Regional Hot Dog Styles Of America: Part 1

“We will eat enough hot dogs that our blood type will become ‘Nitrates’ and then we will eat some more.”

~AFFotD Official Credo

chicago flag

Recently, we at AFFotD painstakingly researched over 25 different long rolled sandwiches in America over the course of 11,000 words and four articles.  We learned a lot during that delicious (though at times, excruciating) journey—mainly that it takes most wives and husbands about four hours of listening to a writer drunkenly talk about sub sandwiches before they take the kids and go spend a week at their parents’ place.  While it’s all well and good to spend your time writing about submarine sandwiches and Italian beefs, when you try to list every type of sandwich in existence you end up scrapping the bottom of the internet to find anything at all that explains why “sarney” is in the dictionary as a type of sandwich, or why whiskey doesn’t always chase the demons away.  After we ran ourselves ragged trying to write about every sandwich, we were pleased with our results, but swore an oath that we would never again take on such a daunting, impossible task.  Unfortunately, we then celebrated the publication of the series by getting really drunk again and thinking of another article suggestion, and since we were hungry, we decided to talk about every kind of regional hot dog in America.

God…goddamn it.  We just will never learn.

Anyway, it’s time to delve into the magical tube of nitrates that is the hot dog in all of its wondrous (and occasionally not-so-wondrous) incarnations.   Hold onto your hats, America, here’s another multi-part, nation-sprawling series on unhealthy foods.

Regional Hot Dog Styles Of America: Part 1 of 4

 hot dogs

We have a long history of waxing poetic about the brilliant simple deliciousness that is the hot dog.  We’ve delved deeply into its 19th century origins, we’ve saluted the brave Americans who partake in the Nathan’s hot dog eating competition, hell, we’ve even told you about the most terrifying things Americans have done to hot dogs (only applicable to hot dogs intended for oral consumption).  Hot dogs are an engrained culinary icon throughout America, and everywhere you go you can find your taste buds assaulted with a new and original preparation for your conical nitrates.

Of course, some hot dog styles are better than others.  Chicago hot dogs are better than New York hot dogs (deal with it), there are about a million different places that put chili on a hot dog and call it their own, but none can ever stand to the might of the Coney Island dog, and Connecticut loves their hot dogs more than almost any other state, but for whatever reason has never decided to come up with their own unique style for serving them.  No, instead they adopt a “put whatever the fuck you want on your hot dog” policy which is both right, and wrong, and ultimately who cares, just eat your penis shaped meat tube and prepare for the eventual food coma.

With that in mind, we now begin our list of America’s regional hot dogs (unscientifically ranked from worst to best).

DISHONORABLY EXCLUDED

Corn Dog (Texas)

corn dog

While there is a hot dog called the Texas Dog (we’ll get to that later) it wasn’t invented in Texas.  We guess the state must have taken it personally, since they decided instead to invent their own hot dog which is in no way a hot dog.  Oh sure, a corn dog employs a hot dog as its primary ingredient, and when we say, “Fuck corn dogs, they’re some bullshit” many of you start frothing at the mouth with anger (still others of you unfortunately are frothing at the mouth with rabies).  But really, all that’s going on here is someone took a hot dog, removed the bun (and, by definition, the remote possibility of toppings) and replaced it with a suffocating layer of friend cornmeal batter so as to take a food that we invented so you can eat it with your hands and make it so you can suddenly, magically, eat it with your hands.  As if to save us from having to burn that single extra calorie necessary to laboriously tilt our heads slightly while eating a normal hot dog.

German Texan sausage-makers were credited with introducing a (initially stick-less) version of this state fair treat that, don’t kid yourselves, always slightly disappoints you when you get one because it never tastes as good as you remember it tasting.  However, by 1927, a patent was being filed describing some version of hot dogs (literally “hey, if I put a hot dog or other stuff on a stick, and then batter it, and then fry it, can I say I invented that or?”) and while a few locations claim to have invented it, with the Texas State Fair first started introducing “Corny Dogs” between 1938 and 1942 and Minnesota’s Pronto Pup appearing in 1941, we can feel pretty safe in saying that this simple use of a wiener (you’re allowed to giggle at that) has roots in Texas.

Not that they should really care.  At the end of the day, this “take a hot dog, put it on a stick, dip it in batter, and fry it in such a way that no matter what there’s always a chunk of batter attached to the stick right where the sausage ended that you will never be able to eat because it is apparently made out of adamantium” approach to eating while walking doesn’t count as a type of hot dog.  We deem thee unworthy.  Disqualified.

Cheese Coney (Cincinnati, Ohio)

 cheese coney

Michigan’s Coney Dog is one of the most important and delicious hot dogs styles in existence.  More than a mere chili dog, it’s an overladen sonnet dedicated to the beautiful dance between stages of beef, with natural-casing beef hot dogs cohabitating with all-meat beanless chili, living in sin and sacrificing them to your ever expanding stomach.  We’ll talk about Coney Island hot dogs in due time, but we didn’t want there to be any confusion on our stance on them in the meantime.  They’re wonderful.

The Cheese Coney is not a Coney Island hot dog covered in enough cheese that you can hardly see the dog.  Again we love Coneys.  We love cheese.  We’d get behind that.  No, a Cheese Coney is the work of nightmares, a cruel prank perpetuated by Cincinnati to ensure that unsuspecting hot dog aficionados driving through Ohio will say, “Oh, would that be a Coney Island hot dog with cheese on top?  Why, I don’t mind if I do!” before cutting out their tongue in a fit of allspice and chocolate tainted rage where they temporarily forget that horrendous flavors eventually do fade away on their own.

Cheese Coneys are made with a milder pork and beef hot dog  than you see in typical Coneys (or really, most good hot dogs).  This is because they don’t want to detract from the primary ingredient.  So right off the bat, we’re eating a hot dog that’s not focused on how good hot dogs are, but rather something that serves as a cheap base layer for a more important primary ingredient.  No matter where you lie on the philosophical spectrum of “should a single topping be considered more important than the hot dog itself” you’d at least expect the primary ingredient of a Cheese Coney to be something rich and divine, something to be accentuated with the hot dog to create an amazing rush of flavors.  Is it a hot dog doused in some fine, rich, flavorful cheese, allowing each bite to ooze gruyere or aged cheddar as you slowly become a hunk of cheese and contently retire to a farm?  Well…no.   No, unfortunately not.  Yes, the hot dog is topped in cheese, and onions, and chili, but the chili is the star.

And the chili is a monster.

Cincinnati chili has famously been referred to as “Diarrhea sludge” and Ohio wants you to eat that on your hot dog.  It is a thin, sauce-like chili that is made nauseatingly sweet through the addition of cinnamon, cloves, allspice, or chocolate, the latter ingredient proving to be the most important to emphasize because that means that if you fed Cincinnati chili to your pet dog, it would most likely die, and that is the most astute metaphor we have ever encountered.  You can load as much chopped onions and grated cheese as you’d want on top of all that, it won’t change the fact that you’re eating a lower quality hot dog to make sure that you really taste the awfulness of Cincinnati chili.  We’re pretty sure this is the same culinary philosophy that led to the cement mixer shot.  This is the worst thing to happen to the hot dog since Colombia decided that the best way to eat a hot dog was to cover it in mayo, ketchup, potato chips, and pineapple.

New York-Style Hot Dog (New York)

 nathans hot dog

Yes, that’s right.  The second worst hot dog variation is the New York style hot dog.  Yes, New Yorkers, shout your outrage, express your hate, your active disdain is what powers our offices.

Wait, what’s that?  Hot dogs are the one thing that New York has a distinctive “style” about that, at the end of the day, they don’t really give a shit about?  Well huh.  Now, if we started talking shit about Gray’s Papaya, we’d probably have our heads bitten off, but unlike pizza and bagels where New York will violently insist “You can never make these better than New York because blah blah blah our water used in the dough is made of rainbows and cocaine blah blah blah” the typical New York style hot dog is best known for being cheap and readily available “well, it’s there” snack for anyone who wants to shell out a buck to watch a recently emigrated Pakistani fish out a sausage from the lukewarm dirty hot dog water of his cart, stick it in a hopefully-not-yet-stale bun, and slather it with mustard, sauerkraut and, maybe, red onion sauce if you want to elevate your dog into “making us feel kind of bad for putting it low on this list.”

After seeing our open disdain for the Cheese Coney, you might assume that we hate New York style hot dogs if we’re putting them next on our list, which isn’t true.  New York-style hot dogs are just perfectly “fine.”  Nothing more, nothing less.  The New York style hot dog doesn’t really break the mold.  Just like your friend who took a full time job at Starbucks after graduating from college because “hey, they offer health insurance,” the New York style hot dog doesn’t have any real ambitions to do anything more than the bare minimum.

Hot dogs found their way to America via New York, and while you can find delicious hot dogs in the city (thanks largely in part to the high quality of Nathans Famous all beef dogs) the best hot dogs in the city aren’t “New York-style” dogs at all.  They tend to come from places like Crif Dogs, which offers distinctly non-New York-style but extremely delicious options (most of which involving a bacon-wrapped hot dog) such as the Chihuahua (bacon wrapped dog with avocados and sour cream) or the good morning (bacon wrapped dog smothered in cheese with a fried egg).  All of those are delicious, but none of them are a “New York hot dog”, which unfortunately is maddeningly basic.  Which doesn’t mean we wouldn’t eat one (a hot dog is a hot dog, which is a wonderful thing, so long as you don’t douse it in Cincinnati chili) it just means that just about every other regional hot dog just, tries harder.

Don’t be mad, New York, you’re energy is better spent bragging about your pizza and bagels.  Stick to your strengths.

Red Snappers (Maine)

red snappers

In a similar vein of “hot dogs are delicious, but these don’t do enough to separate themselves from the fray” we find Maine’s Red Snappers.  Many hot dogs (read as: the only good ones) use a natural casing for their tubes of meat, which sounds gross when you’re nine years old and think “eww eww that’s made out of guts, I am not yet of the emotional age where I can separate what things are made of from how they actually taste” but which are what give your hot dog that satisfying “snap” when you bite into them to be greeted by a flood of delicious scrap meats turned delicious through salts and nitrates.  The Red Snappers of Maine, as you would expect from their name, are bright red hot dogs inside these natural casings.  And when we say “bright red” we mean “artificially dyed to look like Satan’s eyes, that kind of red.”  They’re steamed, served on a slightly toasted split-top bun, and typically topped with your choice of relish, onion, mustard or (gulp) ketchup.

(Go to hell if you put ketchup on your Red Snapper, if you’re going to use a condiment, put mustard on like a goddamn adult.)

Legend has it that the snappers red color first was introduced by butchers to mask the gray coloration of the old meat used to produce their hot dogs, which is both kind of gross and kind of ingenious, since hot dogs are literally one of the only kinds of meat where age is just a concept.  It doesn’t matter how old a hot dog is, it’ll always be delicious, desirable and beloved well past it’s assumed expiration date.  Hot dogs are sort of like Sandra Bullock in that way.  While a lot of the novelty of the dog comes from them being slightly smaller and baboon-ass red, those who can find them (which is pretty much limited to people in Maine) swear by them, so good for you Maine (but seriously, leave ketchup out of this).

White Hot (Rochester, New York)

whtie hot

On the other end of the color spectrum comes the White hot dog, or white hot (or “porky”) that originated in Upstate New York.  Much like the red hots, there’s not much going on in the way of toppings—you can add mustard, hot sauce, and onions, but all of that is optional.  No, the white hot proves to be distinct from the rest of the regional hot dogs through its color and preparation.  A combination of pork, beef, and veal, the white hot is not smoked or cured like just about every other hot dog in America, leaving you with a white wiener (heh) hence the name.

The white hot originated in Rochester in the 1920s among the city’s German community, originally made from fillers and cheaper meats as a more affordable alternative to the more expensive red hots, the sausage company Zweigle’s started making them in 1925 after securing a contract to sell them at the Red Wing Stadium, and since then, the white hot has become the official dog of the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres, meaning that white hot dogs represent two professional sports franchises that have managed exactly zero championships since 1970, so hey, they’ve got that going for them.  White hots:  eaten by New York’s only losers since 1925.

We might not be the best at coming up with slogans.

That’s as good of a point as any to end this section, as every hot dog after this point distinguishes itself primarily through the use of toppings (as opposed to degrading itself through the use of toppings [cough Cheese Coney cough]).  So grab yourself your favorite local hot dog and drink enough whiskey so that by the time you finally wake up its been several days and the second part is up, and stay tuned.

Advertisements

16 responses to “Regional Hot Dog Styles Of America: Part 1

  1. We’re going to have to agree to disagree on the Cincinnati Cheese Coney. One of the cleverest food combinations ever imagined. The explosive BMs brought on by the chili are completely negated by the mound of cheese. I also douse mine in Tabasco.

  2. Pingback: Regional Hot Dog Styles Of America: Part 2 | affotd

  3. Pingback: Regional Hot Dog Styles Of America: Part 3 | affotd

  4. I can totally see where this is going and I have to tell you just how wrong you are. I may be somewhat bias being from NY but here it goes……. Ny dogs are superior to Chicago dogs in all ways. The natural casing snap dog is a beautifully bold taste and texture the bland Vienna dog cannot hold a candle to it. This is obvious by the way Chicago dogs are doused and covered in every condiment known to man. The simplicity of a little mustard and the orgasmic taste of onion sauce is second to none. Even the bun of the Chicago dog has to have a gimmick with the poppy seeds. Maybe you never had a proper NY dog but when you do it will change your mind.

    • Falsehoods all around. Vienna beef also has a natural casing as well, and is arguably more flavorful than Nathans. We say this having had our fair share of both styles, which is why half our annual budget goes to replacing broken chairs, and why our top 5 favorite dogs from NY only have one “proper NY” style in there (Grays), with the rest utilizing creative toppings that are not New York-style.

      Besides, the worst Chicago-style hot dog gives Grays a run for it’s money, and the worst New york-style hot dogs are still delicious (because, you know, hot dogs) but comes scooped out of lukewarm ham water from a street cart, and represents the majority of the available hot dogs in the city.

      • I have to disagree still. I am probably wrong about the natural casing on the Vienna dog, it’s been about six years since I’ve had one. Still I’m just not a fan. I’ve had my fair share of dogs in Chicago from carts to the famed Portillo’s and did care much for the toppings/ style. I even prefer the white hot to the Chicago dog, but that’s just me.

        • To be fair, Chicago doesn’t really have hot dog carts. There are maybe 3 in the city, all outside of museums, most probably not Vienna beef. And Portillo’s is well loved in Chicago, but their hot dog isn’t even in the top 10 (they add unnecessary ingredients, like cucumber- if you go to Portillos you’re better off getting an Italian Beef and shake.

          Let the Lincoln/Douglas debate of hot dogs commence!

  5. By the way, I just found this blog and really enjoy it. Thank you.

  6. Pingback: Regional Hot Dog Styles Of America: Part 4 | affotd

  7. Pingback: Wherein AFFotD Scoffs at the Attempts of British Tabloids to Critique America’s Culinary Practices | affotd

  8. Pingback: The Craziest Hot Dogs in Professional Baseball (Major League Edition) | affotd

  9. Pingback: American Sandwich Series: Classic and Timeless American Sandwiches (Part 1) | affotd

  10. Pingback: American Sausage Series Part 1: Typical American Sausages | America Fun Fact of the Day

  11. Pingback: America’s Worst Regional Culinary Dishes (Part 1) | America Fun Fact of the Day

  12. Pingback: A Brooklyn Memoir: Coney Island, Hot Dogs, and Judaism | foodhistoryreligion

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s