In order to understand one of American’s truly great pastime foods, one would have to understand the history behind the Great American Hot Dog!
With some discrepancy, the origin of the hot dog was sometime around the 13th century. Terminology wise, the “frankfurter” was derived from Germany where the pork sausages were distributed to those who were in attendance for imperial coronations; however, the generic term “weiner” adds an Austrian reference to a sausage made of a pork and beef blend. Either way, the “hot dog” we know and love is rumored to have came into existence sometime around 1880 when the wife of a Bavarian immigrant named Antonoine Feuchtwanger suggested that in order to prevent the loss of money from his customers not returning their borrowed gloves (which were used to hold the piping hot sausages) that he serve the fascinating franks nestled in a roll to prevent the burning of the hands.
Now in modern day, our beloved “dog” brings us memories of ballparks, river rafts, floppy hats, sunshades, flip-flops, family and kiddos running around with ketchup escaping down the side of their smiles. Families gathered around backyard grills, passing around laughs, smells of charcoal and the open flame – and for me, I couldn’t think of anything more all-American than where to get just that … THE PERFECT HOT DOG!
As I focused on this much loved American icon, I couldn’t help but allow my mind and my taste buds to wander – traveling along the highways and byways of our area – pondering the complexity of “hot dog heaven” and “bun filled blissfulness” in search of nothing less than a fantastic frankfurter, a whoa-weiner, a palatable plunder, so I could think of nothing better than just to allow my taste buds to lead the way!
Hanging out on the Monroe side of the Twin Cities has always been one of my favorite foodie fascinations, so it was no surprise that one of my first thoughts was seeing what Darin Denstell had to tell me about the fabulous dogs at Riverside located on Louisville Avenue in Monroe. Notwithstanding the fact that Riverside is home to some of our areas best mud-bug eating, Darin let me in on the hometown scoop – the bacon-wrapped grilled, jalapeno laced, cheese blanketed concoction that is anything but for the faint of heart. This goliath hot dog starts out “large and in charge” and finishes much the same way, served with an order of Riverside’s loaded chili cheese fries. But, this was just the beginning of mine and my cohort in foodie frolic, Gary the Gastronaut’s epic adventure!
Hopping across the mighty Ouachita, I couldn’t help but dropping in on Ran Jordan at her locale in West Monroe – Coney Island Sports Café located in the West Pointe Shopping Center on Cypress Street. Ran serves up nothing but the best diner dogs with three options available to her patrons – the “regular” –consisting of a basic weiner adorned with ketchup, mustard and onions; the “chili dog” – loaded with copious amounts of Ran’s scratch made family chili and lovingly adorned with cheese; and, the ever popular “super dog” – which starts out with nothing finer than a kosher beef frankfurter, layered with generous portions of sweet relish and your choice of additional accompaniments – which is most certainly a home-run hit for any family. (As an aside, Coney Island Sports Café also dishes up some of the dreamiest scratch-made tamales that are perfect for dining in or taking out to share with your sports fans at home.)
Now as Gary and I begin to weigh all of our many options, there was no way I could cross back into Monroe without popping by one of my favorite salad locales – Daq’s Wings & Grill located on Forsythe Avenue in Monroe! To my utter surprise, owners John Hopper, Jr. and Jeff Jarrell have been dishing up open-faced chili dogs, served on jalapeno buns since day one, but that’s not where my journey ended at this diabolical dive – John and Jeff are serving up local Donaldson Farms original alligator dogs, topped with a most amazing chipotle relish, splashed with a dash of gourmet spicy brown mustard – which should no doubt be a crowd pleaser for anyone in this area! But don’t take my word for it, stop by and wrap your lips around one yourself!
Moving onward, and after contemplating how many truly amazing hot dogs we’ve had from river to shining sandbar, I knew that no hot dog adventure of any virtue could end without the possibility of someone, anyone, having the Olympic Torch of dogs – that gourmet dodger dog and my dream became a reality at Restaurant Sage’s Red Oak Bar! Letting my lingua lead me down a path of foodie bliss, Chef Blake Phillips has concocted a dog worthy of the hot-dog-hall-of-fame… “The Dazzle Dog”! Comprised of a Duroc sausage, gently lain atop the perfect pairing of nothing other than a pretzel bun, this beauty is adorned with chopped green tomato relish and topped with a Sriracha and mayo aioli, that delights the mouth and tantalizes the taste buds bite after delicious bite for patrons lucky enough to indulge during the dog days of July at Restaurant Sage.
Closing out our adventure it is notable to mention that our area is surrounded by some of the most amazing eateries along both sides of the banks of the Ouachita (and BEYOND), and for more hot dog samplings please don’t miss out trying Little Freezer – located on Horner Street in Oak Grove; “The Wrigley Dog” – found at Fieldhouse Bar & Grill on 165 in Monroe; Coney Island Express’ loaded scratch chili dog – located on Hwy 165 North in Monroe; Harry’s famous chili dog at Coney Island on Natchitoches Street in West Monroe; Sundown Tavern’s fabulous chili dog – located on Park Avenue in Ruston; and, Magic Grill’s chili and mustard dog with two locations to serve in West Monroe and Monroe.
For a palatable sampling of one need not travel outside the lovely confines of our own surrounding areas, so start your journey down “Flavor Avenue” with these locales and more! Just remember to roll up your sleeves and don’t be afraid to dig in and savor that local flavor!
Easy (lean) Hot Dog Chili Recipe:
1 pound ground turkey
1/3 cup water
2/3 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
½ Teaspoon Cumin
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
dash of Worcestershire sauce
Written by Tara Ambrose of Tara’s Taste of the Town