The Guilty Pleasure: White hot dog, onion rings, loganberry drink Where to Get It: Ted's Hot Dogs, McClintock and Broadway Price: About $8-$10, depending on choice of dog and drink size What It Really Costs: Charring, fat, and sugar, respectively? It's the bad-for-you trinity!
Sometimes, I don't understand my brain. Last week, I got a random craving for a really good hot dog. Then I got to stuff myself full of burgers at the Scottsdale Culinary Festival's Burger Battle. One would think my lust for backyard cookout fare would be sated until at least Memorial Day, if not all the way to the Fourth of July. Such was not the case. My tube steak craving persisted.
In this town, there are plenty of places to go for a hot dog. Chicago dogs are a dime a dozen. And, of course, there's always the well-dressed dogs from Short Leash. But nothing hits the spot quite like Valley stalwart Ted's Hot Dogs. They've been around the Valley for 30 years now, but it seems hardly anyone I know has actually been there.
I guess I can understand why one would overlook Ted's: "C'mon," they say, "It's just a hot dog!" Au contraire. Ted's does things differently. For starters, it's one of the only outfits in town that charbroils its hot dogs over a live charcoal fire. While the dogs cook, the grilltenders jab and slash them with long barbecue forks, all the better to pick up the charcoal. The line of condiments is straightforward, with one delightful exception: Ted's makes its own hot sauce. It's not too spicy; I'd almost call it a piquant relish before I called it hot sauce.
The dogs themselves are no slouches. The Ted's here is the sole western outpost of a small chain around western New York. As such, they keep it authentic by getting skin-on dogs shipped from Buffalo. I usually go for the jumbo all-beef dog, but I'm quite fond of an upstate NY hot dog variation, the White Hot. Unlike your regular franks, white hots are neither smoked nor cured, giving them a more delicate flavor that picks up the char's essence that much better.
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The hot dog at Ted's is a darn good one. But, like a great movie, what's the lead without a great supporting cast? I think the supporting parts are what keep me coming back to Ted's time after time. I've had the fries; they're good, but largely unremarkable. The good money is on thei onion rings. These are the wispy kind, thin slices of onion in a light batter, looking like a small haystack. They're the diametric opposite of the crunchy wagon wheels at a number of chichi steakhouses around town. I'm not saying they're better or worse; I'm saying you should give them a chance if all you've ever had is the big crunchy kind.
Then there's the matter of beverages. While a number of my friends are thrilled to see Pepsi products on their soda fountain, they're missing a real treat. You see, around Buffalo, the soft drink of choice is a non-carbonated loganberry drink. What the hell is a loganberry, you say? I'm glad you asked. It's what you get when you cross-pollinate raspberries and blackberries. As far as I know, the loganberry spigot at Ted's is the only place in Arizona to sample it. Hell, it might just be the only place west of the Mississippi.
While any one of the three in the trio is worth writing about, all three together somehow become so much more than the sum of their parts. It's a rare treat to see a regional treat like this so well done on the other side of the continent. I hope they have at least another 30 years in them.