As a kid who grew up in Chicago, I feel very qualified to talk hot dogs. My diet was about 46 percent hot dog back in the day. And there may be no better time to be a hot dog lover in the Twin Cities and Minnesota than right now. National Hot Dog Day is Wednesday, July 18. Taking inspiration from Nancy Ngo’s nice spread on top dogs in the East Metro, I give you some of my favorite hot dogs in town.
The Original: Chicago Taste Authority (formerly Chris and Rob’s) has my favorite classic Chicago dog: 100-percent all-beef dog with no nitrates, no preservatives, made to Rob Dubnecay’s specifications by a fourth-generation family meat merchant in Chicago. You need that poppy seed bun, that neon green relish, and the celery salt on top. Rob says he sells 1,500 dogs per week. It’s excellent. Locations in Minneapolis and St. Paul
The Local Dog: Tilt Pinball Bar uses Peterson Craft Meats‘ all-beef dogs crafted on their land in the St. Croix River Valley near Osceola. And, man, are the toppings fun. I love the O.G.B. with melted gruyere, bacon, and smoked onions, and the volcano dog with habanero pepper-jack cheese, hot sauce, and pickled jalapeños. $9 for a dog and seasoned chips—I just love this place. I’m a Pinball junky!
The National Chain: You’ve certainly heard the hype about the new Portillo’s opening in Woodbury and Maple Grove, and I think it’s all warranted. Portillo’s is an experience: The staff members are fun, the decor is quirky, and the all-beef dog is legit.
The Coney Dog: The Gopher Bar is the original for good reason: The chili meat sauce is super rich and meaty, and the raw onions, yellow mustard, and perfectly grilled bun get the job done. This place is controversial, though—known for liberal use of profanity, and that’s about the only thing liberal about it. The Gopher Bar is a local legend, and totally worth a visit.
Photo by Todd Buchanan/MNMO 2012
Best Food-Cart Dog: No question, this is Natedogs! Nathan Beck has the best homemade mustards, and he’s about the kindest person you’ll ever meet. His dog is all pork and has a really excellent snap to it.
Best Foot-Long Dog: Outside of the State Fair, the best place to get a foot-long hot dog is Butcher & the Boar’s beer garden. Their foot-long dog is topped with a spicy chow-chow slaw, mustard, mayo, and the crunch of some shoestring potatoes.
Bacon-Wrapped Dogs: The Diamond Dogs at the Depot Tavern, by First Avenue in Minneapolis. These are 1/4-pound, all-beef dogs wrapped in pepper bacon. I like the classic, served on a pretzel bun, but you can get that Diamond Dog dipped in batter—essentially an incredible deep-fried corn dog!