The Best Hot Dog

As the Hotdogman, I get asked who has "the best" hot dog all the time. It's a tough question and I have an answer that sometimes frustrates people. I have eaten at over 70 hot dog joints in the past year, some places I have been to three or four times. I have been to Casey's Diner hundreds of times.

As of this writing, the list of hot dog joints I have visited on Hot Dog Stories has 57 different places to get a hot dog in Massachusetts, Maine, Canada, Florida, and Nevada. The places listed here (if they are still open) ALL have good hot dogs. If the hot dogs weren't good, I wouldn't put them on my site. I have visited many more places than there are on my site- not every place makes the cut.

Hot Dog Stories and my stunt to eat a hot dog a day in honor of National Hot Dog Month are NOT about finding "the best" hot dog, nor rating different hot dog joints in relation to one another. Each individual hot dog joint brings something to the table because each place is unique. I have two fundamental criteria for a good hot dog experience: a "premium" hot dog (not the 10 for a dollar variety) must be used and the hot dog must be HOT. Beyond that, each individual hot dog joint needs to distinguish itself in it's own way.

Expectations have a lot to do with it. I know that when I pull up to a simple hot dog cart at the side of the road, I am not going to be bombarded (in most cases) with a plethora of choices- I am looking to get a simple, quick lunch. At a cart, I expect a HOT dog with the basics- I am most likely ordering my dog "all around." At a trailer, truck, or stand, where there are more cooking resources, I will be looking for the "signature dog"- the hot dog that makes the place special. At a place like the Dogfather there are many choices; at George's or Nick's it's the Coney Island hot dog; at Snappy Dogs, it's the Friday special; at Mad Dogs in Florida, I can get any number of regional style hot dogs; at Windy City Eats I'll have a Chicago Dog. And so it goes.

I don't want to sit here and pit these places against each other for who is the best. A Chicago Dog doesn't compare to a Shnurble from Fred's Franks. The two hot dog styles are so completely different, "rating" them against each other wouldn't make sense. It would be like comparing a lobster dinner to prime rib- both are delicious if well cooked, but they're at opposite ends of the spectrum. I won't make it my business to mess with someone else's business. I am happy to give a quality hot dog vendor some positive exposure, but I don't want to go out and bury someone because their hot dogs suck; if they do, they won't be in business for long anyway.

What I do is celebrate the hot dog. I seek out hot dog joints that show the hot dog the love it deserves and present them in a fresh, unpretentious and fun manner. The thing that makes hot dogs so special is that every place puts their own spin on things to create a unique, epicurean experience. Whether it's a special topping or, like with Eugene's Coffee and Hot Dogs in West Newton, a brand of hot dog that is unique to the area or an innovative cooking method, or even a proprietor's infectious personality, each establishment distinguishes itself in its own way.

Let's call a spade a spade here. We are talking about hot dogs, not filet mignon. I sometimes get a kick out of reading hot dog joint reviews that try to sound like a Zagat's review of a five star restaurant. I could wax elegant in my stories and break out some serious rhetoric (along with my Thesaurus) while describing my experiences, but such pretentiousness isn't what hot dogs are all about. Hot dogs should be fun. And hot.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Can you rate the Dogs which we all can buy in the store.

Shaws had Moster Dog's by Kayem for 1$ each this week in the sale..

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