KANSAS CHEFS ARE TOPPING AN AMERICAN TRADITION
Photography by Sarah Reeves and Bill Stephens
When it comes to a favored summertime food, wieners in a bun are always one of the top dogs.
We relish them at baseball games and summer festivals and order them from street carts, food trucks and diners at lunchtime. Collectively, Americans sink our teeth into over 7 billion hot dogs from Memorial Day through Labor Day, according to the American Meat Institute’s National Hot Dog and Sausage Council.
But we don’t all eat them the same—and new, original approaches to garnishing a hot dog have kept the all-American dish relevant, fun and tasty for a new generation. In Kansas, hot dog chefs craft pedigree gourmet dogs by dressing frankfurters with unique artisan toppings.
OVERLAND PARK’S WIENER KITCHEN
At Wiener Kitchen in Overland Park, the husband-wife team of Dave Derr and Jessica Rush hand-crafts artisan sausages and serves them from their Wiener Wagon food truck.
“We’ve gone through 50 to 60 varieties of sausage, and we’re always coming up with something new,” Derr says. One unique combination is the turducken sausage, blending turkey, chicken and duck with onion, celery, sage and parsley.
Their signature hot dog is a brisket Wagyu frank; the Wagyu Japanese cattle breed provides tender brisket that is chopped and sent through a meat grinder, then placed in a natural sheep casing. Hungry customers favor it smothered with country-style sausage gravy, an egg, and hot sauce—a concoction called the bacon sausage.
“Our chili cheese dog has become a major player in the menu mix,” adds Derr. “We take our Mexican style pork chorizo as the meat base of our chili, and we use black beans, onions, tomatoes and peppers, so it’s got a little heat to it, a little pop of spiciness.” The chili smothers the beef frankfurter, which is finished with cheddar cheese, onion and extra hot sauce.
The husband-and-wife team offers menus to accommodate diet preferences or restrictions, including a chicken sausage and pork wurst. Don’t want a bun? The chorizo rojo is a hot dog with an onion-jalapeño relish and a cilantro-lime aioli served with hot sauce in a house-made tortilla. Prefer not to eat meat? The vegan consists of a cauliflower, walnut, wild rice and spice link topped with Brussels kraut, relish, and whole grain Dijon mustard.
TOPEKA’S TOP DOG
Top Dog in Topeka unleashes 10 different house-made sauces and 30 toppings from which to create a build-your-own hot dog. It also offers several specialty combinations. Located in a bright red and yellow 1950s-era drive-in restaurant, Top Dog brings the Americana nostalgia effect with a cozy diner space and outdoor picnic-table settings. That summertime outdoor dining is particularly popular with customers and their pets.
“During the summertime, we have people who show up and bring their dogs with them,” says Keevin Hunt, who owns the restaurant with his father, Bill. “They sit outside and we give their dog a (hot) dog and they eat theirs.”
Despite being located in a former hamburger joint, Top Dog serves only hot
dogs and sides.
“We decided we were going to do one thing and we’re going to be really good at the one thing we do,” Hunt says, adding the perfect hot dog begins with a quality 100-percent beef, six-inch, quarter-pound sausage—or for bigger appetites, a whopping 1/3-pound, foot-long sausage—that the father-son team hand-selected.
The duo continually creates new hot dog topping combinations that are either rotated on (or eliminated from) the menu depending on their popularity. The ongoing menu lists the more common Sloppy Dog, Kraut Dog, and the Chicago Dog, which has yellow mustard, sweet pickle relish, chopped white onions, tomatoes, pickled sport peppers, a dill pickle spear and a dash of celery salt on the hot dog in a poppy seed bun.
“The one that gets the most talked about is definitely our Elvis Dog; it’s got peanut butter, bananas and crushed corn flakes on it, and if you want we will put chocolate syrup and whipped cream on it,” Hunt says.
Bacon, lettuce and tomato cover the Top Dog, which comes with a secret house-made sauce. “It’s a mayonnaise-based sauce that’s a little bit spicy,” describes Hunt.
Among others usually offered are a Pizza Dog featuring marinara sauce, black olives, bell peppers, mozzarella, pepperoni and onions, and a Mexico Dog with lettuce, drunken beans, bacon, colby jack cheese, tomato, jalapeños, pico de gallo and avocado, with hot salsa on the side.
Seasonal items “keep things interesting” for loyal customers, Hunt says.
“Probably our most popular nontraditional dog is our Pig Pen, and it has pulled pork, onion, coleslaw and barbecue sauce on it. We also have a Pineapple Express that has cream cheese, bacon, and pineapple, and then we put a jalapeño raspberry sauce on top of it.”
Chicken, onion, tomato, Colby jack cheese and green chile sauce make up the Green Chile Chicken Enchilada Dog. Crushed tortilla chips, nacho cheese and jalapeños top the Nacho Dog.
“A lot of people come in and say they would like to see this or that, so we give it a try,” Hunt says, adding the Barnyard Dog was created with hash browns, scrambled eggs, sausage and gravy after customers asked for a breakfast hot dog. “And, of course, we will make anything you want.”
Hot-2-Trot Gourmet Hotdogs offers hot dogs, spicier hot links, and homemade sauerkraut from three hot dog pushcarts on Wichita streets during the lunch hour and at festivals across central Kansas.
One of their most popular toppings is the signature Hot-2-Trot Slaw, which owner Adam Bussey describes “a little to the sweet side, it’s not spicy at all.”
A dozen condiments and toppings, including sriracha, Buffalo sauce and a made-from-scratch stone brown mustard, round out the toppings.
Bussey fetches unusual topping combinations on hot dogs throughout the year, such as a taco dog with homemade cream and homemade cabbage-based Mexican slaw. He also puts together a Hatch chile dog with homemade Hatch chile relish, Hatch chile beer mustard and Hatch chile cheese.
“We use a mild Hatch chile pepper, so it’s not overly spicy; it’s mostly for flavor and has a real earthy tone,” Bussey says.
No matter whether you call it a hot dog, frankfurter, wiener or bratwurst, or what you top it with, plan to order one on National Hot Dog Day, July 18, to celebrate this iconic American—and Kansan—food.
KEEVIN HUNT’S TOP TOPPINGS
NINE.PICO DE GALLO
HOT DOG ETIQUETTE
Apply condiments in the following order: wet condiments like mustard and chili are applied first, followed by chunky condiments like relish, onions and sauerkraut, followed by shredded cheese, followed by spices like celery salt or pepper.
Put hot dog toppings between the hot dog and the bun. Always “dress the dog,” not the bun.
Serve sesame seed, poppy seed and plain buns with hot dogs.
Serve with sun-dried tomato buns or basil buns; these are considered gauche with franks.
Eat hot dogs on buns with your hands.
Go for utensils. They should not touch hotdogs on buns.
Pour on the ketchup, if you are under age 18.
Dare use ketchup as an adult. Go for mustard, relish, onions, cheese and chili.
DO ... Compliment the grill master or cook.
Send a thank you note following a hot dog cookout. It would not be in keeping with the unceremonial nature of hot dogs.
Bring beer, soda, lemonade, iced tea or water to a hot dog cookout.
Pair a wine with a hot dog.
Courtesy the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council
9645 W 87th St.
4140 SW Huntoon
HOT-2-TROT GOURMET HOT DOGS