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Fantastic Corn Dogs, With a Side of Cooler Weather

The Guilty Pleasure: Corn Dog (bacon-wrapped and double-fried if you dare). Where To Get It: Devil's Pantry, on Whiskey Row in Prescott. The Price: $3 small, $5 large, $2 extra for the bacon; cash only. What It Really Costs: Justification for a day trip to Prescott. Easy enough in summer.

See Also: Bear from Short Leash Hot Dogs

If the Guilty Pleasures column had a mascot, it would most likely be a giant, anthropomorphic corn dog. To me, the corn dog is an almost perfect food. What's not to like about a hot dog on a stick, sheathed in cornbread batter and deep-fried, topped with a squiggle of bright yellow mustard? It conjures powerful nostalgia, bringing to mind the fun parts of state fairs and oceanside boardwalks.

Now if only there was somewhere in this town besides the Arizona State Fair to get one. There's the Hot Dog on a Stick chain with a couple of locations in mall food courts, but their use of turkey dogs is unconscionable. Ted's Hot Dogs used to have swoon-worthy ones, but then someone there switched to dismal prefab Foster Farms corn dogs. Short Leash Hot Dogs has their Corn Pups. The jalapeño-cheddar Schreiner's sausage in coarse cornmeal batter is very well crafted... too well crafted. It easily crosses the line of Authentic vs. Fancy, and doesn't quell my corn dog cravings at all.

The prospects of finding a good corn dog in the Phoenix area are bleak. I've considered taking a trip to Disneyland, with the corn dog cart at the end of Main Street USA as important a destination as Space Mountain. But then, on a recent trip to Arizona's north country to escape the oppressive Valley heat, I found batter-dipped, deep-fried salvation.

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While I was enjoying the balmy climes of Prescott (85 degrees in August with almost daily thunderstorms? Count me in!), I happened upon Devil's Pantry, a new eatery right in the middle of Whiskey Row. When I saw corn dogs advertised on the awning, I was sold. It turns out the place is a guilty pleasure wonderland. In addition to the corn dogs, they have turkey legs (in case you didn't get your fill at the Renaissance Festival), extra-crispy french fries with a laundry list of dipping sauces (curry ketchup, anyone?), several variations on loaded fries (including one topped with gravy and chicken strip bits), deep fried Twinkies and Oreos, and quite a bit of other blow-the-diet grub. But I'm here for the corn dog.

Just when I thought I couldn't be happier that I found a place that does hand-dipped corn dogs, I saw that they take it to eleven with a double-fried, bacon-wrapped corn dog. I figure anything worth doing is worth overdoing, so I went right for the fully loaded bacon dog. They wrap the dog in bacon, fry it to cook the bacon, then do the standard dunk-and-fry. This gives the whole thing an extra layer of crispness, and the bacon's smoke and salt amplifies everything that's good about the hot dog part. You'll notice that they use toothpicks to secure the bacon to the dog (and the staff warns you that they're in there); the best way to tackle them is to yank them out with your teeth before you dig in.

I'm torn whether the bacon is worth the upcharge. Part of me thinks the regular one is perfectly good, but the bacon corn dog just has this je ne sais quoi. I'll probably go back and forth between the regular and bacon versions, letting my conscience (or lack thereof, respectively) be my guide. And there's good news if you happen to be on Whiskey Row enjoying the titular attraction: They'll deliver to your watering hole. An awesome corn dog in one hand, bourbon on the rocks in the other? I could get used to this.

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