Whether its chicken, pork, turkey, beef, or a mix of all of them hot dogs come in all shapes and sizes. Firstly the definition of a ‘Hot Dog’ for the sake of deliberation here will consist of 2 or more components. The bare-bones essentials for a Hot Dog you may ask? Bun and Sausage. Between those two ingredient variation is near infinite. For example, you may craft a Hot Dog with a white bread bun, Oscar Meyer Wiener and relish, or you could put a brioche bun into the equation or quite possibly a different sausage, or even ketchup. If its this or that is the question.
This list will exclude Corn Dogs, even though they are delicious. The best corn dog toppings are anything that does not fall or slip off. This list also excludes huevo con weenie, also very delicious.
And if you were wondering my credibility, I am a lifelong hot dog eater and avid hot dog fan.
Best Toppings: A hot dog is as much a food as it is a vessel. Whether it be two cartoonishly perfect lines of ketchup and mustard or sauerkraut and onions, a hot dog is built to hold. According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, mustard reigns supreme as America’s favorite Hot Dog topping. 71% of Americans who eat hot dogs are topping them with mustard. Ketchup, onions, chili, and relish follow.
The region of the country also greatly affects the condiment choices. Starting in the Northeast, the influence of old world immigrants is strong. Toppings like sauerkraut, deli style mustard, and onions find their homes on hot dogs. Popularly attributed to the expansion of the New York yellow hot dog cart phenomenon.
Chicago: But the Northeast is not kind to ketchup! Chicago, a city known for their hot dogs and their hate towards the red tomatoey condiment. Chicagoans have remained constantly outspoken on their distaste towards ketchup and for seemingly no reason. Social peer pressure? Something in the water? Whatever it may be, they hate the stuff. Outspoken “ketchup on hot dog” haters include the former president, Barack Obama, who believes “that once you’re past eight years old, ketchup does not belong on a hot dog.” The Chicago dog in its own right has become prolific and stretched past the city limits into the rest of the world.
Consisting on an all beef frank, in a poppy seed bun topped with a tomato slice, a whole sports pepper, alien green relish, celery salt, even more pickle and the returning favorites, mustard and onions. Some toppings are subject to removal but the Chicago hot dog exists as a unit, a group of toppings.
Bacon: Culturally, bacon on a hot dog is not exclusive to any region but it has become prolific in the southwest with Mexican influence to blame. The hot dog was introduced the Mexico and grew in popularity with its affordability. Since then, hot dog culture has developed similarly with an establish street food presence in urban areas. The influence spread throughout the south west and has a concentrated presence in Southern California and Arizona. Along with bacon, popularly, mayo, mustard, ketchup, and (grilled) onions return, as well as grilled peppers and fresh salsas.
Other special regions with some unique toppings include, the south and the inclusion of coleslaw, New Jersey and fried potatoes, a fish cake on your Philly dog, Seattle and cream cheese and the list goes on.
Without a doubt the best regional hot dog has to be the Chicago style, let me explain why. The Chicago lacks nothing, one in its maximalist approach it might as well be lacking nothing, and two, no flavors are left behind. The Chicago dog is equal parts savory, salty, sweet, tangy, meaty, and fresh from every component. Lets break it down. The bun is poppy seed, besides making you ineligible for a drug test the bun is also just tasty. The all beef frank is classic, paired with onions add the perfect savory element. Tart and tangy flavors coming from the pickles, relish, mustard and tomatoes which cut the savory and also add freshness to the whole ordeal. Finally topping it with celery salt is the kicker. A perfect compliment to every flavor presented.
This list would be remised if we failed to mention the beauty that is a chili cheese hot dog. Chili is an American classic and it needs to be excluded out of the regional discussion due to its hold on American “fast-foodery”. Popular in parts of the Midwest, south, southwest, northeast, chili has made its home anywhere and everywhere and it is for good reason. Chili is an all in one topping, spicy, savory and sometimes even sweet. Your standard chili is an all purpose sort of deal that is perfectly accented by the sharpness of cheddar cheese. Add a little chocolate and coffee to the party and you just landed in Cincinnati. Add beans and you are in the heart of Texas. Put coleslaw on top and you took a trip to the southern east coast.
The Gas Station Dog: The “Gas Station Dog” is less of an object or setting as it is a culture. Whether you are stopping in for a quick bite or trying to chase that craving a convenience store hot dog satisfies. The roller grill is the ingenious invention that has allowed for convenience stores to keep hot dogs, eggs rolls, taquitos and more warm. The “Gas Station Dog” is notorious for its wide range of topping selections, having everything you could want at your disposal.
In the end the best hot dog is whatever the moment brings you… but! The perfect hot dog might look like a footlong coney all beef frank wrapped in bacon, topping with Chicago style toppings and served with chili cheese fries on the side, but that is just my opinion.