If you happen to go to Carrollwood in search of Five Guys, here's the bad news: it's not there anymore. But here's the good news: you won't be disappointed by the replacement, Twinz Big City Hotdogs. The locally-owned restaurant has elevated hot dogs to a level of gourmet status thanks to premium ingredients and an imaginative menu. And while the name emphasizes hot dogs, the burgers and wings should get equal billing. Twinz is in a large shopping center at the corner of North Dale Mabry Highway and Fletcher Avenue. Once inside, you order and pay at the register. You'll find Coke products for drinking, but no alcohol. Six flat screens show everything from sports to kids programs. The wait for food is longer than McDonalds but faster than Chili's or Red Robin. The prices are somewhat in between those places, but the quality is better.
The menu is not all hot dogs and burgers. Twinz offers wings in quantities of 10, 20 or 50, and in nine different flavors. Our favorite was the Rob & Rich - large and meaty, lightly-fried wings that are basted rather than drowned in barbecue sauce and covered in chunks of blue cheese. Twinz also offers 10 different sides, including homemade onion rings that tasted hand battered, double-dipped and fried so they have a light crispy coating without being overly greasy. The garlic parmesan fries were crinkle cut so they fried up soft on the inside. The sweet potato fries were waffle cut and tossed in kosher salt. A basket easily serves two to three, and the fries also are available loaded with more toppings like chili, cheese and bacon. But the stars of the show are dogs and burgers. Some hot dog varieties are familiar, like the Chicago Dog that features a natural casing Chicago Red topped with mustard, tomato, pickles, onions, relish, celery salt and peppers on a steamed poppy seed bun. The New Yorker includes a natural casing Sabrett hot dog topped with spicy mustard, red onion sauce, hot kraut and sweet relish. We tried the hometown, excellent Tampa Bay Dog. It's a grilled Polish sausage topped with spicy mustard, mayo, barbecue sauce, onions, sweet homemade slaw, applewood smoked bacon and crispy potato sticks. The whole combination provided a wonderful contrast of textures, flavors and temperatures. It was messy but magnificent. I wished I had paid the couple of extra dollars to get it as a foot long. If you don't like the idea of these toppings dressing a Polish sausage, it also comes as the Tampa Bay Burger, with the same toppings dressing a 6-ounce certified prime angus steak burger patty on a fresh baked onion roll. The Twinz Classic Steakburger came with a spicy chipotle mayo that we liked, and we don't usually like mayo. The steak itself was tender and all the added vegetables - romaine lettuce, tomato and onion - were crisp. The Twinz Full Throttle burger features beef patty, chipotle mayo, applewood smoked bacon, sliced avocados, onion strings, salsa, romaine lettuce, tomato and New York buffalo cheese. The biggest burger is the Twinz Bacon Burger Dawg. For $11, you get a one-pound double patty topped with chipotle mayo, pepper jack and cheddar cheese, applewood smoked bacon, romaine, steak tomato, red onion and pickles. For something sweet and cold, Twinz offers up homemade shakes in vanilla, chocolate or strawberry. Specialty shakes, which are $5, include Chips Ahoy, Cookies and Cream, Neapolitan and the Rob & Rich (a combination of Chips Ahoy and Oreos) The homemade vanilla shake was a delight - ice cold, strong vanilla flavoring, very creamy but the right consistency to suck through a straw. This was one of the favorite things we sampled. It will be interesting to see if Twinz can attract and keep the customers that eventually eluded Five Guys. They certainly have the quality product to do so.
TWINZ BIG CITY HOTDOGS
Bottom Line: Quick service restaurant in Carrollwood offers high-quality dogs, burgers, wings and fries
Where: 13149 N. Dale Mabry Hwy., Suite F, TampaHours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to midnight Saturday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday