Temperatures threaten to approach the triple digits as we prepare to celebrate our country's independence this weekend, which puts us smack into summer, the season of baseball, lazy patio nights and, of course, hot dogs, which we like to feast on as we wander the streets, tend the grill or root for the Rockies at Coors Field.
We know of a few good weiners around Denver. These are the five best:
5. Old-Fashioned Italian Deli Two generations of owners have manned the Old-Fashioned Italian Deli, a Littleton joint where you still have to pay your bill in cash. The Panzarellas were transplanted here from Buffalo, New York, and they brought their hot dog tradition with them: real Sahlen's sausages -- complete with twisted ends -- topped with Weber horseradish mustard, onions, sweet relish and pickles.
4. Mustard's Last Stand Mustard's boasts outposts in both Boulder and Denver, walk-up operations that turn out hot dogs, Polish sausages, burgers and veggie options of many different origins and varieties. The place does a proper Chicago dog, topping Vienna beef with mustard, tomato, relish, sport peppers and celery salt, and that's what we like to order. But if you're looking for a chili-and-cheese smothered weiner, Mustard's is a solid bet.
3. Chicago For two decades, Chicago has channeled the Windy City in the Mile High, serving up a veritable shrine to Chicago sports. The spot puts real Italian beef on Gonnalla rolls -- wet, of course -- and sells Fannie May candies, too, as well as an authentic Chicago dog: Vienna beef on a steamed poppy-seed roll with all of the proper accoutrements, down to celery salt and electric-green relish. Don't t add ketchup, or you'll risk the owner's wrath.
2. Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs The original Biker Jim's cart made the hot dog a haute dog, serving up plump and juicy reindeer, elk and pheasant sausages ribboned with cream cheese and piled high with Coke-caramelized onions. No wonder that Jim's has begun to expand into a veritable empire, with a fleet of mobile kitchens and a brick-and-mortar establishment in the Ballpark neighborhood that further expanded the menu, adding yak, rattlesnake and a Coney Island dog to the mix.
1. Mile High Vienna Stand While we have room in our artery-clogged hearts for many kinds of weiners, it's the Chicago dog that truly represents, for us, what a hot dog should be. That sausage is more dependent on recipe than technique, and Mile High does it exactly right, piling a springy Vienna beef dog with sliced tomatoes, onions, neon green relish, spicy sport peppers, a pickle spear, mustard and celery salt (of course) on a steamed, poppy-seed bun. Sided with a clip of fries, this hot dog nabbed our Best Hot Dog award in the Best of Denver 2011.
More Best of Denver Lists: - Denver's five best restaurants for blind dates