You might call Cincinnati chef Daniel Wright the Hot Dog King, for the wild combinations he puts together at his Senate Pub. Take the Hello Kitty: a beef hot dog, wasabi mayo, ponzu-wasabi slaw, bacon, wasabi peas, and sesame seeds. Or the Croque Madame: beef hot dog, béchamel, black forest ham, brioche bun, and a poached egg. You can also dip into crispy pig tails, roasted marrow bones, and duck-fat fries.
Then again, you might call him a Mediterranean mixmaster, for the small Middle Eastern plates (falafel, lamb tagine, fattoush) he serves up at Abigail Street, the second restaurant he and his wife and general manager, Lana, own in the city’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. And since January 2015, you can also call him the barbecue guy, for the brisket, hot links, and pulled pork going on at his Pontiac Bourbon and BBQ. His self-described “lo-fi empire” got him voted Food and Wine’s 2012 People’s Best New Chef of the Great Lakes region.
The Chicago native, who went to culinary school at Providence, Rhode Island’s, Johnson & Wales, has done stints in his hometown, at Gordon and Blackbird, and at Los Angeles bistro Boxer. But after years of the Wrights visiting Lana’s family in Cincinnati, something about the city clicked, and the couple opened their own place in 2010.
Wright’s Polish-Irish roots (his favorite meal, he says, is still his mom’s pork, sauerkraut, and pierogi) may have led to the menu at Senate, and Lana’s Middle Eastern heritage to Abigail Street’s. Street food is always an inspiration for the couple, as well as all-American BBQ. Wright shares some of the tricks of his trade in his cookbook, Senate: Street and Savory.