There are very few things in this life that are more American than the hot dog. I don’t know exactly what a hot dog is made up of, nor do I care. At this point in my life, I have eaten enough of them that even if I knew what random concoction of patriotism that makes a hot dog (no matter how gross), it wouldn’t stop me from going through mounds of hot dogs for the rest of my life. Truly and honestly, if you don’t like hot dogs, you most be a terrorist (which unfortunately includes my loving mother, such a shame). The versatility of the hot dog lends itself to practically anything under the sun. It’s damn near impossible to find something you can put on a hot dog that would not work. Maybe that’s what adds to the mystery of the hot dog. Not too many foods out there that can adapt to its supporting elements so well to satisfy pallets from Chicago, New York, California, Texas, Georgia, Washington, and anywhere in between. These, and other regions, of the United States have their own take on a hot dog which they claim as their own. We are now going to take a look at these different delicious masterpieces.
Sonorans (Tuscon and Phoenix, Arizona)
Bacon-wrapped hot dogs are grilled, then nestled in steamed bolillo rolls and topped with (but not limited to) pinto beans, chopped tomatoes, onions, mustard, mayo, jalapeños, shredded cheddar, queso fresco, cotija cheese, salsa verde, and guacamole. What ever does it for you, that’s the beauty of the hot dog. Oh I almost forgot, hot dogs wrapped in bacon are unreal. We need a quick visual:
Now that we have established just how beautiful that sight is, back to the Sonorans. Take your favorite Mexican flavors, and dump them on a hot dog. How could you go wrong? The answer: you can’t. I have yet to have one of these, but am looking forward to my first experience.
Chicago Dog (Chicago)
All beef dogs in a steamed poppy-seed bun and makes its rounds through the garden: minced raw onion, neon sweet relish, sport peppers, pickle spear, halved tomato slices, yellow mustard, celery salt. Most importantly on the Chicago dog, NO KETCHUP. This dog screams Wrigley field to me. I need to find away to get to the north side of Chicago, get a seat in the bleachers with one of these treasures and a cold beer.
Small-sized, all-beef dogs served in steamed buns and topped with minced meat chili, mustard, and chopped onions (order the “loaded” and you’ll get shredded cheddar, too). Here is a dog where less is more. Chili, onions, mustard, cheese firmly settled on top of a hot dog. A sloppy taste of euphoria is fully loaded with the Coneys.
Dodger Dog (Los Angeles)
One of the most eaten stadium dogs out there, Dodger dogs are skinless foot-long hot dogs made of pork and set in a steamed bun. I have been lucky enough to have this hot dog, and they live up to the hype. I would recommend sitting out in the outfield where the tickets include all-you-can-eat hot dogs, water, nachos, popcorn, nuts, and sodas (No, beer must still be bought). That summer day back in 2007 easily ranks as one of the top 5 fattest moments of my life. And yes, it was totally worth it.
The Homewrecker (Charleston)
The Homewrecker Hot Dog is as scary as it sounds: It is a half-pound all-beef dog that is served in a “build your own dog” concession stand. The Riverdogs offer a total of 25 signature toppings that may be added to complete the experience and is priced at only $5.50. When this episode of Man vs. Food originally aired, I was in college and had no idea I would end up stationed in Charleston. I just knew that I needed this dog. Clearly, this is something of an event in itself. The Riverdogs are known for their unique take on the hot dog, but this one is the Pièce de résistance. Just look at that thing one more time. Unreal. The Riverdogs have a beautiful ball park and I can’t wait to go to my first game and chow down on my own Homewrecker.
This is goes to show just how awesome the hot dog can be. But let’s not forget about how much of an American symbol the hot dog is. As if it weren’t American enough, there is a tradition that is carried out on our nation’s birthday every year that puts the hot dog front and center; Nathan’s hot dog eating contest.
According to legend, on July 4, 1916, four immigrants had a hot dog eating contest at Nathan’s Famous stand on Coney Island to settle an argument about who was the most patriotic. I love this country. I’m a bigger patriot because I can eat more than you. LOVE IT!! The contest has been held each year since then, except in 1941, when it was canceled as a protest to the war in Europe, and in 1971, when it was canceled as a protest to civil unrest and the reign of free love. And you can’t just be any joe schmo either to get into the contest. You must meet on of the 4 qualifications to get into the spectacle:
The defending champion
Winners of a regional qualifying contest for that season
Qualifying as one of two wildcards (highest two average qualifier scores without winning a single qualifier)
Special invitation by IFOCE (International Federation of Competitive Eating, yes this is real, check the website.)
The event is televised live on ESPN every year and last year an estimated 40,000 people attended the contest. Yes, you read that right. 40,000 people watched for 10 minutes how many hot dogs a human could possibly wolf down. What’s even more interesting is the 40,000 people who attended actually was more people than the Jacksonville Jaguar’s 2011 home attendance (should have gone after Tebow harder). The winner, Joey Chestnut, ate 62 hot dogs and buns in 10 min. How that is possible is beyond me. I watched and it’s like they are machines. The contestants never slow down until the horn goes off. The important thing in all of this is that the Mustard Belt has been in the hands of an American for the past 5 years.
So there it is, America in your hands. You get a shot of Red, White, and Blue every time you bite into a hot dog. There is not a reason you can give me that justifies why you don’t like hot dogs. Opening day is only 2 days away. Even half-way across the world, I can hear the local hot dog vendor back in Arlington getting his voice ready for at least 80 homes games of slinging hot dogs and watching people swap cash with complete strangers in order to get an edible piece of the great game of baseball. Check back in on opening day as I will have posted my take on opening day and the stark differences it has for a fan and a player.