Warm Takes - Episode 1: Hot Dogs
I love hot dogs. I love them barbecued, I love them boiled and thrown in with some macaroni and cheese, and I truly love them microwaved. There are over 20 billion hot dogs consumed in America every single year and yet, the lowly hot dog gets relegated even lower than a McDonald's cheeseburger in the minds of foodies.
In Flagstaff, AZ there was a local spot, Primo's, that took dogs to the next level and catered to hundreds of beer and vodka soaked college kids. I spent many nights waiting in the cold, scrounging up loose change in my pockets so that I could grab a bite of their Tucson dog. A huge vienna frank with nacho cheese sauce, bacon, and jalapeños. After a late night out, there was nothing more satisfying than that dog. Unfortunately, I've learned that Primo's closed down which is a loss for my old alma mater town.
After graduating and eventually meandering back to the land of poutine and hockey, I was reintroduced to a hot dog style that I hadn't crossed paths with in many years, the street vendor dog. Out for a walk near the beach? Grab a hot dog. Late for your meeting downtown? There's a hot dog for you. Hot dog vendor carts are sprinkled through the city of Toronto. In the smaller American towns I spent most of my expat days, the joy of a street vendor dog were all but forgotten.
There was a movement in Toronto throughout the 2010's to elevate the hot dog from it's street food status. Fancy Frank's opened up a gourmet hot dog shop in 2012 with quite a lot of fanfare. Clearly the appetite for a fancy dog was there as they quickly expanded to three shops. With hot dogs like the, "Frankie Goes To Buffalo" which panko fried a dog and topped it with blue cheese, carrots, celery, chicken bacon and buffalo wings, gourmet dogs seemed to be rolling.
A lot has changed for me since the days of 2am dogs. And although dressing up our frankfurter friends with more toppings than a ice cream sundae, the call to simplicity was beckoning me.
I started thinking, is a fancier hot dog what we need? Does it make the hot dog experience more enjoyable to load it up? Is there anything better than a simple dog with ketchup and mustard? Sorry Chicago, I know I lost you here, but ketchup is fantastic and it belongs on a hot dog (which Heinz proved [with this incredible promo video for Chicago Dog Sauce back in 2017).
My thoughts eventually came back to another of the quick-bite greats, pizza. If you live in North America you've likely dabbled in the quest for more pizza toppings. More is better, no? Like your basic pepperoni and cheese pizza, a hot dog appears to be the perfect vessel for toppings to mingle and flavour profiles to mix. But toppings mask inadequacies in the basics. And like the San Antonio spurs in the early 2000s, nothing beats the basics.
I'm a firm believer in the power of the dog. It's a quick, delicious meal you can eat on the go. They magically spring out of random carts on the street and they make the length of a baseball game worth your time. So, let's elevate the dog in our hearts and minds while respecting the simplicity of its form.