The Great Hot-Dog Makeover

Posted by Patrick Maness +

Few foods have the legendary, almost-mythical status of the hot dog. The origins of this iconic food are shrouded in hearsay and folklore. Most agree the hot dog came to America via German immigrants in the 19th century, and before that, it had been served for hundreds of years throughout central and northern Europe. Some even claim Homer mentions them in his 3,000-year-old epic poem, The Odyssey.

Unfortunately, for much of history, the question of what went into a hot dog was also a mystery. But for all the cheap and questionable three-for-a-dollar hot dogs out there, there are plenty of delicious, high-quality franks.

Right now in fact, the hot dog is going through a bit of a renaissance. It’s no longer just for kids or filled with questionable ingredients — the hot dog is becoming a true culinary treat.

Fast and casual hot dog business

Former Food Network Star Adam Gertler is one of many celebrity chefs who have set out to reinvent classic American fare, and his particular passion is the hot dog. The center of this passion is his chain of fast-casual restaurants, Dog Haus.

Gertler has a scientist’s eye when it comes to creating delicious dogs. What kind of cuts of meat go into the dog —chuck or brisket — as well as what the optimal fat ratio is, are issues he considers with the utmost care. After all, a good hot dog is the foundation of any successful variety or flavor he might concoct.

The result is that he is bringing a remodeled hot dog, one with a variety of flavors and healthy, ingredients, into the mainstream. But this is also happening all around the country.  

The makeover

From San Francisco to Bangor, Maine, gourmet hotdogs are all the rage. Whether this means perfecting the classic Chicago dog or something completely new, here’s a peek at what some places are doing with their dogs.

  1. The Banh Mi at Haute Dogs & Fries, Alexandria, Virginia. Served on a toasted lobster roll, this creation combines the flavor and garnishes of the famed Vietnamese sandwich, including Sriracha mayo and curry ketchup.
  2. Tamayo dog at Tamayo, Denver, Colorado. A hot dog wrapped in bacon — need we say more? Here, they’re served up with chipotle rouille, pickled chilies and a black bean paste.
  3. San Diego Dog at Harrah’s Resort Southern California. Here’s a masterful example of Southern California’s Mexican-inspired cuisine combined with the humble hot dog. Tricked out in guacamole, fajita mix, Swiss and American cheese and jalapeños, this is a hot dog worth traveling for.

The base of any hot dog is a hearty bun and quality dog. From there, you can add any number of toppings, such as peach relish, pickled vegetables, giardiniera, chutney, mangos — virtually anything.

As these gourmet hot dogs become more prevalent throughout the country, people might be showing up to your restaurant and looking to sample your take on an American classic. Be ready for them!

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