NEWS

So many hot dogs, so little time

Jim Hillibish

How do we love our hot dogs, let us count the ways. You could eat your way across the country and never get the same dog.

Each community has its own mascot hot dog. They claim it’s the best, and they defend it as vigorously as they eat it.

How this happened is anybody’s guess. Admittedly, the hot dog is beloved, but certainly not a cult or religion, except in Chicago.

Let’s begin our trip to wiener wonderland:

New York City: Always all-beef, natural casings, always handy with kraut at dozens of Sabrett street carts. Papaya King stand-up shops grill “famous frankfurters,” adding dill relish and a side cup of — what? — papaya juice. Hey, it works.

Maine: They’re called red snappers with red casings that sputter on the grill and crunch in the mouth. Flo’s Holdings, a chain in southern Maine (Route 1), has the secret: snap dogs drenched in mayo with sweet onion relish and celery salt.

Boston: Best bet is Fenway Park, but you’ll need a ticket. Beantown dogs always are steamed, with the buns softening on top of the machine. Ask for “the works” and brace for a critical mass of ketchup, mustard, sweet relish, chopped onions and piccalilli, a tomato-based relish of various pickled veggies.

Washington, D.C.: Top dogs are called “half-smokes” and made of spiced, coarsely ground beef and pork, especially at Ben’s Chili Bowl outlets.

Pittsburgh: The Pittsburgh Dog is available universally and at PNC Park. This is a humongous, 18-inch tube wrapped in a hoagie bun with lettuce, tomato, coleslaw and slices of smoked provolone.

Western Pennsylvania: New Brighton Hot Dog Shoppes thrill dog lovers, steamed and loaded with cheese sauce and perhaps chili. And cheddar fries on the side.

Northeastern Ohio: Canton is the hot-dog capital of the universe with two large plants churning out millions of Frankies (”The Keener Wiener”) and Sugardale Coneys. The natives load on on the toppings  but prefer a good chili dog with onions and mustard, hopefully a foot-long.

Cleveland: Johnny Hot Dog is a time machine back to the 1930s. The stand in West Side Market is hardly appetizing, but the crowd could care less. Ask for a “burnt dog. ” We warned you.

Toledo: Tony Packo’s seven locations serve Hungarian sausage dogs with an array of “different” pickle relishes and sauce made on site. They do mail orders and have fans nationwide.

Cincinnati: Home of the German wienerwurst, among the best are at Gene’s Dog House downtown. You can hardly find the dog for the condiments including sliced tomatoes and pickles, onions and hot peppers. And chili and cheddar, of course.

West Virginia: A must on nearly every restaurant menu are steamed jumbo garlic dogs blanketed with creamy coleslaw.

Detroit: Land of the Coney Island, all-pork dogs topped with beefy chili (no beans). “Detroit style” is sloppy, more chili than dog, eaten with a fork and 12 napkins. Try American or Lafayette shops, side-by-side downtown. They battle over who invented the Coney Island.

Chicago: Order a “red hot.” Here comes a Vienna Beef dog loaded with a dill spear, pickled peppers and “nuclear relish,” so neon green it looks radioactive. Add celery salt and enjoy. Portillo’s chain is C-dog heaven.

Tulsa: Home of the Coney-I-Lander outfit serving steamed “mini” dogs that are less than an inch in diameter but nine inches long. Served with hot brown mustard and shredded mild cheddar, melted.

Los Angeles: Pink’s stand in Hollywood is legendary, home of the stars and long dogs that stick out of the buns, accessorized with dark chili sauce and/or ketchup, mustard and pickle relish in an art deco design. Really.

Seattle: Get an Ivar Dog from the seafood restaurant of the same name and sold in concession stands at Safeco Field. This is a slice of fried cod smothered in coleslaw on a hot-dog bun. Where’s the dog? Apparently nobody notices.

The Repository