Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Let The Hot Dog Wars Commence…

I’ve spent a season with the Phoenix, Coyotes running a concern in the Comerica Bank Club. It’s not a bad little gig. I get to put out some fun food, I have a great view of the ice, and there are some other perks too.






But, one of the things that I’ve realized in my time there, is that there brews a burning question in the hearts of sports fans: the quest for the perfect hot dog.

For the record: I’m the wee fella with the beard, and the good looking one is my assistant, Heather. She’s a good kid, and not a bad cook in her own right. She’s also about fifty brazillion feet tall, while I’m a staggering 5’6″ which means that we make an entertaining couple while working.

Now then, to the meat of things. We are in the desert. Working for the Coyotes, and thus working for Gretzky, it means that I’ve got Canuckitstani fans coming in, still questioning the sanity of taking the Winnipeg Jets, rebranding and moving them to Phoenix. And not without some ire. We are an odd duck as a franchise. Hockey, in the desert. Not exactly the first thing you think of when you think Phoenix. And given the travesty that was the original stadium, there is some serious questioning of the wisdom to bring the franchise so far and away–mind you, that Winnipeg, while decrying losing their team, it’s hard to refute the fiscal wisdom of moving the team from a market that couldn’t support it, and the “expansion” aspect of moving the team to the South West has given an appreciation of the sport to a lot of new folks, and the transplants who make up the Phoenix market, a LOT of them are from all across the country. Chicago. Detroit. Boston. New York. LA. Even an odd duck Canuckistani.

The one thing that we can count on out here, consistently, are strong opinions–not just on Gretzky’s coaching, the value of our goalie, the youth of the team, their spotty performance, or what the heck the coaching staff is trying to accomplish–and when they run out of steam to kvetch about the team, they still have plenty left to go on about our food. On ice cream. Pizza. Chili. The whole South Western cuisine aspect that dominates the market, and the near fisticuffs that you can see with talking BBQ out this way is a wonder to behold. Makes my wee Southren heart glad to see that kind of passion about food.

But, the question that draws the MOST passion, is always that perfect hot dog.

Hot dogs mean a lot of things. Red Hots. Snappers. Coneys. Sonoran. Dodger Dogs. Fairfield

“splits.” The Washington “half smoke.” Cheese dogs. Frankfurters. Boiled. Grilled. The Jersey Mutant Potato Dog. Natural casing. Hebrew National. Vienna Beef. Nathan’s. Wieners. Dawgs. Seattle Dogs. Tubby Dogs from the land up North. Tijuana “Danger” Dogs. Panchas. Perros Caliente. Jochos. Kraut Dogs. Kubies.

You got a major city, you’ve got a variation on the dog. Variations on the dog itself. From White brats to Red Hots. All beef Vienna franks. Hebrew Nationals. Spicy sausage. Let’s not even get into the variations on bread and toppings…

Chili–and all the variations thereof. Relish–from that odd concoction of sweet pickles to my favorite giardiniera. For the record, the Glendale Arena makes our own giardiniera, and it’s a blend of cherry peppers, sports peppers, lightly pickled cauliflower, carrot, celery, garlic, onion, red and green peppers, and healthy lashings of banana peppers to boot, with an apple cider vinegar base to go with the pickling spice. We chop all that down, and let it sit for a good couple of weeks to get it perfectly balanced, and it’s hot, tangy, and makes those who grew up with Italian delis weep with joy. And those who grew up in Chicago likewise do a jig of happiness. Then you get into cheeses, condiments–to ketchup or not? Mayonnaise or mustard? What kind of mustard even? Yellow or spicy brown? To kraut or not to kraut? Onions, fresh or caramelized? Mushrooms at all?  “Sauce” can mean marinara, with meat or without. Chili with meat or without. You can get into fisticuffs just on the subtleties of the “sauce” alone, and onions can bring profanities from little tiny grannies with blue hair and vocabularies that make sailors blush. The question of cole slaw or deep frying means all the world in Virginia.

Which begs the question: What’s your perfect dog?

Local market arena fare? That hole in the wall joint or cart that rolls by?

In Western Mass, we used to wait every season for the Hot Dog Lady–very basic Red Hots with relish, giardinera, onions, mustard, ketchup, and a meat heavy chili, and basic cheddar. The real draw was less the dogs, than the Hot Dog Lady herself, who beat the Western Mass heat by peddling her dogs in bikini top and short shorts, and even in her deep 40s, girl looked good. And she attributed it to living well, and loving what she did for a living. And as a chef, I can’t exactly argue against it.

Now then, for introducing the topic, I do offer up the Chili Dog that I do at the arena. A Vienna Beef Frankwurst–8ozs of natural casing goodness, my beef and bean chili, cheddar, scallion, and if it was perfect, I suggest a slather of giardinara, because I love the stuff.

But, your results may vary…

But, what IS your favorite dog?  


  1. vcalzone

    I first thought the title of this post was an obscure reference to this.

    Those look delicious. I’m a fairly plain hot dog eater myself, but damn.

  2. One of may favorite subjects – food and cooking.

    That last picture looks delicious. There are so many different ways to make what people call hot dogs, but most aren’t really dogs at all – more like any kind of sausage in a bun. IMO, if you are going to make a hot dog then you have to start with a hot dog and not with Italian sausage or brats.

    We have a special coney island hot dog in our area. I’ve read that coney dogs started in Michigan and then spread to Chicago and eventually to NY. Regardless of where they originated there is no question that the hot dog itself originated in NY. More specifically, at Coney Island. The Flint coney though is unique. In order to make the real thing, the hot dog must be a Kogel’s Vienna made with natural casings. Kogel is a local meat company. The dog is cooked on a short-order grill. It is placed into a steamed bun and then topped with a meat sauce, which is in turn topped with mustard and chopped onions. The sauce is what makes them unique. The sauce for a Flint coney is called a dry sauce. It is made of finely ground meat, usually the meat from some hot dogs without their casing. You can also use finely ground beef. A Detroit area coney, on the other hand, has a wet sauce similar to what you find in other areas of the country.

    This picture shows a coney without the mustard and onions with which it would normally be served. It should give you a pretty good idea of what the sauce is like.

    I am a huge fan of Kogel Viennas. I missed them a lot when I moved to MS for a couple of years. One time when my son came to visit on my birthday, he brought an 8lb box of viennas. They were gone in about 2 weeks. One of the first things I did after moving back to the Flint area was to stop into one of the Coney Islands (that’s what we call diners around here) and have a couple of coneys. It is frequently one of the first things people who move away list when you ask them what they miss most.

    This sauce recipe is the closest I can find to a restaurant recipe. It should include a couple of teaspoons of cumin, which I don’t see in the ingredients. Some people also substitute a little bbq sauce for some of the tomato sauce. Others use ketchup instead of tomato sauce. Each restaurant has its own sauce recipe.

    I also like to cook viennas on the grill. They are done when the casing begins to brown and then splits. That extra snap you get when biting through the casing is what makes them so good. When I make them on the grill I usually toast the bun and then melt some cheese in it. Another great way to cook them is to split the dog, shove some cheese in the slit and then wrap it in bacon and cook it under the broiler. Heart attack on a bun.

  3. I love your diaries, and your pugnacious style, wit and great reasoning. I also love America, it’s inventiveness, possibilities, hospitality and sheer chutzpah (I also love your assistant) but can I make a confession that will probably get me bounced from the Moose, and banned at most ports of entry?

    I don’t like hot dogs.

    There I’ve said it. I know I’ll lose friends, but the truth must out.

    True, I ate them as a kid for the meagre protein available in this benighted damp little island in the 60s and 70s. But I always gagged on them. Even if they weren’t made from the processed remains of ‘sausage dogs’ (which I think I once believed) they sure tasted as if they were made from the bits that drag along the ground.

    From you’re writing I can tell you’re a great chef (writing and cooking are the same magical processes to my mind) but even with your shamanistic powers to conjure up miracles from spices and relishes, I don’t even think you can teach me to love this slice of Americana.

    Sorry guys. Hot dogs go with popcorn, concealed weapons and right wing shockjocks in my book. Call me an effete English snob (though you’d be thrice wrong) but I’m going to have to buck out of the Hot Dog Wars, and let others enter the fray instead.

    In this war, your inveterate allies, the Brits, remain neutral.  

  4. but my heart belongs to the Toronto Street Dog.

    Not just any Toronto Street Dog – sliced diagonally and flame grilled to dripping succulence in your presence –  you need the really good vendor with All The Fixings.  Hot

    Corn Relish is the metric: if a vendor has hot corn relish he’ll have the bacon bits, large chopped onions (none of this onion dust, I’m talkin’ sugar cubes of cool onion goodness), black olives and all the rest.  The trick is to get as much of every topping balanced on the street dog as is possible – then just a bit more – and forsaking all thought of public decency attack with gusto!

    New York, you can keep your sad dogs lolling in their greasy water.  Give me a Toronto dog (from the vendor by the Ferry docks on Front Street) and stand back.

  5. I posted this recipe in the open thread. I’ve got a couple of questions for the chef. Do you think it could use a touch of nutmeg? And do you think Ritz crackers would be a little too rich for the cracker crumbs?

    Morel pie


    1 pre-baked pie shell brushed with Dijon mustard and sprinkled with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

    1/4 lb. butter

    1 Vidalia or another type of sweet spring onion, julienne

    1/2 lb. cleaned morels (or more if you want)

    1/2 tsp. thyme

    1 cup grated Parmigiano

    2 cup cream

    2 whole eggs lightly beaten

    salt and pepper

    1 cup cracker crumbs

    Directions: Line the pie shell with foil, weight with dry beans, and pre-bake shell at 350°F until edges are light brown. Remove foil and beans and brush crust with mustard, sprinkle with cheese and put back in oven until cheese just melts.

    Melt butter in large sauté pan, add onions, and cook until onions are soft on low to medium heat. Add morels and cook until soft and half the juice is reduced. Add thyme, cream, and cheese. Bring to a simmer, then slowly add egg mixture. Salt and pepper to taste.

    Pour mixture into pie shell top with cracker crumbs and bake at 350°F until top is brown and custard is set. Let cool, cut into 6 pieces and serve with a salad or fresh asparagus.  

  6. if they are done right – love em!  at least the 100% beef kind.  generally – if they are good ones – they don’t even need condiments although i am partial to ketchup and mustard and (gasp!) mayo (its the canadian in me).

  7. fogiv

    1. Standard vendor dog w/ mustard during my first double header at Yankee Stadium (not the new one).  Not that the hot dog was good, but everything else was.  At the end of the day, I got to cross an item off of my Things to Do Before I Die list.

    2. Three boiled dogs from a “Scrappy Dog” cart perched outside the door of Lasalle’s Bar in Chico, CA.  My 21st birthday.

    3. Gray’s Papaya on West 72nd Street and Broadway. My first ever trip to the Big Apple.

Comments are closed.