Hot Dog Toppers – The Ultimate Debate

When it comes to city rivalries, most people think of sports teams like Bears vs. Packers, Yankees vs. Red Sox or Flyers vs. Penguins. But for food enthusiasts and hot dog lovers everywhere, there is just no middle ground between a classic Chicago style hot dog and a New York City style hot dog.

Most major cities (and some states) now lay claim to having a region’s best hot dog – for us in Maine, we prefer a “Red Snapper.” For the diehard hot dog fans living in the Big Apple or the Second City, they see any variation of their classic recipe as nothing short of a sacrilege.

Obviously, the best way for any thoughtful person to choose a side in this important issue is to try one of each and let your taste buds decide. In our travels across the states, we see a lot of regional food that we just have to try. So without further ado, we present the classic recipes for a Maine Red Snapper hot dog, a New York City style hot dog and a Chicago style hot dog for your enjoyment. May the best dog win!


A Maine Red Snapper-style hot dog is a summertime favorite for Mainers young and old. Bright red in color (from the dye in the casing), these natural casing franks earn their name from the snapping sound the casing makes when you bite into it. And their red color, of course.


Mainers enjoy these dogs in many variations – some prefer grilled while others prefer steamed or boiled. Roasted over a campfire is also a popular variation during the summer. Regardless of their preparation, they are traditionally served in a New England style split-top hot dog bun, which can also be served steamed or lightly buttered and toasted.


Note: We don’t get too picky about our toppings, but you can commonly find our hot dogs topped with ketchup, mustard or relish – or a combination of all three! Chopped onions are a great add-in, as well. We love Farmhouse Ketchup, Ballpark Mustard and Sweet Dill Relish as our go-to hot dog toppers.


A Chicago-style hot dog is also known as a Chicago Dog or a Chicago Red Hot. It’s an all-beef frankfurter on a poppy seed bun, topped with yellow mustard, chopped white onions, bright green sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato slices or wedges, pickled sport peppers and a dash of celery salt.


The method for cooking the hot dog caries depending on the vendor’s preference. Most often they are steamed or water-simmered. Grilling over charcoal is less popular and then referred to as a “char-dog.”


Note: This recipe does not include ketchup. The reason is that there is a widely shared, strong opinion among many Chicagoans and aficionados that ketchup is simply unacceptable. In fact, many Chicago hot dog vendors do not even offer ketchup as a condiment!

New York:

A New York City-style hot dog is also known as a Dirty Water Dog or a New York Dog. It’s said that New Yorkers eat more hot dogs than any other group in the country. From downtown Manhattan to Coney Island, when you buy your hot dog in the Big Apple, it’s important to remember that it’s all about the toppings and for some, the name synonymous with a New York Dog is Nathans. Nathan’s Famous was founded by a Polish immigrant, Nathan Handwerker, who started his business in 1916 with a small hot dog stand in Coney Island, New York. He sold hot dogs that were manufactured based on a recipe developed by his wife, Ida.


Today, fans of New York style hot dogs insist that only the following will satisfy: A steamed, all-beef hot dog, mustard, sauerkraut and steamed onions on a classic bun.


Note: In case you’re wondering where the name “dirty water dog” comes from, New York street vendors generally store their unsold dogs in warm-water baths, hence the name, “dirty water dog.”

What do you like on your hot dogs? Let us know!

2 thoughts on “Hot Dog Toppers – The Ultimate Debate

  1. To preface my argument, all three hot dogs look fabulous and I would (and soon will 😀 ) give the recipes a try. But unfortunately, when it comes to taste, the Chicago dog reigns supreme. Now, don’t think that I am some Bears or White Sox aficionado, cause I ain’t! I just like to think that I’m a simple man of science.

    Let’s first take a look at the ingredients of each Hot Dog.

    First, we have the Red Snapper dog. Ketchup, mustard, and relish add some delicious flavor to this crunchy, home-style dog. It’s a classic… but it just can’t muster[d] (pun intended) the overall taste to beat out the Chicago dog. I’ll explain why later.

    Next, we have the Dirty Water dog. Crunchy, bitter, and sour, this dog doesn’t sound too yummy from the description, but fortunately for the Big Apple, Nathan Handwerker really knew what he was doing with texture back in those days. The combination of the soft, steamed dog with the crunch of the onions makes the consumer of the dog sit back and think not only about the dichotomy of textures in the dog, but also about the dichotomy of life. Sadly, the Dirty Water dog cannot ketchup with the taste of the Chicago dog (oh these puns, I did it again!)

    Finally, we are left with the perfect Chicago style hot dog. A combination of sweet tomatoes and relish, hot peppers, sour mustard, sweet relish, crunchy pickle, salty topping, poppy seeds, and the simmered beef dog leave nothing to be desired on this bun. It is truly a masterpiece. God created the universe in seven days; it took eight days to perfect the Chicago dog. The multifarious nature of the Chicago style surpasses the known complexity of the Universe… how can the Red Snapper or Dirty Water even compare to such a creation?

    With its variety of ingredients, the Chicago Style dog activates all five taste sensations that the tongue possesses– salty, sour, sweet, bitter, and umami. The salty sprinkle and the poppy seeds fetter the salty buds while the mustard works to tickle the sour sensors. In a two fold performance, the poppies massage the bitter receptors ever so slightly in a roguish and mysterious fashion. Finally, the tomato and relish combine their flavors in order to rouse the sweet buds awake to listen to the symphony of flavors acting in perfect concert! And the finale approaches as the all-beef hot dog conquers the umami taste buds and declares the tongue a colony of the Chicago style. With the crunch of the pickle hugged softly by the bun, the tongue comes down from its ecstasy only to realize that it has returned its mundane existence in which this feast can only be experienced monthly in order to not overwhelm the body and mind with heavenly hysteria.

    This… this is the Chicago Style hot dog. Thou shalt have no other hot dog before it. It is the peak of flavor and a monument to the evolution of food. While the Red Snapper and Dirty Water dogs may entice the body, the Chicago Style intoxicates the mind.


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