No one ever need go to bed hungry in our country—as long as we have hot dogs. I know you think I jest, but I don’t. The humble tube that may have originated in Germany (think Frankfurt) or Austria (think Wien/wiener) is nonetheless American. It’s the little black dress of food that can be dressed up or down and cost pennies or require a credit card.
Many folks know that Costco famously sells ¼-pound hot dogs for $1.50, and that includes a fountain drink. Usually one must be a Costco member to take advantage of this, especially since their food court is inside the store. But at least on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, the food court is outside, and membership is not required to order the $1.50 meal. I’ve stood in that line and marveled at Costco’s role, knowingly or unwittingly, in helping fight hunger. Anyone can come up with $1.50 and have a tasty hot dog.
On the other end of the spectrum, chef-driven restaurants are having their day with the all-American dog and doing such things as introducing ethnic flavors, loading them in fry fashion, calling upon decadence and miniaturizing them.
For example, Big Easy Winebar & Grill in Miami menus Big Easy Boerie Bites—a small plate group of three 3-inch sandwiches with farmers sausage (upscale for hot dogs) on a soft roll and three separate toppings. Those bites are made with South African flavors.
Duck fat would be one way to add decadence, and of course that’s exactly what The Duck Inn in Chicago does with its Duck Fat Dog. The dog itself is made with a combo of beef, pork and duck fat.
For the loaded idea, how about the Tommy Lasorda Burger served at Plan Check Kitchen+Bar in Santa Monica, Calif. It’s a burger topped with a butterflied hot dog with other upscale toppings. All of this I discovered while working on my July/August 2017 article for The National Culinary Review (See Haute Dog article off to the right).
Hot dogs could easily fit with the snacking daypart… or at least they could if more offered mini hot dogs. Mid-level restaurants could easily work this into their program. Sonic has gone there with its Lil’ Doggies that it plays with on an LTO basis. This spring it added Chili Cheese and Cheesy Bacon varieties.
Wienerschnitzel is going global with some of its latest LTOs, as in its Blazin' Teriyaki Pineapple Hot dog and its Pastrami Reuben All-Beef Hot Dog.
But I step back. It’s amazing how many quick-serve operators don’t offer hot dogs at all, even though they know convenience stores are encroaching upon their meal territory. And didn’t c-stores practically invent the roller dog? Burger King finally saw the light and added hot dogs. Where are the others?
I predict they won’t be far behind. Wieners are cheap and easy. QSRs could learn something from Costco, which itself is a meal competitor and doing its part to make inexpensive food accessible.
Tell me what you think.