Regional Hot Dog Styles Of America: Part 4

“Goddamn it, I knew Chicago would win.  Those bastards.”

~The, like, four New Yorkers who actually were upset that the New York-style hot dog was so low on this list

ChicagoHotDog

When we began our trek through America’s regional hot dogs, we were legitimately worried.  We had just finished writing about 11,000 words talking about long bread sandwiches, and it literally tore families apart and drove half of our staff to insanity.  And we were going to immediately follow that nightmare up with a systematic breakdown of hot dog styles?  Did we have a death wish outside of our normal “eating and drinking so much that interventions pretty much have become a part of our weekly schedule” death wish?

As it turns out, the task wasn’t quite so daunting.  Most hot dog styles follow a pretty basic blueprint.  Talking about the different regional kinds of, say, chili dogs requires about as much research as talking about various pizza toppings.  New Jersey wanted to put chili on their hot dog.  Georgia puts their chili dog in a bowl.  Pennsylvania likes to name things from Pennsylvania after Texas.  It’s not exactly academic research, but it is hot dogs, so it’s still worth our attention our affection.  And these four hot dogs remaining are the ones we love the most.  So let’s dig in.

Regional Hot Dog Styles Of America: Part 4

hot doug's

The last four hot dog varieties finally see us breaking away from more basic patterns.  The first round of hot dogs took sausages with fairly simple toppings.  Round two started getting a little more inventive.  Round three showed the awesomeness of chili.  And Coney Cheeses reminded us how much we hate Cincinnati chili.  And now, the final part of this series takes us to the pinnacle of hot dog awesomeness.

Yes, we snuck a few other chili dogs in here, but one of them is the mother of all chili dogs.  And yes, a hot dog that technically originated in Mexico made it this far, but holy shit it’s so good and it’s more of a Phoenix thing anyway.  And sure, it’s entirely probably that one of the entries here made it this high because they have a hilarious name.  And of course, there’s the Chicago, the sweet Chicago hot dog to take us home, which was pretty much a foregone conclusion as soon as we listed the New York hot dog so low.  But now we get to tell you about these four delicious seiners.  We’re already hungry.

Sonoran Hot Dog (Tucson and Phoenix Arizona)

sonoran

Found in Tucson, Arizona and downtown Phoenix, the Sonoran has roots in Hermosillo, the capital of Sonora, Mexico, but hell, we stole it and we’re going to claim it for ourselves.  After all, it’s a bacon wrapped hot dog that’s doused with beans, grilled and fresh onions, tomatoes, mayonnaise, cream sauce, mustard, jalapeño salsa, served in a bread roll and holy shit just look at that, it’s delicious and taunting you because you know that it has to be next to impossible to fit in your mouth.

While you can find impressive Sonorans as far away as Chicago or New York, it’s primarily served in food carts in Mexico and by the hot dog purveyors of Tucson and Phoenix, and it’s relatively newer to the scene compared to some of the more established hot dog varietals.  The first hot dog was introduced to Mexico in 1943 when some Americans hoping to score a quick buck decided to bring hot dogs over to their bullring concession stand, correctly assuming that every nationality can appreciate the deliciousness of hot dogs.  It also helped that eating a hot dog while watching bulls repeatedly getting slaughtered was pretty much the 1940 Mexican equivalent of sipping a Merlot while overlooking the vineyard that grew the grapes that became your wine.  The first bacon-wrapped hot dog made it’s rounds in 1956, and slowly evolved until the 1960’s brought the Sonoran as we now know it over the border to Arizona.  The news of the Sonoran was met with the understandable American reaction of, “Wait, someone else is wrapping hot dogs with bacon and covering them with a whole mess of unhealthy ingredients?  We’ve got to steal this for ourselves.”

And steal it we did.  In Tucson, you can find hundreds of Sonoran venders, some of which have evolved from simple street carts to full-fledged restaurants, and Phoenix doesn’t exactly sleep on the hot dog style either.  Because, this is America dammit, and if you give us a mayonnaise, cream, and bean covered bacon wrapped hot dog, we will eat it, and we will like it, and AFFotD will just blatantly lie and say, “Oh, yeah, uh, we invented that, in America, 100%, don’t listen to those crazy neighbors of ours to the south.  America.  Innovation.  Obesity.  Woo.”

Hot Wiener a.k.a. New York System (Road Island)

hot wiener

We’ve written about the hot wiener before, because it has a hilarious name, and it also was determined to be the most American part of Road Island in our American States of America series.  And yes, it’s similar to many of the chili dogs we put lower on this list.  But, and this is a really important question here, did any of them have a name that could make a teenager or the staff of a heavy drinking America fact website who never emotionally progressed farther than their teenage years giggle?  We didn’t think so.

(Also, full disclosure, very few things have made us more anxious than doing a Google image search for “hot wieners” on a public computer.)

The Hot Wiener (heh) is also known as the New York System wiener, partly because they’re sold largely at “New York System” restaurants, but largely because New York just had to have another kind of hot dog named after it.  There are several places that claim to have invented the style, with Olneyville New York System in Providence claiming to be the true originator of the style, opening in 1946 after moving from their Original New York System that they opened in 1927 to sell the wieners.  While there are references of “New York System” hot dogs appearing in the early 1900s, and Sparky’s Coney Island System also claims to have invented the Hot Wiener as far back as 1915, Olneyville is the best known, with their specific hot dog sauce viewed as the standard hot wiener sauce (heh).

Not much differentiates a hot wiener from a chili dog, apart from the specific quality of the chili/sauce used, as well as the make of the dogs.  The frankfurters are smaller and thinner than most regional sausages (thus encouraging you to inhale multiple dogs in one sitting—most tend to order them three at a time) and are made of veal and pork with a natural casing, served in a steamed bun, topped with celery salt (trust us, do not skip the celery salt), yellow mustard, chopped onions, and their seasoned meat sauce that, while looking almost exactly like your standard beanless chili, actually has its own unique and distinctive taste.  The meat sauce seasons the beef with a combination of cumin, paprika, chili powder, and allspice, which makes a savory, delicious, and unhealthy combination with the wieners that lead many to name Rhode Island as a sanctuary for delicious hot dogs.

Oh, and if you still question us ranking this so high, we will politely guide you to New York System t-shirt showing a plate of three hot wieners with the slogan “Hangover helper” and would kindly point to our banner to remind you what country this is.

Coney Island Hot Dog (Michigan)

coney island hot dog

Coney Island hot dogs are wonderful, but also frustrating as hell when it comes to breaking down the genealogy.  We were going to write a separate entry for the Michigan hot dog, which is the term used to describe a steamed hot dog topped with a meaty sauce and chopped onions, which is widely popular in New York and Canada, except for the fact that the Coney Island hot dog, which did not originate in Coney Island, is also called a “Michigan” throughout the state of New York.

A quick word on the Michigan hot dog, and why it’s strange that it has a separate Wikipedia entry than the Coney Island hot dog, despite the fact that Michigan hot dogs are Coney Island hot dogs.  The original “Michigan sauce” used on a Michigan hot dog was created by George Todoroff in Jackson, Michigan, in 1914.  He made the sauce as a Coney Island hot dog topping, so let’s just agree that it’s weird and frustrating that this hot dog invented in Michigan is named after Michigan in New York and Canada, but is named after New York in Michigan.  Confused yet?  Good.

A Coney Island Hot Dog takes an all-beef, natural-casing hot dog and tops it with a special meaty beanless chili, diced white onions, and a stripe or two of yellow mustard.  It originated in Michigan (some say in Detroit, others say by Todoroff in Jackson) in the early 1900s, and took its name from the fact that the first hot dogs originated in Coney Island.  There are several variations of the Coney, depending on where in the state you get it, but it remains the truest form of chili dog.  While we’ve given certain regional hot dogs a hard time for their simplicity (lookin’ at you, New York) and we’ve displayed numerous chili dog variations that are far more complex than the Coney Island Hot Dog, Coney’s simplicity is actually its strong suit.  You have the wondrous meaty burst of beef covered by beef, with none of that runny Cincinnati chili bullshit.  When you think of a chili dog, you think of a Coney, because they did it first, and we honestly believe they still do it best.

Speaking of those variations, if you find yourself in Jackson, the hot dog will be covered by ground beef, onions, and spices (again, the fact that the “chili” tends to just be “heavily and wonderfully seasoned ground beef” is another point in Coney Island Hot Dog’s favor).  Detroit style has a smoother, creamier consistency to the chili, utilizing Hungarian spices, while the Flint style hot dog takes cow heart and grounds it to the consistence of fine-ground beef, because holy shit Flint is terrifying and maybe you should start somewhere else if you’re going to try a Coney Island Hot Dog.

Of course, as much as the Coney might try, it’ll never be able to upset the best hot dog in the Midwest, which just happens to be the best in America.  That’s right, it was just a matter of time until we brought up…

Chicago-Style Hot Dog (Chicago)

 chicago style

While many might scoff at “a hot dog with a fucking salad on top of it” (looking at you, the four New Yorkers who have too much pride in your street cart dogs tonged out of dirty lukewarm rain water) being the number one hot dog in America ahead of many worthy, meat-soaked entries, you have to face the fact that most hot dog connoisseur list the Chicago-stye hot dog as the pinnacle of hot dog achievement.  In a word, it’s perfection.  The warm, steamed all-beef Vienna Beef hot dog with natural casings (though we won’t fault you for getting a grilled “chardog”) on a steam-warmed, high-gluten S. Rosen’s Mary Ann poppy seed bun contrasts with the cold mustard, onions, neon green relish, fresh tomato slices, pickle spear and sport peppers, while the whole operation is then topped with a healthy sprinkle of celery salt which intermingles with all the cornucopia of flavors flawlessly.  Oh, and also, if you put ketchup on a Chicago-style hot dog, your hands are cut off so that you no longer will have the means to eat a ruined hot dog.

Don’t put ketchup on your hot dog.

The Chicago-style hot dog in its present incarnation started with the Vienna Beef company, which sold its first hot dogs during the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago by Jewish founders who only used beef in order to keep Kosher (it also helped that beef hot dogs are vastly superior to their pork brethren).  While hot dogs in various forms permeated throughout the city after that point, it wasn’t until 1929 when Fluky’s put together the “Depression Sandwich” (because you know, this was during the Great Depression, and it was a cheap way to get a hot dog with a lot of free extra stuff on top of it) which used almost all of the exact toppings as the currently accepted Chicago-style dog (the only difference being an unfortunate lack of celery salt, and the unnecessary addition of lettuce).  While Fluky’s no longer exists outside of a stand inside a Wal-Mart (the original location has been replaced by a hot dog stand painfully named “U Lucky Dawg), Chicago currently has more hot dog restaurants than Wendy’s, McDonald’s and Burger Kings combined.

Some of the most famous Chicago Hot Dog makers don’t prepare a red hot with all the Chicago toppings (Gene & Jude’s has been topping hot dogs with mustard, onions, relish, a sport pepper, and fresh cut French fries since 1946 while Portillo’s, one of the biggest Chicago hot dog chains, puts cucumber on a dog with everything on it) but that doesn’t matter when thousands of delicious hot dog stands exist throughout the city, ready to inject you with a savory, satisfying hot dog experience.

And what an experience it is.  The best hot dog experience that anyone has to offer.  There’s a reason why no one bothers to open New York-style hot dog stands outside of the city, while Chicago Vienna Beef Hot Dogs dragged through the garden are so demanded you can get them in Seattle, San Antonio, New York, and even fucking London.  It is America’s hot dog ambassador to the rest of the world, and we can’t think of a better way to spread American hot dogs throughout the world.

So as we come to the end of our four part series on regional hot dogs, the important thing to remember is that, no matter what, hot dogs are delicious.  So indulge yourself with some nitrate-rich deliciousness while tipping your hat to American ingenuity.  Only, you know, make sure not to put any ketchup on there.  Or so help us God.

No.  Ketchup.

5 responses to “Regional Hot Dog Styles Of America: Part 4

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