By all appearances, The Green Cart Deli, the new hot dog stand in Conway, looks like, well, a hot dog stand. Except next to where its signature multicolored street-vendor umbrella stands, there is also a 4-foot-wide compound solar panel. The slogan of The Green Cart Deli, according to its Facebook page, is "The World's First Biocompostable Solar-Powered Gourmet Food Cart!"
The proprietor and hot-dog preparer, Brad Kossover, used to work in the delightfully ambiguous world of "adventure travel." Though he attended the University of Arkansas, more recently he's maintained a residence in Asheville, N.C., when he wasn't leading jungle hikes and rafting tours in places like Coast Rica, Peru and Ecuador. He booked tours mainly for college students' service projects, and at one point, built an entirely green cabin in the Costa Rican jungle. He says it gave him the inspiration for an eco-inspired hot dog cart.
Kossover seems to have neatly shoehorned the fly-by-night lifestyle of a professional traveler (and adventurer) into his restaurateur campaign. The stand, while adhering to a few regular locations, is seldom ever stationed in the same place. Instead, Kossover maintains a Twitter feed (@EATGCD) and a lively community-interactive Facebook page (facebook.com/GreenCartDeli) that highlights Green Cart's roving location, advertises new eats and welcomes customer feedback. And he's been getting praise from rabid fans for his dogs on his page — "I bragged about you on my blog!" and "It was worth the wait as always!" and "Thank you for feeding us all today!!"
On a recent sunny Friday, we found the hot dog stand in Simon Park in downtown Conway. Fearing that the lines would be too long for a normal lunch break, we tried to time our arrival before the lunch rush, about a quarter to noon. The line then was manageable, but folks were clearly tittering. The Friday special is the "OMG Brownie," and there was talk among waiting patrons about whether or not there would be any left by their turn to order.
Having already sampled, on a previous trip, the "New Yorker" specialty dog — a loaf of steamed sauerkraut and spicy brown mustard resting atop the narrow dog — we decided to experiment with other selections. The cutely titled "Jersey-esque-ish" was a treat, a minimally dressed dog (uncharacteristic for most of the specialty options), featuring only spicy brown mustard, pickle, and onion and dusted with a layer of celery salt. The most impressive selection was "The Razorback"— a variation of the signature dog, "The GCD," which bears spicy brown mustard, all-beef chili and coleslaw — with an added layer of Wickles sub relish, a type of Alabama-made hot-pepper chow chow. As a hot-dog fan but rare eater of ground beef, we found the texture and quality of the chili meat surprisingly pleasant and non-greasy. The sweet and spicy coleslaw/relish combination gave the dog nice balance, like eating a mixed greens salad along with a steak.
Our greatest frustration was with the "Old Chicago" dog, which was overburdened by its toppings (tomatoes, grandma-style neon-green relish, yellow mustard, onions, pickles, sport peppers, and celery salt). We're not squeamish about spiciness, but the unwieldy, paper-like texture of the sport peppers' husks totally complicated the eating process and their heat subsumed any other flavor we might have hoped to taste.
The Sabrett-brand links themselves are thin, so if you come expecting the hearty, inch-in-diameter, grease-spraying Nathan's version of an all-beef hot dog, you might be disappointed. But for what the dog itself lacks in mere meat substantiality (which, according to Kossover's healthy-living principles, might be better for us, anyway), it more than makes up for in inspired toppings, unexpected flavors, and melt-in-your-mouth steamed poppy-seed buns. And, with most street-vendor food, half of the experience is waiting in line, chattering nervously with your fellow customers, and leaning in too closely while you place an order for your fix.
The Green Cart Deli
Various locations in Conway
The "OMG Brownie," the Friday treat, was a generous rectangle with a quarter-inch marshmallow crust drizzled with chocolate frosting. Not wholly remarkable, but rich. Speaking to Kossover's generosity: While seated behind him on a park bench, our female companion lamented that she did not purchase a brownie for herself, and Kossover turned around and handed her one from his secret cabinet, with a hush-hush gesture.
Depend on the weather, the mood of the owner and the supply. But typically 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.
All major credit cards accepted.