An Insight into Our Love Affair with the Beloved Hot Dog

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Our personal experience informs and science confirms that, as we age, our taste buds do indeed change. Some will argue that it is something to be desired; a maturation of one’s taste, if you will. Others will sadly shake their heads and declare that it is just another indication of the deterioration of the once vital senses of the body.

While it is undeniable that something sublime and inexplicable happens to our palates as we age, some tastes do remain remarkably consistent from our earliest gastronomic memories until our deaths. I refer, of course, to our unremitting love for a good hot dog.

Birth of a Notion

Hot Dog IconCredit: IconshockEvery kid in America will choose a plump, juicy hot dog on a bun over a corn fed, perfectly seasoned, rare-cooked cut of filet mignon every time. But most adults will snub the venerable wiener without so much as a second thought. How can this strange dichotomy exist?

For kids, the difference is a simple matter of logistics. A hot dog on a bun is simply superior because it is far more mobile than a steak on a plate. Mobility equals fun in this case. For adults, much of the problem is, undoubtedly, due to the proliferation of substandard ingredients and poor preparation of most of today’s commercially produced hot dogs. This characterization of the average frankfurter is too often true.Thus, unfortunately, for most adults, the lowly hot dog occupies a place of little or no respect.

Zen and the Art of Hot Dog Making

Lots of DogsCredit: Paul GoyetteAs an adult, many people simply lose their earlier love for the hot dog in a sea of fillers, nitrates and otherwise unusable animal parts.Still, if you choose a decent hot dog and prepare it properly, you will regain your respect for the lowly hotdog as one of the great gastronomic treats ever created.

Making a hot dog is not complicated. In fact, as long as you start with quality ingredients, it is very difficult to go wrong. Some grill hotdogs over mesquite wood, some boil them in vinegar and beer while others may split them in half and fry them in butter. All of these preparations are fine although some are more usual with the following variations.

In any event, no matter how you prepare them, try some of these regional variations to get a true appreciation for one of the classic, American, culinary wonders. (Please note that ketchup never rears its ugly head in any of these recipes.)

The Original THREE from the EAST

Here a three dogs from The Big Apple, Philly and the Windy City that have stood the test of time. They are regularly, read daily, eaten by millions of people. These are the best f the best, timeless in their simplicity and renowned for their legions of dedicated fans. Some may criticize me for leaving out the Fenway dog. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good but, in the end, it’s just a dog with mustard and relish. I also heard that they actually import the dogs from some guy in Brooklyn.


New York

NY's FinestCredit: rollingrockFiguratively and literally, New Yorkers love their hot dogs. Just watch anyone on a side street slowly unwrap the tin foil, look longingly at their desire and caress the bun before devouring them in two swift bites.It is love, pure and simple.

New Yorkers eat more hot dogs per capita than anywhere else in the country do the recipe must be pretty good. Don’t fry your dogs in this recipe, though. For authenticity, they need to be boiled, let sit in the “dirty” water and boiled again. The vinegar and the double cooling produce the distinctive “snap” when you bite the dog.

To build, warm the bun but do not crisp it. Drop the dog on the bun and then add mustard, a little sauerkraut and that unique, “pushcart” hot onion sauce. When made properly, this dog is pure heaven.



Chicago DogCredit: Superx308Chicagoans also love their dogs, just not as much as “Da… Bears.” This dog should be fried as the hot, crispy texture of the dog contrasts nicely with the cool juices of the veggies and condiments.

When the dogs are ready, place one on a browned, poppy seed bun. Nestle some tomato slices down one side of the bun and pickle spears on the other. Add plain yellow mustard, chopped raw onion, green relish and, very importantly, celery salt.

This somewhat elaborate concoction is simply a taste and textural explosion for the mouth. The dog is soft and firm, hot and cold, sweet and sour and just full of love. Most importantly, combined with a good beer it covers the all the essential food groups.



Philly ComboMore noted as the home of the cheese steak, Philly still boasts a distinctive and delicious hometown dog, the Philly Combo. The combo consists of a hot dog and a potato fish cake on a bun smothered in mustard and onions. It is remarkable for the commingling of tastes across every ingredient. The hot dog tastes like potato and the bun hints of fish. An old commercial from the 1970s reminds us of this dog’s origin with the line, “YOU got hot dog grease on my fish sandwich. No, YOU got fish sauce on my hot dog.”

This dog is easy enough to make. Ground fish and potato is pan fried in oil to create the cake. The dogs are usually pan-fried in butter. Place both meats on a very crispy bun and add the usual condiments. For the uninitiated, the Philly Combo is a powerful experience. In fact, finding a purveyor of this remarkable dish, in downtown Philly, at 3 in the morning, is much like finding an oasis in the desert. It is simply irresistible especially for those who can’t find their car.

The BEST of the REST in the WEST

So much for the good news, here’s the bad. Hot dogs, apparently, are an East Coast phenomenon. As you head west, they become blander, less stylized and lose any fan loyalty that the ones in the East produce. Then you cross the Rockies and something truly bizarre happens. Take a look.


Los Angeles

LA Hot DogCredit: Miansari66The combinations of ingredients that go into the best hot dogs in the City of Lights are quintessentially L.A., that is, either absolutely goofy, extremely expensive or both. On one side of town, add Mexican-Style bacon, onions and peppers and, on the other, layer on some foie gras and caviar. Don’t forget that the most important thing about an L.A. hot dog is to not order it off of the menu. Instead, wait until the waitress arrives at your table and then just create your masterpiece while everyone else in your party and the entire restaurant hangs on your every word.



Seattle Veggie DogCredit: 7'o'7By all accounts, Seattle has, for decades, served the best vegetarian hot dog in the world.  I would agree except I’ve never had one and I can’t seem to find the recipe. I understand that these “Bad Boys” were big sellers at Pilot’s games and the internationally renowned, Vegans for Faux Pork summit. Reportedly, both attendees added all the ketchup they could stomach. In all honesty, is there really a “vegetarian hotdog”  when the U.S. government allows a certain amount of bugs, larva and rodents into any processed food? Who’s kidding who?

A Parting SHOT at My Adopted Home Town

Houston, New Orleans and even Toronto in Canada claim some sort of cultural affinity for the hotdog. Each of these cities as well as dozens of lesser ones claims some special version that is only found in their town. While, these assertions are true, the hot dogs in question are merely store bought ones with the local cuisine thrown, haphazardly, on top.

Stop it guys. You all have great dishes that make me visit your towns over and over again. There is simply no need and no possibility to create a hot dog better than the Three Great Ones from the East.