The hot dog is one of my “hall-of-fame” foods. By now, you’re probably aware that the foods that excite me the most are those “everyday classics,” just made with quality ingredients and done at an exceptionally high level.

Hot dogs fall into this category. And, with summer here, the time is right for throwing a hot dog party! So will be taking a close look – in three parts – at these seasonal icons. With the Fourth of July fast approaching, I’ll share some dog tidbits and history that fascinate me. Also I’ll take a quick look at the local hot dog scene. Then, next week, we’ll dive in to all the amazing combinations possible out there. After that, we’ll go in another direction with European-style brats – the grandaddy of the hot dog – and other encased meats!

Let your imagination run wild with hot dogs.

Great burgers and pizza are difficult to do at home, but not impossible. Sourcing great beef and buns has become easier, especially since we opened Gateway Market. Quality ingredients like our signature George’s Grind and South Union Bakery buns are simply going to taste better than run of the mill stuff. And I’ve posted a lot about making great burgers at home.

As for pizza – I have always said that I wanted Gateway Market to be like a crack house for pizza addicts. With all of the prepared dough, assortment of flours and topping inspirations throughout the store, we’re accomplishing that mission. But sometimes special grills and stoves are required for designer burgers and pizza. That gets us to the tubed meats!

Hot dogs are made for home experimentation. They can be basic, or the can be a show-stopper if you give in to creative impulses. No matter what, you can make a killer dog in the comfort of your own home (or deck). When we opened Zombie Burger + Drink Lab we placed some special dogs on the menu. We’ve always intended to go back to revisit them, but I’m happy to report that there are some other great places here in Des Moines for a sausage fix, including longtime favorites Ted’s Coney Island and Jim’s Coney Island, the recently-opened Hotshots, Capitol Pub & Hot Dog Co., and a German sausage stand at the Des Moines Downtown Farmers’ Market.

Here are some of my favorite books that tell great hot dog stories.


All hot dogs are descended from sausages; it’s kind of the way all dogs are descended from wolves. Sausages have been around for centuries, but the earliest use of the term “hot dog” is in the Sept. 28, 1893 edition of the Knoxville Journal. Previous terms used for our beloved dog were “frankfurter” and “red hot.” Meanwhile, in Europe, the Viennese referred to them as “wieners.” The cartoonist T.A . Dorgan of the New York Journal is said to have immortalized the name “hot dog” in a 1906 cartoon – there is little evidence that this is true, but this legend has been a long time favorite of ours.

Since I am a bread guy, I was fascinated by a detail about the bun that I came across recently. One recipe for buns in a 1907 baking book refers to them as “Columbia Rolls” because they were sold in very large quantities at the Columbian Exposition during the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. If you’re interested in food history, as I am, I’d recommend checking out the book “The Great American Hot Dog Book: Recipes and Side Dishes from Across America.” by Becky Mercuri.


Ok , so I geek out on some pretty crazy shit, I recently was in search of slang terms for food and came across a 1942 copy of The American Thesaurus of Slang, quite possibly the most entertaining-in need of cheering up, no-brainier read EVER!

After giggling my way through slang terms for various bodily parts and functions (including my favorite, a petting party – an association of the sexes where the exchange of caresses is the chief amusement), I turned to the section that actually drove me to buy the book in the first place – food slang. (Of course, had I known of this chief amusement thing earlier, I would have purchased this sooner!)

So now here we are at hot dogs, which are also known as barkers, beagles, bow-wows, Coney Island blood hounds, dogs, frankfritters, franks, German Dogs, ground hogs, hot pups, puppies, hounds, links, picnic specials, purps, weenies, winners, dachshunds, long frankfurters, tubbies, short frankfurters, bulldogs, husky dogs, pups, Scottie dogs, teeny-wienies, chili dogs, Coney Island red hots, Coney Islands and red hots.

Throw some chili on them for hounds on an island, sub in sauerkraut for chili for dogs in the hay or dogs in manure, Fido and Shep and bale of hay, strings and pig, or wienies and kraut. Frankfurter sandwiches were barkers, beagles, bow-wows, wiener sands, clowns, dogs between sheets, dogs-on-it, growls, or zeppelins in a hanger.

And my addition to the book, a hot dog party, an association of the sexes where eating and enjoying of hot dogs is the chief amusement!

Gateway Market has an impressive variety of fresh brats this summer.


We proudly give dogs and sausages a lot of love at our places. Zombie Burger + Drink Lab, Django and Gateway Market offer a variety of options. The legendary New Jersey Rippers at Zombie Burgers have been a hit since we opened. The Django Dog is a grilled house-made sausage, in a griddled challah roll with caramelized onion on Dijon mustard that I really like. Meanwhile, Gateway Market has some new hand-made sausages at the meat counter that are going to taste fresher and better than most sausages shipped in. For example, Gateway is proud to be the exclusive retailer for new, locally-made brats from the folks at Mo’ Rub.

That said, I would like to give some shout outs to other aforementioned places to go in Des Moines for hot dog or sausage fixes. Two venerable institutions, Jim’s Coney Island and Ted’s Coney Island, both have loyal followings for good reasons.  These locally-owned spots both honor tradition by focusing on the basics and doing it well, day-in and day out.

Hot Shots is the new kid on the block in Des Moines. At 1220 Locust St., James Bruton and Tony Lemmo’s recently-opened lunch spot is a good place to see just how creative you can get with hot dogs. “Gourmet dogs worth relishing,” is how The Des Moines Register described the sandwiches served there and that seems right. I had a great-tasting sausage dog that was a riff on the Vietnamese bahn mi sandwich with pickled onions, carrots, cilantro and mayo. Their Cincinnati chili is especially tasty and there are choices that let you go a little more guilt-free if you like.

Capitol Pub & Hot Dog Company opened a couple of years ago at 400 SE 6th St., which at the southern edge of the East Village. A popular place for sports fans, Capitol Pub offers more than a dozen hot dog choices. Again, they gave in to their creative impulses. Oh you can “go naked” there, but they also came up with dogs that are tempura battered or bathed in Buffalo wing sauce, or slathered with nacho cheese and, this being Iowa, of course there is a dog that is wrapped in bacon, crisped in the deep fryer and served with cream cheese.

Another place I like to get my sausage fix is at the Des Moines Downtown Farmers Market. Located at the western edge of the market on Court Avenue, Michael Leo’s Strudl Haus has long been known for serving outstanding pastries and great Dutch Letters. A few years ago, he introduced different types of European-style sausages. Leo has weiss wurst (pork with parsley), nuerenburger (pork and veal), knack wurst (mild pork and beef sausage) and Vienna sausage (pork and beef sausage), just to name a few. These are more in the tradition of German bratwursts than hot dogs. But what you might like about these is they will give you a great-tasting sense of how and why we started our  all-American love of hot dog parties!

NEXT UP: Start your own hot dog party with some inspiration from Zombie Burger Chef Tom McKern and me!

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