Is there anything better than a well-prepared tube steak? If you’re a fan of encased meat on a bun, then July’s National Hotdog Month is the season for you. As simple as this food may seem, a hot dog you chow down on near Coney Island might be markedly different from one you nosh in Seattle. Regional variations inspire a strange and all-consuming loyalty — so pay attention to how the locations near your apartment are serving them up.
The Slaw Dog
A staple of the South, the slaw dog is a hot dog slathered with a thick, sweet, creamy mayonnaise-based slaw made from a mixture of finely chopped cabbage and carrots and placed on a lightly steamed bun. You can stop here, or try the unique flavor combination of the chili cheese slaw dog, which features a grilled hot dog topped with hearty, beanless chili and that signature slaw.
Where: The Varisty – 61 North Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30308
The Italian hot dog is like a regular hot dog on steroids. Hot dog vendors hip to this variety, most often found in New Jersey, take a half-round of doughy bakery bread, slice it open and create a pocket that resembles an enlarged pita, which is then smeared with yellow mustard. Then, they stuff in a pair of deep fried hot dogs (called rippers because their skin rips open during frying), toss on a mound of sautéed onions and peppers and a heap of crispy fried potato wedges.
Where: Jimmy Buff’s – 60 Washington St., West Orange, NJ 07052
The Chicago Style
As the name suggests, you can find this famous style in the Windy City. If you choose to chow down on this culinary creation, you’ll enjoy either a steamed or charred, all-beef, natural casing hot dog, nestled into a steamed poppy seed bun and topped with a variety of things. If you want it “dragged through the garden,” you’ll get chopped onions, sliced tomatoes, a dill pickle spear, neon green sweet pickle relish, yellow mustard, pickled sport peppers and celery salt. Just don’t ask for ketchup – you’ll never find this looked-down-upon condiment on the Chicago-style hot dog, although some vendors will provide small packets to customers who request it, along with a dirty glare.
Where: Superdawg – 6363 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60646
Found in Tucson, metropolitan Phoenix and in Sonora, Mexico, the Sonoran hot dog is wrapped in mesquite-smoked bacon and then cooked on a grill or a griddle and stuffed into steamed bolillo rolls. The finished product is topped with pinto beans, chopped tomatoes, onions, mustard, mayo and jalapenos. Other topping variations include shredded cheddar cheese, queso fresco, cotija cheese, salsa verde and guacamole. It’s like a fiesta for your tummy.
Where: Nogales Hot Dogs – 1945 E Indian School Road, Phoenix, AZ 85016
The Seattle Style
If you haven’t heard of the Seattle-style cream cheese dog, you’re probably not alone. This sleeper hit of the Pacific Northwest has practically popped up out of nowhere and now can be found at hot dog carts across the Emerald City. The Seattle-style hot dog is a wiener or Polish sausage split, grilled and jammed into a toasted bun slathered with cream cheese. Standard toppings include grilled onions, jalapenos and either sauerkraut or grilled cabbage, while typical condiments include mustard, barbecue sauce and Sriracha.
Where: Monster Dogs – 1st Avenue and Bell Street, Seattle, WA 98101
The Puka Dog
Just as its native Hawaii is a melting pot of cultures, the puka dog offers a wide variety of flavors from across the world on one bun. The word puka means “hole” in Hawaiian and, in this case, refers to the hot dog’s bun, a loaf of sweet bread which is baked in a special contraption that creates a hole to encapsulate the grilled Polish sausage. Puka dogs are topped with any number of secret sauces, particularly a lemon garlic aioli, tropical mustards and fruit relish, like habanero, lemon, mango, coconut, papaya and guava.
Where: Hula Dog, 2301 Kuhio Avenue #334, Honolulu, HI 96815