Chefs’ Picks: Hot Dogs
Chefs’ Picks tracks down what the pros are eating and cooking from coast to coast.
Forget apple pie: There’s nothing more American than tubed meat inside a bun. In honor of Fourth of July and, well, summer, we’ve asked chefs from across the country about their favorite hot dogs.
When Joe Isidori, chef and owner of Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer, is in the mood for a frank, he steps away from his insanely busy burger and shake spots in Manhattan’s SoHo and Meatpacking District neighborhoods. In fact, he escapes the city altogether and heads for Walter’s Hot Dog Stand in Mamaroneck, N.Y. “Only get the classic with their house mustard,” says Isidori, who shares his pro tip for a perfect meal here. “Don’t forget the curly fries and a thick shake!”
Some restaurants just do whatever the heck they want with their franks. Take the Top Round Roast Beef in Los Angeles, for instance. This spot’s Dirty Dog defies any classic frank category, but that’s exactly why it appeals to Chef Steven Fretz of The Church Key in West Hollywood, Calif. He loves the combination of a fried beef-and-pork hot dog smothered with Provel cheese, beef gravy, caramelized onions and housemade top round sauce served on a poppy seed bun.
The Midwest is home to a style of Red Hot somewhat confusingly known as the Coney. The dog’s moniker may not make much sense, but this frank’s following is fiercely loyal. In Detroit, die-hard Coney fans will debate for hours on which place offers the best in town. Justin Vaiciunas, corporate executive chef at WhirlyBall in Chicago, is on team Lafayette Coney Island. “There was nothing better after a late night at work,” he says. “I’d walk in, order two hot dogs with everything. The chili has a hint of heat; the dog has a bite but not too much. The buns are always soft and steamed to perfection.”
As culinary director of Shake Shack, which started as a simple hot dog cart in New York and has grown into a beloved chain with locations as far-flung as Moscow and Tokyo, Mark Rosati has tasted his way through more franks than one could imagine. His talents have even been tapped for Food Network & Cooking Channel New York City Wine & Food Festival, where he will be participating in the new event Haute Dogs & Champagne hosted by Robert Irvine in October. And though Rosati is based in New York, it turns out that Vienna Beef franks from Chicago are actually this connoisseur’s top dog. “The unique blend of spices within their all-beef hot dogs, coupled with the perfect level of smokiness, makes for supercharged and totally addictive flavor,” says Rosati. At home, he tops them with mustard, onion and his homemade chili sauce.
Chris Cubberley, executive chef of Graduate Madison in Madison, Wis., does appreciate the brats traditionally served in his current home state, but the former Chicago resident admits he still has an affinity for Windy City-style franks. His all-time favorite comes from The Wiener's Circle in his old hood of Lincoln Park in Chicago. Cubberley describes the joint as “a late-night spot where the ladies preparing the hot dogs are purposefully rude to their mostly drunk customers.” And though their attitudes may be colorful, they’re completely serious when it comes to serving genuine franks. “Besides the entertainment, it’s an authentic Chicago dog,” Cubberley says.