In the midst of the World Cup and right before Independence Day, national pride is soaring and we want to celebrate our great nation in as many ways as possible. As a country that eats, sleeps and breathes food, we think exploring one of America’s most popular dishes is a great way to honor the traditions of our country. Read on as we take a tour of America’s greatest hot dog styles, from the nation’s capital all the way to Los Angeles and back.
Bill Cosby’s Original Chili Half Smoke is the most popular item on the iconic Ben’s Chili Bowl menu. Since 1958, Ben’s has been doling out the famous chili-smothered half-pork, half-beef sausages to loyal DC residents, including famous followers Bill Cosby and President Obama. The over-sized spicy sausage is grilled, placed in a steamed bun and topped with chili, mustard and chopped raw onions. Ask any D.C. restaurant where to get the best dog, and they’ll surely guide you to Ben’s.
If any city in America is most famous for slinging hot dogs from street carts, it has to be New York City. You can find a vendor on almost every street corner serving the famous all-beef hot dogs in a steamed bun. The most popular condiments are sauerkraut and deli mustard, and don’t be surprised if you hear locals affectionately referring to the snacks as “dirty water dogs,” a reference to the warm water bath from which they’re served.
Garbage plates are as ubiquitous as regular hot dogs in Rochester, New York, known there as “hots.” The garbage plate has been copied by many, but the one from restaurant Nick Tahou Hots is widely regarded as the original. It comes with hot dogs and either a burger, piece of sausage, filet of fish, or other protein. The meats are served over a pile of starches such as potato salad, home fries, French fries or macaroni salad. Finally, the whole thing is topped with meat sauce, mustard, onions and hot sauce and served with a side dish of bread and butter. We wouldn’t call this diet food, as it’s claimed the title of highest calorie dish in the country.
All-beef natural-casing hot dogs come topped with yellow mustard, dark neon green sweet relish, chopped raw onion, pickle spear, sport peppers, halved tomato slices, and celery salt. It comes in a poppy seed bun, and can be either steamed or grilled, depending on the preferences of the cook. You won’t find a plain hot dog with ketchup in this city, where most vendors don’t even carry the ubiquitous red condiment because it’s generally seen by locals as unacceptable.
Don’t call the Coney Island Hot Dog a generic chili dog if you’re traveling through the midwest, where this dog is a fixture in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio. Although the most popular “Coney Island” is in New York, this hot dog’s name comes from the Original Coney Island in Michigan, according to Off the Beaten Path® Michigan by Jim DuFresne. The Coney Dog features an all-beef natural casing frank inside a steamed bun that’s topped with minced meat beanless chili, mustard, chopped onions and occasionally shredded cheddar cheese.
Bars, sporting venues and street vendors have been selling the iconic Seattle-style hot dog to hungry locals for over thirty years. A Polish sausage is split in half then grilled and placed on a toasted bun. It’s then topped with cream cheese, grilled onions, jalapenos, mustard and sriracha. While it might seem like a weird choice for a topping, the cream cheese actually balances out the spiciness of the sriracha quite nicely and adds a creamy texture to the grilled and toasted elements.
The famous Dodger Dog is named after the Los Angeles Dodgers and is sold at Dodger Stadium, where fans line up to get one of the more than two million hot dogs they sell each year. Each Dodger Dog vendor has patrons form two lines – one for grilled dogs and one for steamed, though grilled dogs are considered to be the classic version. The ten inch frank is a mixture of beef and pork, and it’s served in steamed bun and topped with mustard and diced white onions.
In Arizona, this Mexican-fusion hot dog is a different beast. The Sonoran Hot Dog is an all-beef frank wrapped in mesquite-smoked bacon and grilled before being placed inside a big, dense top-split bread bun. There are more than two hundred locations in Tucson alone to buy this fusion hot dog, and it’s popular to grab one after a night on the town. The grilled hot dog is set atop a layer of pinto beans and then topped with grilled onions, fresh chopped onions, chopped tomatoes, mayo, mustard, jalapeno salsa and either cheddar or cotija cheese. Then it’s finished off with a roasted guero pepper on the side.
If you’d be expecting barbecue sauce on a Kansas City-style hot dog, you’d be wrong. Here, the regional hot dog is a nod to the Reuben sandwich that’s sold at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium and copied by street vendors all over town. The all-beef hot dogs are cooked on the grill and placed inside a sesame seed bun before being topped with brown mustard, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese. The final touches include a sprinkling of caraway seeds and a few dollops of Thousand Island dressing.
Like most casual meals you order in the south, Atlanta’s popular Slaw Dog comes with a heaping spoonful of coleslaw. They say it’s served “dragged through the garden,” meaning it’s topped with a plethora of sweet, finely chopped, mayo-based coleslaw. Occasionally, it’s topped with spicy chili (the chili at The Varsity is famous) and melted cheese or mustard.