It’s no secret that I love food history. And if you know me well, you also know that I love the Iowa State Fair. So when I heard of the “Kenmore Honored Harvest Time Recipes” competition at the Iowa State Fair on Saturday, August 10, I was jumping up and down with my hand in the air to get involved.

This competition is right up my alley – as part of Kenmore’s 100-year anniversary, they’re visiting state fairs across the country to look for the best heritage recipes. Each recipe must contain at least three fresh, local ingredients as well as an explanation of what makes it special and gives it that “heritage” appeal. Whether it’s a hundred-year-old recipe passed down through generations, something you found scribbled in the back of a cookbook you picked up at an estate sale, or a new recipe developed in collaboration with your best friend, this competition is all about the story behind the recipes.

Those historical elements and local focus are the same qualities that draw me to my own favorite foods and restaurants. If given the choice, I’ll always opt for simple, fresh dishes that are firmly rooted in tradition over the soulless, trendy, avant-garde stuff that seems to be in fashion in some culinary circles.

Heirloom comfort foods and dishes with some connection to history or a specific special person seem to retain that history in every bite. Maybe that’s why I enjoy them so much. It goes beyond just the flavor and touches one’s emotions.

On that note, I’m excited to announce that Kenmore has brought me on board to host and judge this year’s competition! The State Fair cooking contests are my favorite events to judge; they’re always full of everyday recipes with history attached to them – a priceless collection from some of the heartland’s best cooks.

I’m already imagining all the unique dishes I’ll be able to see and taste there at the fairgrounds – and all the great stories of what makes each unique. Kenmore has already selected the competitors and has identified some pretty incredible prizes:

  • A Kenmore kitchen appliance makeover worth $5,000
  • A three day/two night trip package for two people to the Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival
  • The chance to have a recipe featured in the Kenmore 100th Anniversary cookbook.

Even if you’re not part of the competition, you can still be in on the fun. Visit by August 1 and share your own recipe; for each submission, Sears will make a $5 donation to Heroes at Home to support military families.

If you’ve never been to, it’s definitely worth checking out. It’s an online food site committed to quality recipes, built with community interaction and passed on through you. A few of my favorites currently posted are the “corned beef hash grown-up grilled cheese” and the “nacho mama’s chorizo casserole” – the ultimate in comfort food!

You can use the site to add your favorite recipes, create specialized cookbooks, browse the recipe library from celebrity and home chefs alike, and watch step-by-step recipe videos. There are some pretty cool tools, too, like a grocery list generator that will make sure you have everything you need to make your favorite dishes.

The thing I love most about the site is that each recipe is accompanied by a little story; maybe it’s how the recipe was created, where it came from, or some other little fact about the food. Often times, the recipes are long-time family favorites passed from one person to another.

So dust off those old family recipes, log on to and join me on August 10th at the Iowa State fair for Kenmore’s “Honored Harvest Time Recipe” competition. Hope to see you there!


Today’s guest post comes to us from my sister-in-law, Rachel Formaro – this one’s all about a Formaro family favorite… good ol’ American meatloaf.

Growing up British-Canadian, I can’t remember a time that my mum ever made meatloaf. To me, the whole idea of meatloaf epitomized a traditional American (or Canadian) family meal – something that was enjoyed in a kitchen with avocado appliances and a vinyl tablecloth. Very Brady Bunch.

Which brings into question (rather sharply) why did I even attempt to make meatloaf for my husband and my in-laws, especially when I hadn’t even tasted meatloaf before. Did I mention that the recipe is one that my brother-in-law George (yes, the James Beard nominated chef) has reverse-engineered out of the memories of his mother’s meatloaf? Perhaps it comes down to a sense of adventure and knowing that there were new memories to be had from the experience. And it didn’t hurt that my husband Tom’s watchful eye helped in the process – is that how crispy it should be, how dark it should be, etc.

I asked Tom how did their mother (who was born and raised in Sicily and had moved here in her 30s) even come to make something as American-apple-pie as meatloaf? Did he, his brothers and sister pester her for it to the point of submission? The answer appears to be it was the influence of her Italian-American in-laws (her husband’s parents were Calabrese and had immigrated to the US in the early 1900s). Whether it was her mother-in-law’s recipe or another family member is still in question. How fitting then, that I should attempt to make it for my Italian-American in-laws.

Fortunately, there are no complicated ingredients. The key to the meatloaf seems to be in the baking time. I had underestimated how long it would take. This is not a get-home-from-work-30-min recipe. But it is certainly worth the wait. Perfect for a Sunday evening supper.

We had a simple side of corn on the cob and I had thrown in a few thinly sliced potatoes in with the baking pan – turned out nice and crispy. And apparently in the case of meatloaf, everyone is a fan of the “heel”!

With George’s permission, here is the recipe.


  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 cans vegetable soup (Campbell’s)
  • 2 cups bread crumbs
  • 2 or 3 eggs (I used 2)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 leaves fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 small onion grated
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic granulated
  • 1/8 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Additional ketchup for brushing on top

Place all the ingredients in the bowl and mix them up; the more you mix, the firmer the meatloaf will be.

Preheat your oven to 375. Oil your roasting pan or baking pan and put aside. You’ll need to have the kind of pan that has a cover, or I guess you could cover with foil.

Mix all ingredients thoroughly in a large bowl. The more you mix it the firmer it is.

Meatloaf ready for the oven.

Shape into 2 loaves and place into oiled covered aluminum baking pan and rub the top with oil.

Bake covered for about one hour, or until the internal temperature reaches 170.

Remove cover, brush the tops with a generous amount of ketchup and cook uncovered for 30 minutes or more, until a crust forms on the bottom to your liking.

Serve a slice or two along with your side dish.

The finished product – a great dish for Sunday dinners at home!


As you may know, I love food history. That love is manifested in my extensive collection of cookbooks. If I had to estimate, I’d say I have more than 3,000 cookbooks, spanning from 1854 (Miss Leslie’s New Cookbook) to present day. When people find this out, they usually ask about my favorites. We don’t have enough time here to go through my entire list (how could I even choose one?), but one certain book does hold a special place in my collection with more editions represented than any other series – The Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book.


From the early days. This is so old it doesn’t even have the word “new.”

This series of cookbooks dates back to 1930. They were simply My Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book until 1935, when the name officially changed to The Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. If you were to ask me what would be the one cookbook that:

  1. Could get a cooking novice up to speed the fastest;
  2. Represents the best collection of the tastiest foods;
  3. Is the most tried-and-true, go-to recipe book and historical food record

… my answer would be the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book.

Besides being extremely useful, these books (especially the early versions) can be fun. Really, in what other cookbook would you find a serious recipe called “Irish-Italian Spaghetti?”


The surprisingly tasty Irish-Italian Spaghetti. Go ahead, Google it. Better Homes and Gardens has it on its site.


Local readers can take pride in knowing this iconic series of cookbooks originated in Des Moines and is still produced here. In 1928, Better Homes and Gardens built a tricked-out test kitchen here for their culinary investigations; prior to that, recipes were tested in the home kitchen of Genevieve Callahan, the households editor for Better Homes and Gardens magazine, according to a timeline at When these cookbooks first came out they had some features that were considered revolutionary at the time. For example, they had ring bindings so that they would lie flat on a counter top. They also had tabs to make it easier to find recipe categories.

It is nice to know that I am not alone in my appreciation of this cookbook. The book conjures up plenty of memories for Des Moines’ Wini Moranville, author of The Bonne Femme Cookbook. More than that, she has actually worked on the book, which she tells me is commonly called  the “red plaid” cookbook around Meredith (the media corporation that owns the Better Homes and Gardens brand). Wini adds:

“I truly learned to cook from that book. It was my Mom’s ‘go to’ book in the ’60s and ’70s, and she taught me to cook from it when I was little. I especially remember making brownies for the first time and on rainy Saturdays, we’d make yeast donuts from the cookbook – glazed with an orange glaze. Gosh they were good. When I moved to NYC in my ’20s, I brought my own copy of the cookbook with me, and it got me through many a meal when I had to live cheaply, and bring something gratifying and quick to the table at the end of those crazy-busy NYC office days.”

Of course, Wini branched out over time. She bought all kinds of cookbooks, she recalls. What she discovered is that some times recipes from celebrated cookbooks just did not work. “Such a thing won’t happen with the ‘Red Plaid’ – every recipe is tested again and again. They work,” Wini says, adding “They leave nothing to chance for the home cook.”

When she wrote her own cookbook a few years ago, Wini used cooking charts in the later editions’ meat chapters. “They were invaluable to me as I was developing recipes. As in “hm… how long should I test the pork roast for? Oh, ‘Red Plaid’ says ‘X minutes’ at ‘X temperature.” Those charts were never wrong.”

Editions change over the years, she points out, “But I swear the lasagna recipe from my mother’s edition (which she got in the early ’60s) was the best.” Wini even wrote about that lasagna in her own blog.


This is Número Uno: 1930, my American grandmother! People say I kinda look her.


My friend Sam Auen of Tacopocalypse can also wax nostalgic with the best of us about this book. He tells me that some of his earliest memories go back to his childhood fascination with his grandmother’s cookbook shelf. He says:

“Even before I could read I would take out The New Better Homes And Gardens Cookbook from its roost and flip through its pages. I remember spying the red tartan-ish cover, the silhouettes of pots and pans overlaying its tablecloth motif. I have been told by my mother that I spent hours as a child banging on pots and pans like they were part of a drum set while sitting on cookbooks as my throne.”

Later, when Sam joined the ranks of readers, he would sit at the table and memorize recipes for pancakes, roasts and gravy techniques while he waited for everyone in the house to fall asleep.

Then, he recalls, “I could turn on Little Rascals at 4am and try out some of these dishes (a.k.a. make huge messes). I cooked from it, and its peers, throughout my teen years, learning to use book recipes as a basis for creating my own. When I moved out and got married, that book came along with. I guess I have always had The New Cook Book in my life, and even years later as I have moved away from using books, this old friend sits proudly on in my cookbook library.”


This is a well-loved edition from 1944, stuffed with decades of additional newspaper clippings and hand written recipes. Someone’s life is captured in all these pages… you better believe they’re in good hands!


My 1945 edition is certainly one of my favorites; you gotta check out the gems in the “casserole and one dish meal” section. The recipes include “Rice with Almond Sauce,” “Rice Croquettes” (which some of you bon vivants might recognize as an American version of Arancini), “Chicken and Rice Casserole,” and the previously mentioned very-tasty-but-not-at-all-Italian “Italian Spaghetti.” Perhaps my favorite though is the not-really-Irish, not-really-Italian “Irish-Italian Spaghetti!”

The wheat bread recipe is one of the best I’ve seen; then, there’s the meat section. I am rather fond of the “Chicken Fried Round Steak,” the solid “Everyday Meatloaf” recipe, “Swedish Ham Balls,” “Ham Loaf” and a better-than-your-penitentiary “Savory Chipped Beef on Noodles.” There’s also a recipe for “Chili Balls.” You should make this recipe just because it’s fun to say!

There are 10 – yes, 10 – pages dedicated to all sorts of tasty pies. There’s also an impressive section on candy featuring butter toffee, black walnut taffy and a time-tested recipe for peanut brittle. The recipes go on and on; it’s easy to see why this book is one of the favorites in my collection!


The 1953 edition features my favorite cover of the whole batch!


The new books have some great features (I enjoy browsing their diagrams of mushrooms, chilies, beans and olive varieties as well as up-to-date takes on meat, fish and poultry dishes). But personally, I love the older versions full of culinary gems. Since there was no food TV networks or recipe websites back in the day, home cooks heavily relied on cookbooks, newspapers and magazines for new culinary inventions. A cook might make a recipe and move on, or perhaps the recipe would be given to someone else who would make minor variations before passing it along again. These books were truly the blueprint for American home cooking!

Combing through the the older editions of cookbooks can be like going through a happy time warp full of dishes that have fallen out of mainstream favor. Breads, wilted spinach salad, beef cubes in sour cream, savory chipped beef and even hamburgers are delightfully frozen in time.

Both my grandmothers were born in Italy, so I did not grow up with what I call good old-fashioned midwestern cooking. I’m not sure if it’s because I am getting older or if it’s just my love for food history, but I can’t resist the nostalgia of this book and the old midwest and regional American cuisine it contains. This book has become the American grandmother I never had. So this summer, I suggest going to a few garage sales and finding your own “American Grandmother” by picking up a vintage copy of the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book!


Every now and again, I ask folks from the community to contribute to The Formaro Files, especially if they have a food experience worth sharing. So, here’s one to get us rolling – this entry, written by local food writer Tom Perry, is an account of recent visit he and his wife made to Crème Cupcake, 543 28th St., Des Moines. 

Since opening a little less than a year ago at its new location just north of Ingersoll Avenue, Christina Moffatt’s Crème Cupcake has made a sweet transition from bakery to sophisticated nightspot. Sure, the cupcakes there are amazing. Proof of that came just last month with Crème Cupcake’s star turn and runner-up finish on the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars. But for an honest-to-goodness, change-of-pace experience, go in the evening (perhaps after dinner) to Crème Cupcake’s dessert lounge; a place where desserts and cocktails are paired.

Smart and sophisticated: “Violet” it’s blueberry semifreddo, Himalayan sea salt, chevre, butterfly soup. Pictured with the Violette Bubbles.

Prior to our visit, we had heard only praise for the evening scene at the place. One friend called it “smart and sophisticated.” Another described it as a “great way to cap off a night out.” They were both right on the money. Crème Cupcake’s dessert lounge is truly a special place, with an urbane vibe all its own.When we arrived on a Saturday evening, after taking in a performance downtown, every table in the cozy dining room was taken. We grabbed two spots at the small bar – this gave us front row seats to the non-stop whir of the cocktail-making show.

Even though it was a warm evening, I had been craving a port wine. After I ordered, I regretted my decision, only because it didn’t give me the chance to sample the talents of Blake Brown, Crème Cupcake’s chief mixologist. My wife was smarter than I – she ordered “The Upper West Side,” Brown’s riff on on a cocktail with roots in New York City. Made with Grey Goose vodka, mint leaf, lemon juice, simple syrup, and Secco Bubbles, strained up, the drink was amazing.

Blake Brown at Crème Cupcake: A mixologist who honors tradition by putting his own spin on classic cocktails.

Now a word about Blake Brown: Blake first made a name for himself cooking up fantastic, classically-inspired cocktails at Des Moines’ Americana. He’s a guy who takes his craft seriously – when asked about his motivation, here’s what he’ll you:

“What inspired me to do classic cocktails is the long tradition of bartending and mixology. I wanted to take the time and study up on something that is meaningful. Hopefully, someday, I will be part of that tradition. And the best way to learn your trade is to start with tradition.”

For our dessert, we decided to share the Chef’s Dessert Sampler. For me, one rule of thumb is that if you’re not sure what to order, go with the chef’s choice. We were rewarded with the three perfectly-portioned desserts being featured that evening. Key lime pie, pan perdu and the chocolate crème brûlée were plated in such a way they were almost too pretty to eat. Each dessert was splendid – I’m a guy who loves to eat, but I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. Still, I enjoyed every bite. What I most appreciated is that while some restaurants try to cut corners with their desserts, Crème Cupcake drills down its focus on dessert – and you can taste it.

Key Lime Pie as featured in the dessert lounge of Crème Cupcake – a perfect summertime treat.

Our experience was totally positive. The only caveat to the recommendations we’ve been making to our friends has been that the place can get packed on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. The bustle can create a lively vibe – anyone who prefers mellower settings might be wise to visit on a weeknight. Whenever you decide to visit, an evening at Crème Cupcake is a great way to cap a night out.


Sometimes when you walk into a place, you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. From the décor of the room to the equipment in the kitchen, the place is like a fully operational time capsule. To me, these places are always some of the best – they don’t update or change with the times because their track record shows they don’t need to!

Several restaurants jump to mind when I think of a classic spot, unchanged by time – and one of my favorites is Mr. Bibbs. It’s a very small “joint” – a minimal building sporting counter service at a semi-open kitchen and six booths set against the walls. The surprisingly large menu includes everything from classic burgers and ham and cheese sandwiches to fried catfish fingers and shrimp baskets.

Mr. Bibbs is like a fully-operational time capsule – great food paired with classic decor.

The burgers are solid, 1970’s fast-food-style lean pre-pattied beef; with their fat-to-lean ration, the patties don’t shrink much. Cheeseburgers are adorned with ketchup, onion and pickle if you desire. All of this is set on what I refer to as “white squishy bakery buns” – a traditional bun that’s the perfect choice when you are jonesin’ for a classic drive-in burger. Mr. Bibb’s also features crinkle cut French fries expertly fried and salted to delicious, crispy perfection. Although the fries are frozen, I don’t hold that against them – they’re too tasty!

Although their burgers are great, that’s just a nice aside to the real purpose for my visit. Any time you visit a place for the first time (or even after an extended absence), you always need to ask what the restaurant might be known for. You wouldn’t want to walk into a whorehouse and order a biscuit now would you? (Ok, if I owned the joint, you might!) Whenever I read a restaurant review, I want to be drawn there by something – especially that special item that’s the star of the menu.

A Mr. Bibbs meal for two – featuring their signature pork tenderloin.

If you read a review on Mr. Bibbs and they don’t mention the pork tenderloins – crumple up said review and throw it directly in the trash! This place is known for tenderloins – the “Iowa Skinny” or “Pork Fritter,” depending on who you talk to. This iconic midwestern sandwich’s invention is claimed by both Iowa and Indiana – I prefer to think of it as an Iowa product, but don’t mind sharing the love with every other state in the nation! (For further reading on tenderloins, you might enjoy The Pork Tenderloin – Iowa’s Edible Icon by Jim Duncan. Also Des Loines, a great blog for tenderloin-lovers.)

Whoever was manning the fryer has serious skills – this tenderloin was fried to perfection.

Pork tenderloins are often imitated with frozen alternatives, sometimes chopped, formed back together and served at carnivals and ballparks. These imposters are to be avoided!  Like Mr. Bibbs, the best tenderloins are hand-made with a single piece of meat pounded flat – when you can get one of these breaded babies, I suggest you do. Mr Bibbs uses a well-seasoned, cracker breading; their tenderloins are fried crispy, but are surprisingly free of the greasy heaviness of some tenderloins. You get a choice of toppings and a nice, squishy, old-school white bun. The onion rings have a similar cracker breading – a lost art when it comes to onion rings.

Mr. Bibb’s is a classic Iowa joint – a little bit off the beaten path, completely free of hype, and a must-visit to experience one of Iowa’s iconic foods.


Are there two more beautiful words in the English language than “encased meats?” Probably, but nothing comes to mind.

It may not come as much of a surprise that bratwurst, sausages (both smoked and fresh), hot dogs and even vegetarian versions of these all hold a special place in my heart. They can be simple or extravagant and are easily and quickly prepared for an impromptu party (a “sausage party,” if you will), especially at this time of year. They can play starring role in big tailgating productions and low-fuss family get-togethers alike. And after a night of indulging in fizzy lifting drinks, they taste pretty good in your very own 1 a.m. after-hours kitchen bar.

Gateway is the exclusive retailer for the new Big Mo’ Brat, which tastes fantastic, especially in a South Union Bakery bun.

If you’re searching for unique, delicious encased meats, look no further than Gateway Market. We have a great selection of special brats, sausages and dogs worth highlighting.

As some of you might know, we have used Carl Blake’s Iowa Swabian Hall pigs at both Centro and Django. They are a unique Iowa breed, a heritage version of a prized German pig raised at Blake’s Rustik Rooster Farm near Frederika. These hogs are also cousins of the very fatty Chinese Meishan pig and the muscular Ossabaw pig, a wild breed from Ossabaw Island, off the coast of Georgia in the United States. They have a particularly tasty fat that makes them a perfect candidate for encased meats – especially bratwurst. Over at Gateway Market, we have teemed up with Mo’ Rub, an independent, Des Moines-based spice maker, to be the exclusive retail distributor of the Big Mo Brat! Stop by the meat counter at Gateway to try the now-famous Iowa pork, which has been featured on Bizarre Foods America with Andrew Zimmern and the Colbert Report.
Gateway Market is also making some very tasty brats and Italian sausages in-house, both cased and bulk. We also offer sausages from Chef Martin in Chicago, which specializes in European-style products.

Portuguese-style sausage is something totally different to put on the grill this summer. It can be found near the meat counter at Gateway.

If you’re looking for a different type of sausage, try the Amaral’s Portuguese sausage (Linguica and Chourico) in the cooler case adjacent to the meat counter. Gateway might be the only place west of the Mississippi to offer these sausages which are popular in the Portuguese-American neighborhoods of southeastern New England. An Iberian relative of Mexican chorizo, these garlic-paprika-laced Portuguese sausages are best cut to bun length and butterflied before being grilled over charcoal. (They can also be sliced or diced and served with eggs if it rains on your cookout.)

I love these Boar’s Head Beef Frankfurters, which can be found in the open cooler near Gateway Market’s cheese counter.

Other stars in the sausage stables would be the Boars Head hot dogs, which as I mentioned last week are quite possibly one of the tastiest dogs I have ever had… and that’s saying something! (You will find these dogs in the cooler to the north of the cheese counter at Gateway.) The Niman Ranch sausages and dogs hold a special place in my heart and stomach because I love those people and their products. The hot dogs are especially good cooked over charcoal – get a nice char on them for optimum flavor!

Gateway has all kinds of encased meats that you’re sure to love. Today is the final day of our “Meat Sack Sale” – 15% off any and all meat you can fit in a reusable shopping bag, so be sure to stop by before firing up the grill for all your Independence Day festivities. Let the “Hot Dog Party” begin!

You can check out the previous two “hot dog party” blog posts here and here.


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.