I’m a topper. No, not the kind of person who has to tell the best story in every conversation. I mean the kind who isn’t happy until his hot dog is topped with something beyond plain old ketchup and mustard.
Now I know a lot of people are quite content with ketchup and mustard on their hot dogs. They even consider the addition of other toppings a kind of sacrilege or culinary pretension. And to them I say: Thank you, for leaving more of the good stuff for the rest of us.
Here in Wichita, hot dogs underwent a kind of renaissance a couple years ago with the opening of several restaurants devoted to wienies with creative toppings. Few, if any, have survived. But don’t blame toppings. Dog-N-Shake, a local chain in business since 1948, proves it can be done right with specials like the Dogzilla and Nacho Dog.
For me, there’s inspiration to be found for hot dog toppings in a variety of places, from ethnic restaurants to the aisles of your local supermarket.
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Here are 10 ideas for dressing up your next dog:
1. Torta Dog. Taking its cue from tortas, the Mexican sandwich, this dog features guacamole, mayo and jalapenos for starters, with cheese, salsa and a thin layer of refried beans as options.
2. Viet Dog. Inspired by banh mi, the Vietnamese sandwich, this dog is topped with papaya salad (available in local Asian markets), jalapeno, cilantro, mayo (a thin layer of pate is optional).
3. Hatch Dog. Use roasted green chiles from Hatch, N.M., which start finding their way to Wichita every fall, as is or in the making of green chili to top the dog. You could also substitute anaheims or poblanos, which are year-round. Garnish with a bit of sour cream and shredded cheese.
4. Fruity Dog. Topping hot dogs with salsa is old hat by now (although there are more great varieties available than ever on supermarket shelves), but give the idea a twist by making your own pineapple, mango or peach salsa.
5. Hot Hot Dog. Sprinkle on Srirachi, the current darling of hot sauce lovers; sweet chili sauce for that irresistible sweet-spicy combination; or Frank’s Red Hot sauce for a hot wing-like flavor. Blue cheese sprinkles and ranch dressing for dipping take it to the next level.
6. Memphis Dog. Find some Memphis-style BBQ sauce (more vinegary than Kansas City-style sauce), baste the dog with it while it cooks and then top with Memphis-style cole slaw (usually made with celery seeds).
7. KC Dog. Not to forget our barbecue-loving neighbor, start with an all-beef hot dog, baste with Kansas City-style barbecue sauce while cooking and top with a creamy potato salad.
8. Triple Dog Dare Dog. Chili, Fritos and shredded cheese. When you’re not worried about wearing your lunch back to the office.
9. French Poodle. The French generally concede sausage supremacy to their German neighbors, but we’re topping this dog with French fries and the garlicky mayonnaise known as aioli.
10. Sunrise Special. Top your dog with a fried egg, cooked over easy so the runny yolks becomes the sauce.
Final note: If everything on this list strikes you as unappetizing or downright bizarre, and you must stick with ketchup and mustard, how about trying some of the more interesting varieties available on supermarket shelves, like chipotle ketchup and spicy brown mustard? You might discover that old dogs do enjoy new tricks.