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  High Spots in a
  Nation of Hot Dog
  Heavens

  by Paul Lukas

  "Gimme two, with mustard."

That's the standard lunch order countless New Yorkers make at this time of year, and with good reason: a hot dog tastes better in summer. Or is it that summer tastes better with a hot dog? Either way, the food and the season were made for each other. It is no accident that the annual hot-dog-eating contest at Nathan's in Coney Island is held on July 4. Try to imagine it taking place during autumn or winter and the image just doesn't compute.

In New York, hot dogs are street food. When New Yorkers think of frankfurters, they think of pushcart vendors and takeout deli counters and maybe Katz's Deli on the Lower East Side. And while storefront doggeries can be found here and there around town, it is worth noting that the two most celebrated ones — Gray's Papaya and the flagship Nathan's in Coney Island — both have no seating. Clearly, the New York hot dog is meant to be consumed on the move.

There's nothing wrong with that, but it is a different story in other parts of the country, where the hot dog is treated as a genuine meal — humble food, perhaps, but sit-down food nonetheless. The most obvious example is Chicago, whose hot dogs are also stylistically distinct from those of New York. This raises another point: the United States teems with hot-dog subcultures that invest their wienies with a gustatory passion that puts New York's bland pushcart franks to shame. For as much as I love a frank from a street vendor, the sad truth is that the calling card of the New York dog is water. And before this frank becomes your hastily gobbled lunch, it is typically steamed or boiled, stored in a sea of cloudy liquid that looks like dishwater, and topped with either runny sauerkraut or that orange gruel that people insist on calling onions. The noble hot dog deserves better. More ... Cooking Articles


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