Did you eat a hot dog this past Fourth of July? If you did, you contributed one (or two or three) of the more than 150 million frankfurters eaten in America on Independence Day. It is safe to say that hot dogs (or red hots, weiners, dogs, frankfurters, franks, etc.) are one of the more patriotic foods in America. In fact, according to the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council, Americans consume more than seven billion hot dogs between Memorial Day and Labor Day.  

A large bulk of those seemed to be eaten during my favorite event of the year – Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. I always look forward to seeing world record holder Joey Chestnut, who’s eaten a record-breaking 74 dogs, defend his mustard belt. The contest is simultaneously disgusting, amazing and mouth-watering. I’m not saying that watching a person shove (there is barely any chewing) hot dogs and buns down their throat at the rate of seven per minute is appetizing, but it does create the “how many could you eat?” conversation and then subsequent craving. My son claimed he could break records, and we all called out arbitrary numbers. Initially, I predicted I could eat 15 hot dogs, but upon further reflection, when I thought about the rapidly expanding bun dipped in water, I dropped my number to around 10.   

But I digress, I don’t plan on entering a hot dog eating contest any time soon. In fact, if I’m going to eat a hot dog, it is going to be a really good hot dog. I’m talking about an all-beef, natural casing frank with a satisfying snap. As a foodie, I love hot dogs because there are so many ways you can dress them up. In fact, I’ve been wanting to host a hot dog buffet party for awhile now. I guess it is time to get that going. What could be more fun than all the great toppings in one spot so you can eat your hot dog any way you like it? How do you like yours? With relish? With melted cheese? With barbecue sauce?

I’m a huge fan of the New York-style dog. That’s a Nathan’s hot dog with yellow mustard and sauerkraut. In fact, I love it so much I once made the mistake of ordering one in Fenway Park, home of the Fenway Frank, in Boston. I don’t need to tell you how that went. The vendor promptly told me to “go back to New York” – they don’t sell sauerkraut. Oops.

Recently on a trip to Chicago, I went to the world-famous restaurant Portillos and tried my first Chicago dog. I was immediately head-over-heels with the spicy little pickle and poppy seed bun. And I certainly can’t forget about my college days in Michigan eating Coneys which are hot dogs topped with a very smooth and heavily spiced chili, onions and yellow mustard.  

Wow, as I write this article, I’m realizing that I’m a huge fan of hot dogs!  

So whether you eat your hot dog plain (who does that?) or with ketchup (according to the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council definition of hot dog etiquette, anyone over the age of 18 shouldn’t do this), with sauerkraut or chili, they are pretty adaptable. Frankfurters are great for barbecues, last-minute gatherings and even to serve to royalty. If you get the chance, watch the movie “Hyde Park on Hudson.” It is the story of President Franklin D. Roosevelt which dramatizes a visit to the states by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1939. President Roosevelt served them hot dogs at an outdoor picnic and the king, while initially offended, ended up eating two. 

So I as I sit and think about hot dogs, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the not-appetizingly named but super delicious dirty water dogs. Those are the dogs found in any major city that are served from carts and cooked in hot water. The toppings are generally pretty limited at the cart, but if you’re lucky, you can get one of my favorite toppings, the once-you-try-it-it-is-never-forgotten-and-always-craved tomato-onion sauce. It’s easy to make and it is spicy and sweet and pretty much perfect.

Try it, I promise you will not be disappointed.


Onions in Sauce (the perfect hot dog condiment)

2 large Vidalia onions

¾ cup of water

1 tsp of garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

salt and pepper to taste

1 cup Heinz ketchup

1 tbs butter

¼ cup oil        


Directions: Dice onions, saute in pan with oil. Add all the other ingredients and cook for about 10 minutes. Best served warm on your hot dog.

Lisa Sweet writes about food for the Leavenworth Times. Contact her at foodfreaklvtimes@gmail.com