If you’re trying to start a fight, try offering a New Yorker a Chicago-style hot dog or vice versa. Then you’d better duck: when it comes to loyalty, hot dog aficionados tend to love their hometown hot dog even more than their hometown baseball team. They tend to have issue with that whole “the customer is always right” thing.
Even in our age of healthful-living awareness (if not practice), Americans eat billions of hot dogs each year. But depending on where you are when you order your dog, the way it is cooked and served can differ radically. The New York hot dog referenced earlier will come served with steamed onions and a pale, deli-style yellow mustard. The Chi-town frank, on the other hand, is most likely be layered with yellow mustard, dark green relish, chopped raw onion…then garnished with a pickle spear, peppers, tomato slices and a dash of celery salt. Oh, and it will be wearing a poppy-seed bun.
You don’t have to understand it; to each his own, right? But it helps to know what you’re getting into. Here’s a quick guide on what to expect when you buy your hot dog away from home.
- West Virginia. Of COURSE we’re going to start here. The WV dog features chili, mustard and coleslaw (not relish) served on a steamed bun.
- Washington DC. Introducing the half-smoke: a half pork, half beef sausage—coarser and spicier than your standard dog—topped with chili, mustard, and onions.
- Kansas City. Served on a sesame seed bun with a generous portion of sauerkraut and melted Swiss cheese, the KC is kinda like a hot dog version of a Reuben.
- New England. Boiled and grilled and served in a New England-style bun with plenty of relish and mustard, the best New England dogs are also topped with Boston baked beans.
- Nicknamed a Reindeer hot dog, the meat used is typically caribou. This sausage-like hot dog will come in a steamed bun with grilled onions.
- Mile-high dogs tend to be a bit longer than what’s considered standard, topped with grilled green peppers, sauerkraut, and onions.
- The Sonoran hot dog: take a grilled, bacon-wrapped wiener, then add pinto beans, grilled onions/peppers, tomatoes, relish, salsa, mayo, mustard and shredded cheese. Whew!
- A bit more understated, the Texas hot dog downplays the Sonoran’s no-holds-barred approach, simply adding chili, cheese, and jalapenos to a standard dog.
- Ohio I. Carts around Cleveland offer the Polish Boy: a kielbasa or hot dog served on a bun covered with french fries, sweet southern-style barbecue sauce or hot sauce, and coleslaw.
- Ohio II. Drop down to Cincinnati and you’ll find dogs smothered with Cincinnati-style chili with a heaping mound of grated cheddar cheese on top.
- New Jersey. The NJ Italian Dog comes nestled comfortably in thick pizza bread, topped with onions, peppers and deep fried potatoes.
- Forget the cheese steak: the Philadelphia dog features an all-beef hot dog, with a fish cake also inside the bun. Typically topped with sweet vinegar slaw and spicy mustard.
There are more, of course, but this should get you started. In restaurants and at street carts, ballparks and backyard barbeques—hot dogs are everywhere. It’s a pretty good bet that with a little searching, you can find just what you like. But don’t be afraid to try out the regional favorite, wherever you are: it may turn out to be YOUR new favorite, as well.