Slapping a frankfurter on a bun with ketchup and mustard is a summer tradition, but perhaps an uninspired one. Add a little sizzle to your plate by stealing some ideas from these regional tweaks, hailing from as far as Mexico and Japan and as close as your own backyard. Who knows? One may become your new favorite.
1. Sonoran: You may have to get to Arizona—or Sonora, Mexico—to get your hands on a Sonoran-style hot dog, but it’s worth the trip. These babies are wrapped in mesquite-smoked bacon and loaded with toppings: diced tomatoes, fresh diced onions, grilled onions, whole beans, mayo, mustard and jalapeño sauce or salsa—all of which somehow fits in a hot dog bun. Sort of.
2. Chicago-style: Carl Sandburg famously wrote about “the marks of wanton hunger” on people’s faces in the Windy City. Luckily for residents, Chicago-style hot dogs were born out of the Great Depression, when a grocer’s son began selling them for a nickel out of an old vegetable cart. The all-beef hot dog, served on a poppyseed bun, features plenty of fresh veggies: tomatoes, dill pickles, peppers and chopped onion. Bring on the celery salt, mustard and relish, but make sure to hold the ketchup.
3. Completo: Think American hot dogs aren’t big enough? Just head down to Chile, and you’ll find a variation twice as big. And the completo iscomplete—with tomatoes, sauerkraut, mayo, cheese, green sauce and Chilean chili. Meanwhile, the Italiano twist above looks a bit like that country’s flag, with mashed avocados added to the mix.
4. Cossack: Kramarczuk’s deli in Minneapolis’ “Nordeast” district has some of the best smoked Ukrainian sausage (Kovbasa) you can find. The coarse ground pork sausage is seasoned with fresh ground garlic and black pepper, smoked in a real hickory wood smoker and stuffed in a natural hog casing. Ukrainians even put Kovbasa in their Easter baskets. The Cossack contains the sausage served on a bun and topped with melted Swiss cheese and sauerkraut.
5. Choripanes: Argentina’s unique twist is a chorizo hot dog with chimichurri sauce. New York City’s infamous Los Perros Locos added grilled provoleta (an Argentine cheese), aioli and even crushed potato chips to the mix. Who needs a bag when you can put the spuds right on your dog?
6. Schichimi Togarashi: Schichimi Togarashi is a Japanese blend of seven spices, typically chili pepper, ground sansho, roasted orange peel, white and black sesame seeds, hemp seeds, ground ginger and nori or anori. We couldn’t get to Japan to sample one, but Kramarczuk’s offers a tasty version. They add the spice blend to wagyu beef and top it with cilantro-apple sauce and wasabi mayo.
7. Coney Island: Coney Dogs don’t actually hail from Coney Island, but that’s where the natural-casing beef comes from. You’ll find them in parts of Michigan and in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Unlike a chili dog, they’re topped with an all-meat, no-beans chili. The so-called “Coney sauce” topping also includes onions and yellow mustard. In Cincinnati, you can even find a Cheese Coney. Take a bite and you’ll see why these puppies have an entire type of restaurant named after them.
8. Slaw: Head down to North Carolina and you’ll find Southern-style hot dogs. The actual frankfurter isn’t much to write home about, but the entire ensemble is delectable. The buns are toasted, or even slightly charred, and the dogs are topped with yellow mustard, homemade chili, creamy cole slaw and onions. If you’re in the Winston-Salem area, visit the one-of-a-kind JS Pulliam BBQ for best results.