Hot Dogs

photograph by John Anderson

Last spring when I was in Connecticut visiting family, my parents treated me to lunch at Carol Peck's, a distinguished fusion-food restaurant about an hour's drive from the house. We ate. About 10 minutes into the drive back home, my dad asked if anyone thought we should stop at Blackie's, a hot-dog stand old enough to have burned down in 1946. Blackie's butterflies their hot-dogs, presumably to increase the surface area, then fries them in peanut oil. We all made noise about being full and astutely agreed that we shouldn't stop, but no one really meant it, and my Dad took the exit that led us to Blackie's.

In an effort to recreate fond hot dog memories, I went on a daunting search. Daunting not because of the possibilities, but rather because one should only indulge in hot dogs very rarely. Created from ground unmentionables, filled with nitrates and nitrites, packed with salt and fat, it's sensible to avoid them. As it turns out, that's easy to do: hot-dog stands are as foreign to the Texas landscape as taquerias are indigenous. But when you get a hankering for a frank, consider these options:

  • Katz's: The fluffy kaiser roll was too big for the dog, and Katz's was out of pickle relish. But the all-beef, kosher frank itself was spicy and delicious.
  • Sandy's: A plain old six-inch hot dog with chili, shredded Cheddar, and onions, Sandy's is a traditional chili dog.
  • Hudson's Grill: This is not a portable sandwich: the griddle-blistered foot-long dog smothered in mustard and red onions was welded to the plate with melted Jack and Cheddar.
  • Abel's: The age-old stand on the premises of Barton Springs has great promise, but I'd prefer that they take advantage of their griddle instead of keeping the dogs swimming in hot water all the day long.
  • Howdy's Hot Dogs (in front of Steamboat, E. Sixth): The existence of a cart on the street is reason enough for a dog. Choose from sauerkraut, chili, onions, sweet relish, ketchup, and mustard.
  • Hut's: A plump, porky dog butterflied then grilled in butter. Mustard on both sides of the bun and ample sweet relish and onions, but the long, flat poorboy roll provided an ergonomic challenge -- all the toppings toppled off.
  • Top Notch: Maybe they're not proud of the fact that they serve hot dogs, and that's why the "top dog" is sliced into three long, thin sections and contorted to fit the circular contraints of a hamburger roll. Slathered with chili, mustard, and white onions.
  • Dirty Martin's: Dirty's serves world-class burgers on toast, and a hot dog on a sesame-seed burger bun. Go figure. The "Red Hot" is an all-beef dog slit into four thin panels then flattened on the griddle. It's decorated like a burger, too, with mustard, onion, pickle, and tomato.
  • Shady Grove: $3.75 for a hot dog (no sides included) may be the highest price in town, but it's one and a half dogs, butterflied and scored on the diagonal, resting in a buttered and grilled sesame seed roll. Condiments include dill relish, chopped white onions, ketchup, and mustard in a little jar on the table. -- M.P.

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