As the expression goes, “as American as baseball, Mom, hot dogs and apple pie”, tomorrow, July 23 is National Hot Dog Day. In Los Angeles, there are many places to get a great hot dog to celebrate the holiday. There are very few things people are as passionate about as hot dogs and in each region of the country there are favorite ways to make them.
As a student at Cal State Northridge, Cupid’s Hot Dogs had a location right across from the Speech-Drama building where I had the majority of my classes. It was easier to go to Cupid’s for a dog and some of their delicious fries than to haul cross-campus to the Student Union for mediocre food.
Later on when I went to a lot of music clubs, after going to see a show at the Roxy or the Whiskey a Go Go, hot dogs were the best thing to wash down an evening’s full of drinks. That was when I first discovered Pink’s and the original location of Oki Dog on Santa Monica Boulevard.
My years in Hollywood for the studios meant that I worked a lot of night shifts. If it wasn’t too late, dinner was usually at Pink’s for a chili dog or three. When I did a true night shift, Oki Dog on Fairfax became my restaurant of choice. Two dogs, chili, pastrami wrapped in tortillas, the description of the Oki dog doesn’t do justice to the taste and the size. To this day I still need to get an Oki dog fix once in a while. And you never knew who you’d run into there!
The passion over regional hot dogs runs deep. Many insist the only good hot dog is a New York ‘dirty water hot dog’, pulled out of a water bath from the multitude of hot dog carts on most corners of the city. Chicago, of course is famous for their Chicago style hot dog, with the regular mustard topping augmented by celery salt, a pickle spear, tomato wedge, chopped onions, a sport pepper and neon-green relish. And to be authentic, it has to be served on a poppy seed bun.
Clint Eastwood, playing San Francisco Police Inspector Harry Callahan in the Dirty Harry movie ‘Sudden Impact’, added his feelings about the way a hot dog should not be made:
Harry Callahan: You know what makes me really sick to my stomach?
Harry Callahan: It’s watching you stuff your face with those hot dogs. Nobody, I mean NOBODY puts ketchup on a hot dog.
Of course, from our neighbor to the east, Arizona, comes the Sonora hot dog. A hot dog is wrapped in bacon, grilled on a flattop and then topped with grilled onions, fresh onions, jalapenos, mayonnaise, salsa, Mexican crema and often beans. Served with a fire-roasted chile on the side, it is truly a taste of the Southwest. These days, it may also be the most popular dog in L.A. too. And who hasn’t gone to a Los Angeles Dodgers game and not had at least one ‘Dodger Dog’?
In New England, hot dogs may be split and grilled on a flattop. In New Jersey and Connecticut, “ripper dogs” are the specialty, deep fried until they blister and even split. In Detroit, and parts of Michigan and Indiana, a Coney Dog is a dog topped with a beanless chili. The Coney sauce is made of either ground beef or ground beef heart, seasoned with spices that tend to go towards a Greek sauce rather than a spicy chili.
In addition to regular beef and pork hot dogs, there are veggie dogs, tofu dogs and turkey dogs. Mitsuwa Marketplace in Mar Vista even has a place in the food court that sells fish hot dogs. And if you are Kosher, there is always a Hebrew National Kosher dog. So on National Hot Dog Day tomorrow, take a ride to your favorite hot dog joint to celebrate the holiday. Or invite some friends over and grill up some dogs (don’t try to duplicate the ‘hot dog scene’ in ‘The Right Stuff’ though!). Any way you do it, enjoy a hot dog on it’s special day!