The (Hot) Dog Days of Summer

I hope everyone had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend! I know my family took advantage of the weather and grilled out …. A LOT! That can only mean one thing: summer is here!

Ah, summer. For someone who is cold from basically October through May, the summer sun brings a much welcomed wave of warmth. And we always have some pretty hot days in Northeast Ohio, so naturally, on those days, the last place I want to be is inside, cooking over a hot stove. To me, summer cooking is fast, appetizing to a crowd and involves the grill in one way or another. For those reasons, one of my favorite summer meals is a hot dog bar. This is exactly what it sounds like: a buffet set up with a variety of condiments to pile on top of the ever-popular American speciality: the hot dog.

Loved by kids and adults alike, the hot dog is an excellent choice for several reasons: a hot dog bar will feed a large group of people on a small budget; it can be personalized and made as basic or as elaborate as you want it to be; and it’s just another excuse to enjoy one of the staples of an American summer.

 

Source of picture

We did a hot dog bar like this for my nephew’s birthday party last year and received a lot of positive feedback. Doing a hot dog bar is simple: grill (or cook) the hot dogs, set out whichever condiments you chose and let your guests get creative! For those guests who are feeling a bit more adventurous than ketchup and yellow mustard, you can include a menu of different combinations to try (here is the one I made for my nephew’s party. Some of them are personalized for my family, but most are standard from different regions of the United States.). Put the menu in a frame and set up on the table.

Below are some of my favorite hot dog bar condiments and combinations (adapted from the document I linked above). Please share any other ideas you have!

A Basic Hot Dog Bar
* Your favorite brand of hot dogs, sausages or brauts
* Buns of your choice

Any of the following condiments:
* Ketchup
* Yellow mustard
* Stadium mustard
* Diced onions
* Relish
* Coleslaw
* Chili
* Shredded cheese
* Hot sauce
* Salsa
* Guacamole / diced avocados

If you want to get a little more fancy-pants with your hot dog, there are endless ways to do it. Below are some popular regional hot dog variations, as well as some variations people in my life have come up with.

Coney Island Dog

Topped with beanless, all beef chili, diced onions and yellow mustard, this Michigan native is perhaps one of the most famous variations of hot dogs.

Kansas City Style

This hot dog is topped with sauerkraut and melted Swiss cheese.

Dad’s Mexican Dog

I was first introduced to this by my father. He tops his hot dog with salsa, guacamole and some diced onions. Simple but delicious. Ole!

Cheese Coney

Hailing from Cincinnati, this is a variation of the Coney Island Dog. A Cheese Coney uses less yellow mustard and diced onions, and is topped with shredded cheese.

All-The-Way

In West Virginia, this popular hot dog is topped with yellow mustard, chili, diced onions and coleslaw.

Garbage Dog

I’m not sure where this one originated, but someone out there should be taking credit for this monster. The Garbage Dog has just about everything: ketchup, yellow mustard, diced onions, french fries, bacon, coleslaw, and anything else you desire (or that can fit) on top of the hot dog.

Chicago Style

The Windy City tops their dogs with diced onions and tomatoes, a dill pickle spear, sweet pickle relish, yellow mustard and celery salt and is served in a sesame seed bun. A word of advice: do not ask a Chicago hot dog vendor for ketchup. That is considered ruining the hot dog.

The Tornado

A trip to Cape May, NJ, is not complete without this hot dog from Tommy’s on the boardwalk. Topped with sauerkraut, yellow mustard, mashed potatoes and shredded cheese, this is the ultimate comfort food.

Italian Style

Not just for Italian sausages: top a hot dog with sautéed onions and green peppers.

My Choice

While I enjoy many, many different kinds of hot dog toppings, my combination of choice is Stadium Mustard and diced onions. So simple, yet so good. (And for my fellow fans of trivia, here is an interesting fact about Stadium Mustard: it was invented right here in Cleveland, Ohio: http://www.stadiummustard.com/history.html)/

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