While there are plenty of regional American foods that are authentically ours, created and popularized right here in the US of A, the hot dog has iconic and nostalgic clout that few other foods carry. It is a symbol of Americana, thanks in no small part to its association with the great American pastime. But these ballpark staples have long since found their way out of the stadium and into carts, shops, and restaurants around the country. Every state, and many cities, have their own version of the dog, most of which can be found right here in Phoenix.
Sonoran hot dogs at El Caprichoso
If you haven't yet experienced the pleasures of eating a bacon-wrapped hot dog sluiced with mayonnaise, well, you're missing out on what might be the figurative Rosetta Stone of borderlands cuisine. The Sonoran dog is sort of an edible symbol of the cultural mashup of Arizona-Sonora Mexican food. The bacon-wrapped dog at El Caprichoso is squeezed into a split-top bun after the bread is given a nice crisp on the griddle. The hot dog is juicy, and like most versions of the Sonoran dog, it's topped with a kitchen-sink assortment of toppings: some well-seasoned beans, a dappling of pico, a dusting of salty white cheese, and the crowning touch, a squiggle of mayonnaise.
The Pittsburgher at Wimpy's Paradise
Pittsburgh Willy's started as a simple hot dog cart. But over the past nine years, the name has become synonymous with serious gourmet hot dogs all over the East Valley. Formerly known as the Wild Willy, the Pittsburgher is a quarter-pound all-beef wiener topped with butter-soaked chipped ham (a Pennsylvania favorite) and Cheddar cheese.
Hipster dogs at Short Leash
The gourmet hot dogs wrapped in a warm naan "bun" have found a permanent doghouse on Roosevelt Row, but these dogs have been Best of Phoenix winners since they were being slung out of a food truck. Now, along with signature dogs topped with such ingredients as roasted green chiles, mango chutney, and Cracker Jack, frank fans can order up premium creations stuffed with jalapeño and Cheddar, slow-cooked in beer, and topped with creamy mac and cheese.
The Footlong New York dogs at Ted's Charcoal Broiled Hot Dogs
Plump and juicy and cooked just right; crispy on the outside and moist and meaty on the inside. The brats are beautiful and just as yummy, and both are served on fluffy white buns served toasted or plain. But we have to admit that we go to this New York-native-owned eatery as much for the sides as the dogs, especially the french fries, because we can order them with gravy, which is a real rarity on this side of the country.
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Chicago dogs at Portillo's
At Portillo's, you don't have to specify Chicago dog when you order because that's the default. You'll get onions, tomatoes, relish, a pickle, sport peppers, mustard, and, of course, celery salt. All that goodness is piled on a 100-percent Vienna Beef dog and delivered on a soft sesame-seed bun. Best of all, the whole shebang is only $2.65. Just please, for the love of the Windy City, do not put ketchup on it.
The Colombian hot dog at Simon's Hot Dogs
Even if you're a true hot dog aficionado, you may not have ever tried a hot dog done "Colombian style." For the unfamiliar, a perro caliente colombiano usually comes topped with pineapple, mozzarella cheese, mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, and crushed potato chips. Simon's Hot Dogs has brought this Medellín street food to Scottsdale with their signature Colombian hot dog ($5.95), which like everything else on the menu can be made with a base of beef hot dog, vegetarian or vegan hot dog, or a pork bratwurst. The classic beef option features a boiled dog wrapped in a soft bun. The bread, split neatly down the middle, cradles a mountain of toppings, which come together nicely for sweet and savory bites. Syrupy-sweet pineapple hunks stand out the most against the beef, cheese, and house "Simon sauce," while the flecks of potato chips add just a touch of texture to the mix.