Hot Dog Road Trip: A Patriotic Party Plan

If you're planning a cookout for this most patriotic of days, here's an opportunity to celebrate the American dream. Because hot dog culture is American history.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

Every dog has its day, and for hot dogs that day is July 4. About 150 million hot dogs were wolfed down last Independence Day, enough to stretch from DC to LA more than five times, according to the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council. If you're planning a cookout for this most patriotic of days, here's an opportunity to celebrate the American dream. Because hot dog culture is American history.

2009-06-25-dc.jpgAlthough there are scores of recipes for cooking and dressing frankfurters and hundreds of hole-in-the-wall hot dog stands have earned life-long followers with their unique house concoctions, many cities and regions have evolved a local design that has become their signature breed of dog. It has become part of their community and the populace cannot stand to eat them any other way. For them the unique scent and taste of their tribal genre conjures powerful memories of home and childhood. They are devoted, even addicted, to their hometown dogs. So I have mapped out a Hot Dog Road Trip and I invite you to hop in and explore this tasty bite of Americana.

Sounds like a good theme for your All-American cookout, right?

In June the Obama White House invited Iranian diplomats to July 4 barbecues, but the invite was rescinded in the wake of the Iranian election protests.

The Coney Island Hot Dog

The story of the spread of the hot dog across the land starts at Ellis Island with waves of immigrants in the late 1800s and moves to Manhattan where European sausage makers, many of them Jews, brought their skills and recipes and started life on a shoestring selling Frankfurt and Vienna sausages on street corners and in butcher shops.

Waves of Greek and Macedonian immigrants also appeared on our shores. On rare days off they took their families on the trolley to Coney Island, the great seaside amusement park about 15 miles south of Midtown. There they tasted the Coney Island version of the hot dog and fell in love with it.

As they migrated west, many set up shop on street corners, developed their signature recipe, and with hard work and ingenuity opened a restaurant, then a small chain, and made a good living for themselves and their families. For them, Jews and Greeks especially, the American Hot Dog became The American Dream.

2009-06-25-nathans.jpgSo we start our road trip on Coney Island. Today, Nathan's Famous, founded in 1916 by Polish immigrant Nathan Handwerker, reigns over Coney Island and sets the standard for the New York Hot Dog: An all-beef frank wrapped with a snappy natural casing, cooked on a flatiron griddle, dressed with spicy brown mustard and sauerkraut. That's all. No relish, chili, onions, and especially no ketchup. They offer other junk for tourists, but a purist orders only mustard and kraut. With one exception:

The New York Pushcart Dog

2009-06-26-sabrett_pushcart.jpgJust up the Parkway and through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel about 10 miles away, we arrive in Manhattan where Sabretts are the iconographic pushcart food. One expert, Professor Bruce Kraig, author of Hot Dog, A Global History, says there may be as many as 5,000 pushcarts in Manhattan, most of them selling hot dogs.

Sabretts are a garlicy all-beef frank in natural casing often simmered in hot water, a "dirty water dog", so named because the water becomes murky with flavor extracted from the sausages. It is served with mustard and sauerkraut, like the Coney Island Dog, but Sabretts have a wonderful rich sweet-tart onion sauce. If you've had a hot dog in Manhattan with onion sauce, chances are you've had Sabrett's Prepared Onions. Click here for a recipe for a similar onion sauce.

So the Buddhist monk walks up to the streetcart and says "Make me one with everything." The vendor wonders how often the monk says this, shrugs, loads up a bun with all the classic fixins, and hands it to him. The monk hands him a $20 bill. The vendor puts the bill in the cash drawer and closes the drawer. "Change?" asks the monk. The vendor smiles and responds: "Change must come from within."

The Rhode Island Hot Wiener

2009-06-25-olneyville.jpgContinuing north about 160 miles to Providence we find a dozen or more joints in Rhode Island specialize in what they call New York System Hot Wieners, which are to hot dogs what sliders are to hamburgers, and, like sliders, they are often called belly busters. Named to honor the iconic New York hot dog by Greek immigrants, they are often pork frankfurters chopped short, about 4" long, with squared off ends because they are cut from a long rope of sausage, not traditional links.

The better short order cooks assemble the final product in an acrobatic show called "up d'ahm": They hold one arm out, line up to a dozen buns from finger tips to shoulder, squeeze in the wiener (don't call it a hot dog), squirt it with yellow mustard, spoon on the meat sauce (don't call it chili), place on chopped onions, and dust with celery salt. And it happens fast. That's a cook at Olneyville New York System in Providence at right (photo courtesy Olneyville).

The meat sauce is, as are so many others across the nation, a Greek immigrant innovation, greasy, slightly runny, and tinged with chili powder allspice, cloves, and nutmeg. The drink of choice is coffee milk, which is milk darkened with a sweet coffee syrup, named the official state drink in 1993.

You can make your Hot Wieners by ordering the spice mix from Olneyville. You can even order the same franks used at Olneyville from Little Rhody Brand Frankfurts.

The Texas Wiener

Moving south along the north shore of Long Island Sound shore on I-95 we enter Texas Wiener country. We pass a few stands in Connecticut, and there are outposts extending through the lower Hudson Valley, but the greatest concentration is around Paterson, just a mustard squirt west of Midtown Manhattan. In Paterson they are deep fried beef hot dogs topped with spicy mustard, chopped onions, and a variation on the ubiquitous Greek flavored ground meat "chili" sauce that has migrated across the nation. The breed extends as far south as Philadelphia, PA. They probably got the name Texas Wiener because the meat topping had no beans and somehow resembled Texas chili. Not.

"How do you make a hot dog stand? Take away its chair." My 9 year old neighbor

The North Jersey Italian Dog

Moving south, New Jersey has more hot dog variations than any state. They are either confused or just reflecting their multinational heritage. There are perhaps a dozen joints in North Jersey that serve what may be the nation's most unusual prep, the Italian Dog. This pup is griddled or deep fried and nestled into a bread boat that looks like a half a giant thick pita, topped with sauteed onions and sweet peppers as well as deep fried potato disks, mustard optional.

"Although the frankfurter originated in Frankfurt, Germany, we have long since made it our own, a twin pillar of democracy along with Mom's apple pie. In fact, now that Mom's apple pie comes frozen and baked by somebody who isn't Mom, the hot dog stands alone. What it symbolizes remains pure, even if what it contains does not." William Zinsser

The Rochester Garbage Plate

2009-06-25-garbage_plate2.jpgPointing northwest, in Rochester, NY on Lake Ontario, hot dogs are called "hots", and although there are several first rate producers, Zweigle's is the signature frank of this upstate city. Made from pork in a natural casing, the Zweigle White Hot is neither cured nor smoked, and the result is cream color, plump, and spicy. Zweigle also makes a standard colored frank.

But the real innovation in Rochester is the sloppy mess called the Garbage Plate. In 1918 Alex Tahou, a Greek immigrant, opened a hot dog stand in Rochester. During the Depression he started dishing out "hots and potats", a dish of hot dogs, baked beans and home fried potatoes.

His son, Nick, took his Dad's idea and went crazy. He divided a big paper plate into thirds: One third got covered with smushed baked beans, one third with home fries, and one third with macaroni salad. Then he took two fat hot dogs, split them lengthwise, cooked them on a griddle until they got nice dark crispy char marks on them, and nestled them onto the tri-colored pillow of beans, potatoes, and 'ronies. On top he swabbed Dijon-style mustard, sprinkled chopped raw onions on the mustard, and buried the whole thing under a peppery, lard laced ground beef sauce with a kick of cinnamon.

Nick Tahou's now has two locations, including one in an old train station across the street from the original 1918 location, and his Garbage Plate has become so popular there are more than 50 restaurants around the area serving variations on the theme.

"People who enjoy eating sausage and obey the law should not watch either being made." Otto von Bismarck

The West Virginia Slaw Dog

2009-06-25-west_virginia_slawdog.jpgAs we motor into the South, many hot dog stands offer coleslaw as an optional topping, commonly called a slawdog, but in much of West Virginia it is required.

The slawdog is a tasty but improbable construct of bun with a beanless ground beef sauce sometimes forming a bed for the frank, sometimes forming a blanket on top, yellow mustard, and finely chopped creamy sweat-sour green cabbage coleslaw crowning it all in place of the sauerkraut found in New York.

Similar slawdogs can be found from Alabama through Georgia into South Carolina and North Carolina (where the slaw has ketchup, hot pepper, and lots of vinegar). A cheap meal with two kinds of meat, veggies, and starch all in one hand. Click here for the West Virginia Slawdog recipe.

"Many people think all frankfurters are the same. Nothing could be more wrong. Too often the frankfurter in the market display case is a dreary hunk of pressed meat. There is not much you can do to give it flavor. Hunt out German shops, Greek or Kosher delicatessens for the well-seasoned franks." James Beard

The Cincinnati Cheese Coney

2009-06-25-cincinnati_coney.jpgIt is a short ride west to Cincinnati, where, in 1922 Tom Kiradjieff and his brother John, Macedonian immigrants, opened the Empress, a restaurant where they sold Greek food and hot dogs. But Cincinnati was German and business was bad. So he took his signature Greek lamb stew laced with cinnamon and cloves, switched to ground beef, added hot peppers and other spices, called it chili, and served it over spaghetti and hot dogs. It was a hit.

Nobody knows if naming hot dogs "Coneys" was homage to the amusement park on Long Island, or if the name came from the other Coney Island amusement park, the one built in Cincinnati in 1886. And nobody knows who had the bright idea of topping it with a huge mound of shredded cheddar cheese, but that's the Cincinnati Cheese Coney that is served all over town and at the ballparks: A pork and beef frank with a natural casing topped with mustard, then chili, then chopped onions, and an ungodly amount of shredded cheese mounded on top. Click here for a recipe for the a Cincinnati Cheese Coney.

"Have ya ever burped, and tasted a hot dog you ate two days ago?" George Carlin

The Detroit Coney

2009-06-25-walts_coneys_dogs.jpgIt's a straight shot up I-75 about 250 miles to Detroit where we find a hot dog with heart. Literally. Beef heart.

The first Detroit Coney Dog was created by a Greek sheepherder, Constantine "Gust" Keros in 1917. Soon after clearing Ellis Island he went to Coney Island and tasted a hot dog. Then he went to Detroit to seek his fortune on the auto assembly line. He didn't speak English, so he swept floors until he could afford a popcorn cart, and eventually he opened American Coney Island where he served hot dogs just like the one he tasted on Coney Island. Legend has it that one day a customer asked him to ladle some of his homemade chili onto the hot dog, and the rest is history.

The prototypic Detroit Coney Dog is a skinless beef frank from Koegle. It is top loaded with mustard, then the chili made mostly from beef hearts, no beans allowed, and crowned with chopped onions. It is served all around the state in restaurants called Coney Islands.

If you are in Detroit, check out the original American Coney Island founded by Gust and Lafayette Coney Island founded by his brother, both in downtown Detroit, right next door to each other. If you stand out front looking like you're trying to make up your mind, the staff of one or the other may come out and drag you in. When you order, to get the real deal, make like a Buddhist monk and ask for "one with everything".

Most Coney Islands have their own recipe for the chili. Since Gust and many other Coney owners were Greek or Macedonian, theirs has an unmistakable Old World flair to the recipes, with things like cinnamon and oregano. The photo here is Walt's in Waterford, my favorite. Continue up I-75 about 60 miles for a variation on the Detroit Coney, the Flint Coney. The meat sauce is less pasty and more crumbly since some of it is ground hot dogs. Oh the ignominy! Click here for a recipe for the classic Detroit Coney .

"I devoured hot-dogs in Baltimore way back in 1886, and they were then very far from newfangled... They contained precisely the same rubber, indigestible pseudo-sausages that millions of Americans now eat, and they leaked the same flabby, puerile mustard. Their single point of difference lay in the fact that their covers were honest German Wecke made of wheat-flour baked to crispiness, and not the soggy rolls prevailing today, of ground acorns, plaster-of-Paris, flecks of bath-sponge, and atmospheric air all compact." H.L. Mencken

The Chicago Hot Dog

2009-06-25-dog_gate.jpgAn easy 270 mile drive west takes us along the south shore of Lake Michigan to Chicago, for the most elaborate hot dog of them all. There is only one recipe for the Classic Chicago Dog, and little variation is tolerated in the huge city and its surrounds.The Chicago Hot Dog is so popular, the Chicago Tribune estimates there are 1,800 hot dog stands in the area, far more than all the McDonald's, Burger Kings, and Wendy's combined.

What makes the Chicago Hot Dog special? Like Chicago's famous architecture, it is great design. It is a juicy, crunchy, sloppy combo that leaves your fingers fragrant for hours: A garlicy all-beef frankfurter, usually Vienna Beef brand, with a natural casing, simmered in hot water, never boiled, on a Rosen's bun studded with poppy seeds and topped with solar yellow mustard, sweet kryptonite green pickle relish, pungent chopped onion, juicy tomato slices, spicy hot "sport" peppers, a crunchy salty kosher pickle spear, and a sprinkle of magic dust: celery salt. The result is a sandwich with so much vegetation that it is called a "garden on a bun". This is the exact recipe that is served at practically all hot dog stands in Chicago.

It makes sense. In the 1800s meat packers such as Armour, Swift, and Oscar Meyer grew up on the south side. There were enough slaughterhouses that Chicago was dubbed "hog butcher for the world" by poet laureate Carl Sandburg. At the same time, Chicago is built on such rich black soil that if you spit on it a human being will sprout, hence the city's official motto "Urbs in Horto", City in a Garden.

2009-06-25-chicago.jpgMany of the immigrants who settled in Chicago and worked in the stockyards were farmers back home and they planted vegetable gardens behind their homes. The Chicago Hot Dog was the inevitable confluence of flesh and verdure. Perhaps the city's motto should be changed to "Hortus in Pane."

Nobody knows for sure where the recipe started, but here's one credible story: Located in the great outdoor Maxwell Street Market, Fluky's was opened on the northwest corner of Maxwell and Halsted about the same time the stock market crashed in 1929 by Abe "Fluky" Drexler when he was only 18 years old. The rickety wooden shack with no refrigeration and a fire hydrant for water became known for its "Depression Sandwich," a complete meal for the laborer, a hot dog with mustard, relish, onion, pickles, pepper, lettuce, tomatoes, and fries for only a nickel.

"What does a White Sox fan consider a seven course meal? A Chicago Hot Dog and a six pack of beer." Anonymous Yankees fan

Eventually Fluky's moved, and the historic neighborhood was razed to make room for more upscale shops and housing. Today Fluky's has only one location, in a Walmart in the Chicago Suburb of Skokie. Considering its roots in a large open air bazaar, there is something poetic about their current location in the modern equivalent, a Walmart.

Some mild variation from the prescribed recipe is tolerated, but only in degrees. One of my faves is the char dog from Gold Coast Dogs, a grilled frank whose ends are slit in an X so they curl out and crisp when cooked. Another is the occasional substitution of fresh cucumber slices for the pickle spear. What is not tolerable is that many joints omit the celery salt.

The best place to get one is Hot Doug's "The Sausage Superstore and Encased Meat Emporium", a colorful hole in the wall with long lines. Admittedly the Chicago Dog isn't the only draw. Owner Doug Sohn is into all formats of encased meats and serves a dozen varieties from a kickin andouille to venison. On Fridays and Saturdays, the fries are cooked in duck fat.

While you're in Chicago, it would be a shame to leave town without trying a Polie, the local version of the Polish Kielbasa, a fat coarsely spicy ground smoked pork and beef link griddled until crunchy and served on a bun with griddled onions and mustard sold at most hot dog stands. And if you're still hungry, why not fill the hole with an Italian sausage sandwich, an uncured coarsely ground pork sausages in natural casing, flavored with fennel and crushed red chili peppers for some heat. They're served in hundreds of "Italian Beef Stands" on a crusty bun with sauteed sweet peppers and onions, occasionally with tomato sauce and melted cheese. Click here for the recipe for the Classic Chicago Hot Dog.

Two nuns from the Vatican have just arrived in Chicago for a conclave and are walking through O'Hare. Spotting a hot dog stand, the novitiate says to her Mother Superior in Italian "I hear that the occupants of this country actually eat dogs and that Chicago makes the very best dogs." The elder sister replies, "Then I suppose we should try one." They approach the vendor and hold up two fingers. He hands them each a foil wrapped packet. Excited, they hurry to a table and unwrap their first American meals. Staring at hers for a moment, the younger nun giggles, leans over and whispers "What part did you get?"

The Wisconsin Brat Tub

2009-06-26-brats_done.jpgIt's not really a hot dog, but how can we take a a cross country hot dog road trip and not go north 100 miles to Milwaukee and indulge in a Wisconsin Bratwurst in a Brat tub? Brats are everywhere in Wisconsin, especially in summer and football season. Unlike franks, brats are not precooked at the factory, so they are often simmered first in beer and then grilled. Touchdown! Click here for a brat tub recipe that also produces a beer, onion, mustard, ketchup gloppy sauce.

Corn Dog Country

2009-06-26-cozy_dog.jpgLet's swing back through Chicago and pick up Route 66 along which we can visit some of the nation's most interesting and idiosynchratic hot dog stands, almost every one of them selling corn dogs.

Credible arguments are be made that the the frank on a stick with an integrated sweet and crunchy fried cornmeal jacket was invented in Texas, Oklahoma, and Minnesota in the early 1940s, or was it as far back as 1929? Cozy Dog Drive In in Springfield, IL, may have been selling them longer than anyone, since 1946, and the Iowa State Fair may be the place where they really caught on. There's a national chain called Hot Dog on a Stick whose schtick is pretty girls dressed in brightly striped hats. They have also been around since 1946.

By now corn dogs have become so popular that they can be found in every corner of the country and even in the freezer cases of most groceries, so it is hard to call this a regional style. But I'll gladly have one at every meal as we drive 1,900 miles across the Great Plains heading for Arizona.

"I don't think they have enough meats on sticks. They have lollipops, they have fudgesickles, they have popsickles, but they don't have anymore meats on sticks." Cameron Diaz as Mary in the film Something About Mary, while eating a corn dog.

The Sonoran Hot Dog

The Sonoran Hot Dog of Tucson is new and catching on with a growing number of outposts in Phoenix and Tucson and a few points in between. One elaborate version I have been told about starts with a bun that is larger and denser than the typical hot dog bun. A pocket is cut in it and in goes an all-beef frank swaddled in bacon, then your choice of pinto beans, grilled onions, fresh onions, tomatoes, lettuce, red chile sauce, tomatillo salsa, mayo, mustard, ketchup, and shredded yellow cheese. It is all washed down with Coke from Mexico where it is made with cane sugar not corn syrup.

"The noblest of all dogs is the hot dog; it feeds the hand that bites it." Lawrence J. Peter

The Seattle Cream Cheese Dog

Many of the push carts in Seattle offer their dogs with cream cheese and there is a devoted following although it is surprising how many locals have never heard of the delicacy. The recipes vary from vendor to vendor, but the basic concept is: Griddle a frank, griddle some onions, spread cream cheese on one side of the bun, some Dijon style mustard on the other, nestle the dog on top, and crown with the caramelized onions and sauerkraut. Since this is Seattle, maybe add some jalapenos, grilled cabbage, sriracha, or barbecue sauce.

Other Strange and Wonderful Mutts

There are dozens of other local specialties around the nation, usually the signature creation of a single restaurant or a regional chain, so they are not really regional styles:

- Puka Dog. In Kauai, HI, there's a little hot dog hut where they use a heated spike to poke a puka, a hole, in the center of a bun-sized loaf of bread, then they pour in their signature sauce (garlic, lemon, and pepper), then in goes your choice of seven tropical fruit sauces (pineapple, mango, papaya, coconut, star fruit, guava, or banana), and finally they insert your choice of a spicy Polish sausage or a veggie dog. And, yes, they do have ketchup and mustard to put on your Puka Dog.

- The Francheesie, sold at several joints in Chicago, is split down the middle, stuffed with cheddar cheese, wrapped in bacon, and deep fried.

2009-06-25-teds_ripped.jpg- Ted's Hot Dogs in Tonawanda, NY, near Buffalo, founded in 1927, grills their Sahlen's brand franks to a char (photo at right) over charcoal and tops them with a superb hot sauce. It is served with Aunt Rosie's Loganberry juice.

- The Varsity chain based in Atlanta offers pimento cheese as a topping. Some folks swear the pimento cheese chili dog is the best dog in the country.

- Something Different Cafe is a combo cafe and country store near Urbana, VA, and Dan Gill is a creative chef with serious cooking chops well known for his Southern barbecue and down home dishes. His "Applechain", a pun on Appalachian, is a quarter-pound Kosher all-beef hot dog in a "snuggle-bun" (half of a partially hollowed homemade sub roll) nestled on a bed of artisinal copper kettle apple butter and topped with mustard. Hey, if honey mustard can work, why not apple mustard?

- The Weenie Royale. During World War II more than 100,000 Japanese Americans were forced from their homes and traditions and cuisine and interned in "camps" in the West. They were fed cheap commodities such as Spam, hot dogs, organ meats, and potatoes. After the war "weenies" and ketchup remained in their repertoire, with a twist. A strange mutt, Weenies Royale is still a popular egg dish in Japanese American households, a stir fry of hot dogs sliced on an angle into 1/4" disks, onion, soy sauce, oyster sauce, and eggs served over rice.

- Lum's was a popular national chain that peaked in the 1970s and still has several locations. Kids especially like eating there because the dogs are simmered in beer.

- Rutt's Hut in Clifton, NJ, deep fries their dogs in veggie oil until the skin rips open. These "Rippers" are crunchy on the outside, chewy near the surface, and tender on the inside, unless you order the "Cremator" that is fried until it is practically black. They are then topped with mustard and a tangy secret relish made of cabbage, onions, and carrots.

- Flo's in Cape Neddick, ME, serves only hot dogs. In this tiny low ceilinged shack they serve small pork franks, just larger than cocktail wieners, on spongy buns with a homemade special hot onion relish that the locals love. No menu. They just ask you "how many?" You can have mayo or mustard with the hot sauce.

- Hot Dog Annie's in Leicester, MA serves their franks with sweet tomato based barbecue sauce with chunks of onion.

- The Lincoln Log Sandwich. In New Jersey there is the Lincoln Log Sandwich immortalized by Carmella Soprano on one of the last segments of The Sopranos. The Lincoln Log Sandwich is a boiled frank slit open lengthwise but still hinged on one side, with a schmear of cream cheese down the middle, served on a bun or a slice of white bread, sometimes toasted. I'm not aware of any restaurants that serve Lincoln Logs, but I've read of a lot of people who remember their Moms making them.

- Ben's Chili Bowl in DC serves the Half-Smoke, a variation on the kielbasa, a lightly smoked spicy beef and pork sausage, split and griddled, with mustard, onions, and swimming in one of their famous chili blends.

- The Poorman's Meal is a Depression feast made with sliced hot dogs, potatoes, onions, and tomato sauce. Watch this wonderful video with 91 year old Clara Cannucciari reminiscing and demonstrating how it is made.

- Hot Dog Stew is another variation on the theme of Depression food, made like beef stew with frankfurters replacing the beef in a thin bath of potatoes, onions, carrots, green beans, tomato sauce, water, and seasoned with herbs and spices.

2009-06-27-pretzel_dogs.jpg- We cannot omit Pigs in a Blanket, franks wrapped in dough, usually frozen biscuit mix, and baked in the oven until golden. Sometimes the hot dog is split and filled with American cheese. A variation is to pan cook a breakfast sausage and wrap it with a pancake. Then there are the Bagel Dog from Einstein's Bagels and the Pretzel Dog at Auntie Annie's (at right). My favorite is from Vesecky's Bakery in Berwyn, IL, near Chicago, where they sell hot dogs wrapped in buttery puffed pastry.

- What can a Chicagoan like me say about Fenway Franks served at Boston's iconic baseball park? For many years they served Ballpark Franks, but in 2009 they switched to skinless beef franks made by Kayem, and they are typically dirty water dogs served on a goofy bun that looks like two small slices of white bread glued together at the bottom (which, as their saving grace, can be toasted on the griddle), and topped with pickle relish, mustard, and ketchup with guacamole as an option? As they are quick to remind Cubs fans, at least you can get them in October.

- Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles serves more hot dogs than any other ballpark. To make Dodger Dogs, they start with a "foot long" Farmer John brand pork frankfurter that is really only 10 1/4 " long. Some are steamed and some are grilled, and all the fans argue over which is best. They serve them with your choice of condiments, among them relish, mustard, ketchup, and diced onions soaked in water to take the sting out of them (wimps). According to Ron Smith of Farmer John, "At home, if you want a true Dodger Dog, you can purchase them at [the grocery chain] Smart & Final, boil them until they are thoroughly hot without splitting, then let them blister and burn a little on a grill, or, if you don't have a grill, then just move them carefully from the water into a large frying pan so you don't break them in half, and let those baby's burn. That's right, burn. I love some dark [color] on the outside of them, along with the blistering, of course. That make's all the difference in a hot dog. Batter up, and go for it." Burned pork hot dogs and neutered onions. Aw, jeez, now this is why Cubs fans really hate the Dodgers.

"A hot dog at the ballpark is better than steak at the Ritz." Humphrey Bogart

If you use ketchup, the terrorists win

2009-06-26-no_ketchup.jpgKids may love sweet stuff on their hot dogs, but nobody over 18 should put ketchup on a hot dog. We'll let Dirty Harry explain. In the film "Sudden Impact", Clint Eastwood, playing detective Harry Callahan, a.k.a. Dirty Harry, appearing at a crime scene, blows his top while watching a cop munching on a hot dog: "Nah, this stuff isn't getting to me, the shootings, the knifings, the beatings, old ladies being bashed in the head for their social security checks. Nah, that doesn't bother me. But you know what does bother me? You know what makes me really sick to my stomach? It's watching you stuff your face with those hotdogs. Nobody, I mean nobody puts ketchup on a hot dog." Click here for more testimony on the subject.

Links to Link Lore

If you haven't had your fill of hot doggerel, click here for more link lore:

- How to cook hot dogs. The best strategies for char dogs on the grill, on the griddle, split dogs, dirty water dogs, steamers, and nukes.
- Preparing your buns. There are several ways to handle buns.
- All-Purpose Hot Dog Chili. My favorite recipe for hot dog meat sauce.
- A taxonomy of common sausages.
- Rating all-beef frankfurters.
- What's in a hot dog? You're not supposed to ask, but now that you have... Also, here are the facts about nitrates and nitrites.
- The hot dog creation myths. Who invented it, where did it come from, how did it get on the bun, and how did it get its name?
- Chicago's best hot dog stands.
- What to drink with a hot dog.
- My most memorable hot dog.
- My ride in the Wienermobile.
- Starting a hot dog stand. With very little up front, a good location, and long hours, you can make a good living.

Here's a great Hot Dog book: Hot Dog by Bruce Kraig. A well regarded culinary historian and Professor Emeritus of History and Humanities at Roosevelt University in Chicago. Scholarly yet clever and entertaining, Kraig probably knows more about the history of the hot dog than anyone and he meticulously dismissed the many myths about the origin of the frankfurter, the bun, and its name. He does a good job of explaining how hot dog culture spanned the nation and even the world.

Tell me about your faves

Tell me about your favorite hot dogs and hot dog memories. Might make it into the book I'm writing...

Unless otherwise noted, all text and photos are Copyright (c) 2009 By Craig "Meathead" Goldwyn,, and all rights are reserved. Click here for information on reprint rights.

Go To Homepage

MORE IN Style & Beauty