It’s weird how you people out there think. I mean, I can write the worst, most scurrilous things about some beloved local vegetarian restaurant and you let it go by without comment. I can pen a fawning crush note to some rinky-dink taqueria and if I hear anything from the other side of the curtain, it is only assent. I can tell terrible stories about my past, write just about any damn fool thing that crosses this whiskey-sodden brain of mine and, admirably, you people—my readers, my silent, secret army—are right there with me, every step of the way.
But the minute I mention hot dogs? Forget about it. The mail just comes flooding in. Apparently, talking about hot dogs in Denver is kinda like talking religion in Dublin or politics in Moscow—a sure way to get a rise out of someone, a sure way to get even the most docile grandmother to take a poke at you over a slight difference in catechism. And because we just didn’t have enough space in the letters section of the paper this week to print all of the screeds I received, I’ve decided to stick some of the best of them up here on the interweb and answer any questions they might raise.
To begin, hometown boy Nick wrote to ask: “All this talk about hot dogs and no mention of the hometown Zweigle's White Hot? [It’s] one of the things I miss from Rochester.”
Me, too, Nick—though I have to admit that my missing of the Zweigle’s brand (and, in particular, the Zweigle’s white hot) is really a matter of inverse proximity: the further I am from home, the more I miss those suckers, but on my visits back, I’m really more likely to end up at Schaller’s for a burger with hot sauce or down at Gitsi’s than I am to wander into Wegman’s looking for a white hot fix.
That said, Zweigle’s does still do one of the best natural casing dogs around, and if there was someone out here in this neck of the woods selling them, I’d certainly be lining up to buy.
Jonathan wrote with another east coast question: “Hey Jason – I enjoyed your hot dog diatribe this week. I was amazed to hear that there’s a place with owners from Buffalo who use Salen’s dogs, but they steam them?? Is there anywhere in town you’ve run across that grills their dogs like Ted’s or Pat’s back in B’Lo?”
First, Jonathan, as has been plainly discussed over the last couple weeks, steaming is the best of all possible ways to prepare a dog. I would argue that it is the only way to do it right. Even the Bible is with me on this one: “And lo, did the angels of the Lord bring forth their wieners, warming them unto the steam and anointing them with mustard, saying, ‘Glory unto all who eat of the dirty water dogs for thou are truly the wisest ones.’.”
Okay, so I made that last bit up. But if you must have a grilled dog, I would suggest you head down to the 16th Street mall where Biker Jim Pittenger—in addition to cooking up all manner of veal brats and pheasant sausages—grills a mean Louisiana red hot. It ain’t exactly Ted’s, but it’ll do in a pinch.
Meanwhile, I got an email from Dave which read, in part: “Last time I checked, the humble hot dog, like just about every other sausage variety, is nothing more than the amalgamation of bits of mystery meats ground up with seasonings to a point beyond recognition (thank God!), stuffed in a casing to be cooked as long as needed and served on some form of bread. And yet this sorry excuse for nutrition somehow gets elevated inside the nitrite addled brains of the self-appointed Templars of the Tube Steak to an exalted point where these Holy Knights of the Hot Dog might actually feel compelled to visit violence upon us, the unwashed apostates who can't tolerate mustard of any kind on any foodstuff and who have actually fooled themselves into thinking they're enjoying their frankfurters with ketchup! Well, thanks to your enlightened commentary I now realize how foolish I've been to have ordered hot dogs the way I like 'em (with ketchup and onions, please) and in public, for crying out loud! From now on, I'll eschew the restaurants and hot dog stands, and when I feel the urge for a dog, I'll slink home, pull the shades and fix mine in the privacy of my home where I needn't fear the neck punching wrath of the Defenders of the Dog. Lord, I fell so dirty…”
Good to know I’m getting through to someone with my columns. Dave at least understands and has accepted his shame. He, therefore, has been deemed immune from any neck-punching by the Templars of the Tube Steak.
Which, by the way, is totally going to be the name of my band if I ever start one. I’m thinking I’ll get Dave to write my promotional material…
Speaking of guys who are working their wieners in the privacy of their own homes, Rob wrote: “Thanks for the recommendations on local hot dog joints. My favorite hot dogs are made at home from weiners I buy at Sawa's Polish Deli on 32nd and Wadsworth. They're white veal dogs and remind me of the old hot dogs with skin so thick they needed to be peeled. PS: If you ever get get in to an argument by a Chicago hot dog snob on Vienna dogs, remind them that Viennas aren't hot dogs, they're "Red Hots".”
Your mistake, Rob, was in assuming I would ever associate with someone who claimed to be a Chicago hot dog snob in the first place. As with folks who espouse the joys of Chicago-style pizza, I am instantly put on guard whenever anyone mentions Chicago dogs—knowing that this weakness for a second-class, regional derivation is likely only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to their personal deficits, both social and mental.
That said, most people feel the same way about me when I start going on about the perfect beauty and savory tang of an ideally prepared east coast dirty water dog. The difference? They’re wrong and I’m right.
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Ed wrote to tell me about the “bright yellow hot dog wagon” that is traditionally parked near the Safeway parking lot in Evergreen as his favorite dog-wagon in the foothills. John called to tell me about the cart customarily parked in front of the Home Depot by Park Meadows and how good it was. Julie dropped me a line about a Sabrett cart that operates in sight of the 16th Street Mall and does great dogs. Paul hipped me to the franks done at Continental Deli (250 Steele, the retail outlet of Continental Sausage) and skinless Kosher chili cheese dogs at Zaidy’s. And, after running through my mailbox last week, I found that I’m not the only person who gets pissed as all hell at seeing the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile parked somewhere, rushing over and then finding out that they’re not giving away fucking hot dogs or even selling fucking hot dogs but rather handing out stickers, whistles in the shape of the Weinermobile, and trying to get a bunch of sun-stroked dolts to sing the goddamn Oscar Mayer Weiner song on camera.
And you know what? This wasn’t even all the letters, phone calls or emails I got. I haven’t mentioned the long conversation I had with Steve Ballas from Steve’s Snappin’ Dogs about city politics and hot doggery, my talk with Jesse Morreale about the best places to get late-night cart dogs. As a matter of fact, the calls and letters are still coming in even as I write this and, I expect, will keep right on rolling until everyone has had their say.
As for me, I say bring it on. -- Jason Sheehan