On the U of M campus, a crispy, Korean snack-on-a-stick has come to Dinkytown, drawing lines out the door. Minnesotans may find it familiar, but this corn dog comes with a twist.
The Korean corn dog gained popularity as a street food in the 1980s. The most basic version consists of sausage or a block of mozzarella cheese on a stick coated in sweet panko-covered batter and fried. Unlike the American counterpart, the batter is made with fermented or rice flour to create a crispier texture. But the current corn dog trend is typically credited to Myungrang Hot Dog, a chain that started in a market in Busan in 2016. In just three years, Myungrang had nearly 700 stores across Asia, Australia, and the United States, turning this street-vendor staple into a global franchise.
These corn dogs gained a lot of attention in the US this past year through social media apps like TikTok with the hashtag #koreancorndog, as seen in the video by @bigfoodie.101, or YouTube mukbangs, where streamers talk and eat on camera. As influencers posted more and more taste-test videos, they got customers in the doors of places like CrunCheese.
@bigfoodie.101 We finally have a Korean corn dog place! #koreancorndog #koreanhotdog #minneapolis #dinkytown #fyp #siblings #foodie #foodtiktok #hotdog #exploremn ♬ DARARI – ︎ ondu
That’s where Dinkytown comes in. Since 2019, CrunCheese has been creating gourmet Korean Hotdogs with fresh cheese, sausage, and special ingredients, unlike any average corndog. The franchise began in Las Vegas but now has six locations across the country, including one in Minneapolis. The newest spot, in Dinkytown, opened in early April and became an instant attraction among students at the University of Minnesota.
As a student at the U of M, I passed by CrunCheese nearly every day shortly after it opened, and each time, there was a line of at least 20 people. I thought the excitement would die down after the first few weeks, but it was still lively when I decided to go a few days ago. The exterior of the little store on the corner of 4th and 14th was swarming with adults and college students, and the mouthwatering aroma of the freshly fried dogs filled the warm summer air.
Customers can choose between 10 different Korean corn dogs. The base of the CrunCheese dog is either full sausage, full cheese (cheddar or mozzarella), rice cake, or half-sausage and half-cheese. They are skewered and coated in one of three batters: the classic panko, a squid ink batter, or a panko batter studded with French fries. They also have plenty of condiments to top your dog, including a garlic Parmesan sauce and jalapeno ranch.
The corn dogs arrived, piping hot, on small paper trays about 15 minutes after I ordered. I tried the original hotdog (with the classic ketchup and mustard combo) and the full mozza dog with a sprinkle of sugar, garlic Parmesan, and sweet chili sauce. I can affirm that these Korean corn dogs live entirely up to the hype. Given the name of the joint, I was expecting two things: a big crunch and a load of cheesiness. When I took my first bite out of the mozzarella dog, the audible crunch was almost cartoon-like, and my first expectation was met. As I pulled the dog away from my mouth, the foot-length cheese pull fulfilled my second expectation, too.
With most items on the menu coming in at under $5, CrunCheese offers the residents of Dinkytown and lovers of corn dogs a quick snack at a reasonable price. If you stop by to try a dog, I recommend the half mozzarella/half hot dog with the sugar sprinkle ($4.49). With this dog, you get the savory and crunchy standard batter with the perfect ratio of dog and cheese. At first, I was hesitant about the sugar topping, but it created the perfect balance of sweet and salty and is definitely worth the try. These delicious treats deliver the State Fair nostalgia of a good old-fashioned corn dog, but with more crunch and the added bonus of melty cheese.