Japadog, Vancouvers Street Food Pioneer
Corner of Burrard and Pender (in front of Scotiabank)
Corner of Burrard and Smithe (in front of Sutton Place Hotel)
I like to think of the Japadog stand on Smithe and Burrard as Vancouver’s first ever official international street food vendor. And they had a good run too, before all these other fancier food carts hit the scene. I can’t remember when the Japadog stand opened, but they have dominated the busy street corner of Smith and Burrard for enough years to gain enough popularity to open a few other stands throughout the city, and also their first ever Japadog store on Robson Street. I’ve spent many summer afternoons perched on the steps of Scotiabank (at the corner of Burrard and Pender) enjoying a cold Japanese soft drink with a Japadog in hand. And now with the windier, rainier and cold Vancouver days, a piping hot Japadog is perfect for a quick lunch or afternoon snack. The price point is a little steep at almost $7 per Japadog, but upon closer inspection, I realize a lot of small but crucially careful details go into making the Japadog so famously flavourful.
First off, the juicy wiener in the Japadog is cleverly scored diagonally so the wiener really plumps up when cooked, and the slits in the wiener also function to collect all the soy sauce, Japanese mayo and other delicious spices and garnishes used to top the Japadog. Next, unlike traditional hot dogs topped with ketchup and mustard, the salty and sweet Japanese toppings somehow enhance the salty flavour of the hot dog (or as much as you can enhance the flavour of processed meat) rounding out the saltiness with shots of sweet and sour in the Teriyaki sauce, and adding a crispy crunch with seaweed which is held in place by the rich, creaminess of Japanese mayo. Japanese mayo always seems thicker and more filling than North American mayo, in a good way.
Over the years, I have almost mastered the method of making Japadogs at home with just a Cuisinart panini grill (for those famous grill marks on the hot dog), a pastry brush for the soy sauce, and a squeeze bottle of Japanese mayo and some seaweed. I also like to add my go-to secret ingredient to put my own personal touch on my homemade Japadogs: sesame seed oil.
With new Vancouver street food vendors popping up every week, I’m still happy to see that the Japadog stands are still holding steady, and even though, I’ve nearly figured out their recipes, I will still continue to visit my favourite Japadog stand for old time’s sake.