Hot Dog Talk

Between the bun: 5 picks for the perfect summertime hot dog

5 picks for the perfect summertime hot dog

Frank's Chicago Dog
Frank's Chicago Dog Photo by Andrew Yates
Mexican style hot dog
Try a Mexican-style dog for added flavor. Photo by Veronica Meewes
Bahn Mi hot dog
Bahn Mi Dog from Man Bites Dog Photo by Veronica Meewes
Frank's Chicago Dog
Mexican style hot dog
Bahn Mi hot dog

With a patriotic start and backyard barbecues galore, it is only fitting that July is National Hot Dog Month. Although, with as many possibilities as there are for toppings and accompaniments, there’s no reason you couldn’t enjoy them all year long.

We’ve rounded up our five picks for summertime hot dogs, and let’s just say they’re not just your average ballpark frank. Get 'em while the getting is hot — preferably post-swim, washed down with a cold beer.

The Chicago Dog at Frank (veggie dog available)
Frank co-owners Daniel Northcutt and Geoff Peveto are from Texas and Oklahoma respectively, but "we both love the Windy City and consider our joint a classic Chicago hot doggery with a focus on exotic game sausage," says Northcutt. It is one of few places in town to find a 100 percent Vienna beef hot dog dressed Chicago-style ($4.35), with a pickle spear, tomatoes, onions, relish, sport peppers, celery salt, and mustard on a poppy seed bun.

"While we think dogs are amazing year-round, we especially like good ol' Chicago Dogs dragged through the garden and any dog dressed with fresh chilled, vegetables, slaws and sauces during the times of summer," Northcutt adds.

The Banh Mi Dog at Man Bites Dog (veggie dog available)
Though the south location just closed, the Burnet location of Man Bites Dog is still turning out signature "hot dogs unleashed," like the wacky Cartoon Dog (beef frank topped with peanut butter, grape jelly and Cap’n Crunch cereal, $3.99) or the staggering Hair of the Dog (deep fried, bacon-wrapped beef frank, with chili, cheddar, a fried egg, Tabasco sauce and optional Budweiser, $6.79).

But for summer, it doesn’t get more refreshing than the Banh Mi Dog ($5.29). "The Banh Mi Dog is one of my favorites," says owner Jeremiah Allen. "It started off the same way most of our dogs do, with me saying 'I can make this into a hot dog!' We ran it for a special at first for a few weeks and when we stopped running it, people called and called asking when it would be back."

The savory pork hot dog is loaded with pickled cucumber, jalapeno and carrots, then topped with sriracha mayo or spicy peanut sauce (why choose one when you can have both?), and a sprinkling of fresh cilantro. "The flavors work really well with the pork sausage," says Allen. "And, like all our dogs, it's the bun that really makes it great. We use kolache buns made from the Kolache Creations on North Burnet."

Hot Dogs Estilo Mexico con Todo at El Salchichon
This unassuming little trailer tucked away just west of Pleasant Valley on Elmont opens around 7 p.m., but it’s the perfect place for dinner on the go or — even better — a post-bar snack (it’s open until 3 a.m. on weekends).

El Salchichon specializes in Mexican-style street dogs ($4), which are wrapped in thin bacon and fried, then topped with a delicious mess of spicy jalapeno relish, tomatoes, carrot, nopales, grilled onions, mustard, ketchup, mayo and a slice of queso fresco enclosed in a grilled bun.

Of course, you can customize your toppings, but I whole-heartedly recommend ordering yours con todo — with everything, por supuesto!

The Bob Cole Macaroni and Cheesy Dog at Honkytonk Hot Dogs (veggie dog available)
Scott Angle opened Honkytonk Hot Dogs as a way of combining his love of Chicago-based Vienna beef hot dogs, country music and bringing people together. The trailer, which is located in the Barton Springs Neighborhood Food Court, features hot dogs named after musicians such as Dale Watson and Jesse Dayton.

Hot dog artists wear pearl snap shirts and cowboy boots, and a nearby stage often features live music, with space for two-stepping. Angle also encourages diners to "pack a cooler of Lone Star when you come," since this is a BYOB establishment. You might even catch the proprietor in his own band, Scott Angle and the Cold Cold Hearts.

The Bob Cole Macaroni and Cheesy Dog ($6.50) comes piled high with grilled mac and cheese, and I couldn’t resist adding some sweet, succulent pulled pork to it, too. Believe it or not, it actually held together perfectly. Angle’s secret? "I toast the bun," he says. "Steamed buns never hold the toppings. Some Chicago-style purists don’t always approve, but hey, you can’t please all the people all the time."

Classic hot dogs from Salt & Time Butcher Shop
If you love grilling, most of the hot dogs you consume this summer will most likely be in your own backyard. Don’t settle for anything less than purchasing nitrate-free, 100 percent pastured Texas beef hot dogs ($8.00/lb) crafted in-house at Salt & Time and smoked over apple and hickory.

"Most commercially produced 'nitrate free' hot dogs use nitrates derived from plant-based sources, but they are adding nitrates nonetheless," explains owner Ben Runkle.

These dogs release an explosion of flavor with each bite. "My favorite thing about our hot dogs is the snap of the casing," says Runkle. "Many commercial hot dogs are 'skinless' and no casing means no snap."

For a truly artisanal dog, ask for the house-made ketchup and whole grain mustard, then add a bag of fresh, crusty rolls by Baked in Austin, which shares the commercial space.