8 hot dog styles across the country to try on the 4th of July

| Al Mancini 

There are few foods as all-American as the hot dog. The way we prepare them and enjoy them varies dramatically, however, depending where in this great nation we find ourselves. What’s commonplace in one city often sounds downright weird elsewhere.

Thanks to Las Vegas’ large expatriate population and the millions of tourists who visit each year, many of these dogs (or close facsimiles of them) are available in our valley. Moreover, most of them can be recreated at home fairly easily. So as we celebrate America’s birthday, let’s also celebrate her creativity, perhaps by giving our holiday dogs some all-American diversity.

On this dog, available on nearly any corner in Manhattan, the mustard can be either brown or yellow, the white onions may be in a red sauce, and the kraut is always “sauer.” And, insists Ralph Perrazzo of Long Island’s bBd’s (coming soon to Palace Station, with house-made hot dogs planned), it has to snap when you bite it.

“A good New York hot dog is about the snap. Sabrett, Nathan’s, the reason why I think they’ve been so successful over the years is their dogs have a snap, even if they’re in dirty dog water, as we call it.”

Since New York’s famous Papaya King closed its Las Vegas operations, the obvious choice for this experience is Nathan’s at New York-New York.But you can find solid versions at several other local joints, including Haute Doggery at The Linq.

Chicagoans may differ on the best way to cook the hot dog, but there’s no dispute that it should be a local Vienna Beef frank. The best bet is to get it “dragged through the garden,” with all the traditional toppings, including the neon-colored relish and bright vegetables. Unfortunately, as Carson Kitchen executive chef Scott Simon (raised in the Chicago suburb of Evanston) explains, that leads to some wishful thinking in many who eat it.

“You think maybe you’re eating something a little healthy, because you have a lot of greenery on it.”

If you’re in the Windy City, Chicago restaurateur Graham Elliot (who sometimes cooks in Las Vegas through a partnership with his MGM Cotai restaurant) advises there’s one topping you should never request.

“More important than having it be dragged through the garden is making sure ketchup gets nowhere near it.”

A handful of local spots make a good Chicago dog, including Haute Doggery and Windy City Beefs-N-Dogs.

To its fans, this spin on a chili dog is known simply as a Coney. The name is a nod to American Coney Island in downtown Detroit, which has been making them since 1917. And the rivalry between that spot and its next-door neighbor Lafayette Coney Island, which allegedly began with an argument between brothers over the spices in the chili, is one of the greatest in the food world.

Sparrow + Wolf partner and executive chef Brian Howard, born and raised in Detroit, says this hot dog preparation is in his blood.

“It’s an upbringing thing. We had Conies in our house probably a couple of times a week because they were cheap and easy to do. So we tended to eat a lot of them.”

Fortunately for Las Vegas, American Coney Island has an outpost in The D Las Vegas on Fremont Street.

Northern New Jersey is rather territorial about its hot dogs. In Newark and the surrounding area, the so-called Italian hot dog is a cult favorite. Served in a fat pita-like “pizza bread” coated with mustard, it starts with one or two hot dogs cooked in oil. They’re then covered with fried peppers and onions, followed by a mound of fried potatoes and a dose of ketchup. The two main contenders for the Italian hot dog crown are Jimmy Buff’s and Dicky Dee’s.

In the meantime, a bit further north in Clifton, the hot dog of choice is known as a Jersey ripper. These beef and pork franks are tossed into the deep fryer and cooked until their casings split, ripping the dog open. The go-to spot for this taste of the Garden State is a place called Rutt’s Hut, founded in 1928.

You can find spins on each of these in Las Vegas. For a Newark-style Italian, head to Plantone’s Italian Market. For a ripper, Haute Doggery offers one topped with onions and sweet and spicy yellow relish.

While a lot of regional hot dog preparations have long and storied histories, putting cream cheese on hot dogs is a relatively recent trend, without a landmark shop claiming its creation. A Seattle Weekly story published in 2012 dates its origin in 1989, when the operator of a vegetarian bagel cart named Hadley Longe responded to repeated requests for hot dogs by combining the two.

Las Vegas native chef Daniel Stramm, who spent time in Seattle from 2013-17, says he’d never heard of them before moving there. But, he says, “late nights on Capitol Hill usually end at a hot dog stand.” His advice for those who think it sounds weird is to give it a shot, calling the Seattle dog “a must-try next time you venture out there.”

If you want to sample one close to home, Haute Doggery offers a version with a char-grilled frank that, in addition to the traditional toppings, also features kraut, jalapenos and chili aioli.

The Seattle Dog char grilled frank with cream cheese, kraut, grilled onion, jalape–o and chili aioli at Haute Doggery at LINQ Promenade in Las Vegas Friday, June 29, 2018. K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal

According to food historian Gary Nabhan, speaking to NPR in 2009, the so-called Sonoran hot dog originated in the Mexican city of Hermosillo in the late ‘90s before migrating across the border into Arizona. Today in the U.S., the popularity of a bacon-wrapped frank piled high with toppings is centered in the Tucson and Phoenix areas.

Finding an actual Sonoran in Las Vegas can be tough. But several places have bacon-wrapped dogs that seem to be influenced by it. The L.A.-based Dirt Dog chain has numerous bacon-wrapped franks at its two Las Vegas locations, including a house dog topped with bacon thousand island and green chili spread. Cheffinis in Downtown Container Park offers El Mexicano, piled high with avocado, onions, tomatoes, green sauce, chipotle guava, garlic aioli and cherry pepper relish. And Haute Doggery deep-fries its bacon-encased dog before finishing it off with grilled onions, jalapenos and mayo to create a Tijuana Dog.

Chili bacon-wrapped dog from Dirt Dog (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Known as a New York System or a hot wiener, when you order one of these hot dogs with everything, you ask for it “all the way.” The diner-style restaurant in Providence that lays claim to inventing this Ocean State staple, Olneyville N.Y. System, received the America’s Classic Award from the James Beard Foundation for its contribution to the hot dog world.

Scotch 80 Prime chef Barry Dakake, who calls them “hot weenies” and has been enjoying them for 40 years, says watching them assembled, lined up a dozen or more at a time on an employee’s forearm, is almost as memorable as eating them.

“In the old days, they used to start in the palm of their hand and run 12 or 15, as many as they could, up their arm. They’d be sweating, and no protection on the arm in the old days, and they’d have a wooden stick that they would stick into the mustard and they’d be up the arm – Bam! Bam! Bam! They’d be whacking them with the stick. Mustard’s flying. Meat sauce is flying.”

Health regulations have resulted in the implementation of gloves in recent years, although the owners say some customers still insist they be made on a bare arm.

Sadly, we don’t know of anyplace offering these in Las Vegas. You can, however, find a recipe for the sauce at www.olneyvillenewyorksystem.com/make-our-wiener-sauce-at-home/ .

Renata Follmann