Last week we coined the term hot dog party – an “association of the sexes where the eating and enjoying of hot dogs is the chief amusement.” So now, here we are, ready to let the hot dog party and the good times roll.

For me, hot dogs are a year-round food. But they certainly gain in popularity when grilling comes back into fashion. I have been waiting all winter long to do a post about dogs and here at long last it is – the season for sharing a few of my tips.

A Few of My Tips for Dogs

As mentioned in my previous blog, great dogs can be made at home, easier than most celebrated foods. Here are a few of my thoughts on what makes a great dog.

  • I like a plain, charred dog with mustard, onion and kraut. But unlike my taste for a very simple pizza or burger, I tend to go all out with dogs.
  • Using a grill? Nothing is better than charcoal or wood! Gas grills are fine, but if you can throw a few chips or let some grease drip onto the grill and make smoke, the dogs will taste better!
  • If you are boiling a hot dog, more is better. The flavor increases as you let those puppies stew in that water!
  • Frying dogs gives some dogs great flavor and texture. For Jersey-style rippers, the idea is to let the sausages split before you pull them from the fryer.
  • Chili for dogs should be thick! There’s nothing worse than runny chili on a dog.
  • Why limit yourself to hot dogs or the obvious substitution, brats? Try subbing other sausages and encased meats for a tasty spin on the average frank. Gateway Market has a fine selection of cased meats, which we’ll cover in my next blog post.
  • As with most food, quality matters for hot dogs, too. You have a lot of choices out there, many of them quite inexpensive. But in my view, Boars’ Head dogs are some of the best of the dogs I have ever had. I know we all use the words “best ever” all the time, but these Boars Head dogs can be enjoyed plain without any fancy accompaniments!

Dogs From Across America

While I am a fan of a great-tasting naked dog, I also encourage giving into creative impulses. When it comes to hot dogs, nobody does it better than the good ol’ USA.

The list below will give you an idea of the regional divide and, perhaps, inspire some interesting flourishes at your next hot dog party.

  • Detroit Coney: A Michigan frank is served smothered in Greek-style all-beef chili, raw white onion, yellow mustard, and shredded cheddar.
  • Chicago: Yellow mustard, relish, chopped onion, tomato slices, sport peppers (spicy pickled green peppers), a pickle spear, and a dash of celery salt sit in a poppy-seed bun with a Vienna all beef hot dog.
  • Southern Slaw Dog: What’ll ya have? What’ll ya have? What’ll ya have? At the Varsity’s famous drive-through, Atlantans order their hot dogs “dragged through the garden”― sliced bun with coleslaw.
  • New York City: A hot dog sold from the typical sidewalk cart (aka, “dirty water dog”) is adorned with little more than brown mustard and onions stewed in tomato/chile sauce.
  • New England: A real New England hot dog is served in a roll with flat sides, like we use at Zombie Burger and sell at Gateway Market. The roll can be toasted, but is more often buttered and “griddled” on the sides. The typical toppings are mustard, relish and onion; ketchup is rarely seen. The New England style bun is the same bread of choice for Lobster rolls.
  • D.C. Half Smokes: These are a cross between a smoked sausage and a hot dog and are smothered with a spiced, no-bean chili; mustard and chopped raw onions.
  • Alabama Birmingham Style: Hot dog with ground beef (mildly seasoned) sauce that resembles BBQ sauce (not too sweet) and topped with sauerkraut.
  • Jersey Rippers: These are dogs that are dropped in a fryer. Popular ordering styles are the in-and-outer (in the fryer for a short time) to the cremator (these are left in the fryer for a long time and are considered very well done). Traditional dog relish is a mustard flavored cabbage relish.
  • Italian Fried Hot Dogs: A variation on the ripper with a fried dog,fried potatoes and fried onions in fresh Italian bread.
  • Sonoran Hot Dog: A Sonoran hot dog is a bacon-wrapped hot dog put into a soft Mexican roll topped with pinto beans, chopped tomatoes, onions, jalapeno sauce, cheese, mayonnaise, ketchup and mustard. They usually come with a roasted chili on the side – sometimes even with roasted green onions. Some have sour cream.
  • Hawaiian Pukka Dog: It’s a grilled posh sausage in a bun with a hole in it. The bun is toasted from the inside. Tropical relishes and sauces and mustards.
  • West Coast Dogs: Toppings like pastrami, nacho cheese, bacon, chili or whatever. All things are a go with some very creative hot dog creations, especially at the famous Pink’s in Hollywood.
Zombie Burger’s New Jersey Rippers
Finally, I want to talk about our hot dog selection at Zombie Burger + Drink Lab. Our current lineup of New Jersey Rippers have a loyal following, but I have been saying since day one that I wanted to expand our hot dog menu. In the gear-up for this blog post, I got together with Zombie Burger executive chef Tom McKern for a special work session (OK, it was playful fun). We experimented with different topping combinations and shot some photos, which we happily share here. Some of these dogs may soon be stalking patrons at Zombie Burger… stay tuned! Many of these can easily be made when you’re grilling at home or ’round closing time when that 1 A.M. home bar is open for business!


Some cool slaw tops off this BBQ Dog


The Chicago Beef Dog captures flavors of the Windy City.


This dog is for anyone who can’t get enough Crab Rangoon.

The Trailer Park Dog features thick chili, corn chips and cheese sauce.


Shrimp and a tangy sauce make for a perky Creole Dog.


This is our Dog of the Dead. It won’t kill you.


Onions on The French Dog will have you saying “Oui!”

Greek flavors can be found on the Gyro Dog.


Here’s a dog for when you’re craving kimchi.


Seafood lovers will love latching their claws on to a Lobster Roll Dog.


Pastrami works on dogs! Here’s a frank with pastrami, Swiss cheese, lettuce and tomato.


Pastrami again with the simple deli flavors of Swiss cheese and mustard.


The Philly Dog brings home all the classic flavors of Philadelphia’s famous sandwich.


Rich gravy and amazing fries make the Poutine Dog an over-the-top treat.


A popular potluck dish inspired the Taco Dip Dog.


Y’ all might enjoy The Southern Dog with bacon and slaw.


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