, but just lacked that fresh beefiness of fresh ground meat. The condiments and fresh veggies helped boost the flavors and everything combined worked with the smokiness of the patty. The toasted bun held itself together but was no match to the sudden slippage that occurred at the half way point of my burger.
This was my second time to the Hut and both times I have been there I have had a decent meal. Their hot dogs are actually really good and definitely recommended. The burger was decent, though nothing too special. I have to credit Pup Hut for using the mesquite grill. Without it, the standard preformed patty would have been pretty pedestrian. I also like the place itself. There is usually a constant stream of colorful customers coming in that make for great people watching. From gangster kids with gold grills to elderly couples and just about everything in between. I imagine that it probably gets a little raucous as the night wears on. If you go, make sure the mesquite grill is working before you order your burger. If there is a fresh log in there, they will most likely throw your burger on the griddle and it just isn’t the same.
RATING: 3 out of 5
12505 San Pablo Ave
Richmond, CA 94805