Sandwich of the Week: Hot Dog Nation

A round-up of more than 30 of America's favorite regional styles of hot dogs and iconic franks

Sandwich of the Week: Hot Dog Nation
Arthur Bovino

Hamburger America. The United States of Pizza. Where the hell is Hot Dog Nation? Why hasn't anyone written that book?

Listen, as kid who grew up adoring New York's skyscrapers, energy, and especially its iconic foods, there were some tough concessions to make when I realized Philadelphia had better pretzels (by far), and that the world's best pizza was in Naples.

So imagine the pain when after years of watching the Bulls beat up on the Knicks, I realized that despite Gray's Papaya, and all the city's hot dog carts, that not only was New York City not a hot dog town, but that it wasn't even in the conversation when it comes to Chicago's hot dog scene. It's particularly galling considering all that Nathan's, a New York original, has done during its long history, to popularize the hot dog.

Click here for the Hot Dog Nation Slideshow.

The sad thing is, despite being home to the July 4th hot dog eating contest, and even with some decent efforts by places like Crif Dogs, one of New York City's best hot dogs is Shake Shack's Shack-Cago dog, an homage to Chicago. A weekend gorging on dogs in Chicago, a short tour of the great hot dog places in Connecticut (at right, the Weenie Wanderer ballad on the wall at Rawley's), a visit to Pink's in Los Angeles, just one of these experiences is a hot dog culinary awakening. Heck, eating an airport hot dog at LAX is better than any hot dog in New York City. An airport hot dog for the love of all things sacred and holy!

Sure, there are some gems, lesser-known places like Bonanza's, which has been in business since 1897, but when it comes to hot dogs, New York City actually doesn't measure up to many places across the country.

The interesting thing about many of these superior dogs is the geography involved in their names. There's the Cheese Coney from Cincinnati and the Coney Island Dog in Detroit? Coney? As in Coney Island, Brooklyn? "What's that doing being the name of a dog in Ohio?" you're asking. It's the same situation with the hot dogs at Coney Island Lunch in Scranton, Pa.

"OK," you'll counter, "New York at least has some heritage to offer when it comes to hot dogs. Nathan's made them famous. So it's an homage thing." Well, why is the naming geography so confusing when Nathan's and Coney Island have nothing to do with anything? Consider the Michigan Dog available in Montreal, Quebec, and Upstate New York. Or the "New York System Hot Wieners" available in Rhode Island. But then, these are the eternal hot dog questions.



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8 Comments

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We in Chicago, are probably more passionate than we should be , over hot dogs, and any variation,from the norm( mustard, onions, green relish,tomatoes,sport peppers,dill pickle spears and celery salt) will start out and out fights! The best are all beef Vienna, steamed,with a nice "snap' to the bite,and a steamed, poppy seed bun, with all the above ingredients,wrapped all together with the required french fries (another point of argument of who has the best) so that the result is a melding of flavors that will set the hot dog "fanatic", into "hot dog heaven!" There are so many "stands" that try to cater to this standard, that you could spend years sampling them! The best will always go round by "word of mouth" and on any one day, you will fight crowds, to get to the "best!"

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I grew up eating (Chicago style hot dogs) from the stand that was at the corner of Halsted and Maxwell when Maxwell street was still a fantastic flea market. I've driven 400 miles to satisfy my need for the complete meal that a Chicago style hotdog is. Anything else just does not compare!

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Horrors!! I am from upstate NY and that picture of a "Michigan"hot dog in Montreal is absurd. If you want to show a true michigan, show one from Clare and Carl's in Plattsburgh, NY. Montreal stole the name from them. This looks as much like a michigan as a big mac looks like filet mignon!

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WALTERS IS A UNIQUE LONG TIME VINTAGE ROADSIDE FAMILY OWNED AND OPERATED ESTABLISHMENT. THIS TRADITIONAL LUNCH FIXTURE HAS BEEN LOCATED IN MAMARONECK NY. SINCE 1919. http://www.waltershotdogs.com
THEIR HOT DOGS HAVE A SECRET BLEND THAT INCLUDES BEEF AND VEAL, PROVIDING IT'S UNIQUE FLAVOR. SERVED SLICED DOWN THE MIDDLE AND GRILLED, (I RECOMMEND YOU REQUEST THEM WELL DONE IF YOU DON'T MIND WAITING A FEW EXTRA MINUTES) . GET THERE EARLY, AS THE LINES BEGIN TO FORM VERY CLOSE TO NOON, AND LINGER FOR SEVERAL HOURS DURING THE DAY. SERVICE MOVES FAST LIKE AN ASSEMBLY LINE. WALTERS HOT DOGS ARE CONSIDERED THE WHITE CASTLE OF HOT DOGS IN OUR TOWN.
WE WILL ALSO GO OUT OF THE WAY TO NYC FOR PAPAYA KING, GRAYS PAPAYA AND NATHANS JUST TO CHANGE IT UP A BIT. HONORARY MENTIONS KATZ'S DELICATESSEN ON HOUSTON ST IS ANOTHER PLACE WITH A GOOD KOSHER HOT DOG WORTH LOOKING INTO. BUT WALTERS, IS TRULY A LANDMARK. The KIND OF PLACE PEOPLE AND TOURIST ALIKE DRIVE MILES OUT OF THE WAY FOR A BOX OF THEIR HOT DOGS. USUALLY SERVED WITH A COMBINATION OF A MUSTARD RELISH MIXTURE. DON'T SELL WALTERS SHORT. IT'S A GREAT PLACE TO SPEND AN AFTERNOON DINING ON THE PICNIC TABLES PROVIDED AT THE LOCATION. OLD YANKEE STADIUM USED TO HAVE GREAT HOT DOGS. DEPENDING WHICH VENDOR YOU FOUND, YOU'D HAVE A CHOICE OF NATHANS OR HEBREW NATION. BOTH EQUALLY GOOD. OF COURSE, THIS IS MERELY MY OPINION. MR. BACCIGAUPE

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Nothing says great hot dogs like a roadside fake Chinese pagoda. At least that was the theory when Walter’s Hot Dogs (founded 1915) moved to its current location on Palmer Avenue across from Mamaroneck High School in 1928. The blue/green oxidized copper roof with giant plaster carp and faux Chinese lanterns have become synonymous with grilled buttery hot dogs. Walter’s splits each one and grills them before putting them on soft steamed hot dog buns. Walter’s mystique is heightened by both its hot dog’s ingredients: a blend of veal, beef and pork, and by its condiments: Walter’s proprietary mustard flecked with pickle relish available in jars to take home. The dogs don’t have that typical reddish pink color, appearing more like a Weisswurst, the pork and veal serving to lighten the beef to a beige color except for the blackened streaks from the grill. You can order a double dog, shakes and malteds, sweet potato tater tots, curly potato fries or classic straight fries. There’s also picnic tables out round back. If you somehow miss the giant pagoda, look for the sign spelling “Walter’s” the letters of which are cartoon drawn wieners. This is one classy establishment.
-------------Guttergourmet

Arthur Bovino's picturetdm-35-icon.png

Think you should just write a piece on Walter's, Gutter.

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How could you not include the special at Flo's Hot Dogs in Cape Neddick Maine

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coney island QUEENS???? really?
for shame.

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