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Guest Blogger Judy Alter – Researching the Lowly Hot Dog

Judy Alter

Judy Alter

Researching the Lowly Hot Dog by Judy Alter

We all do a lot of research on setting and other things to make our novels accurate. For the Kelly O’Connell series I studied Craftsman design and the Craftsman movement, because Kelly is a real estate agent who specializes in restoring the priceless Craftsman houses in her beloved Fairmount district in Fort Worth, Texas.

But one of the most fun pieces of research I did was for the fourth and most recent Kelly O’Connell Mystery, Danger Comes Home. I decided one of the characters as going to open an upscale hot dog café. Then I began to research the kinds of hot dogs available and the number of restaurants devoted solely or primarily to hot dogs. To my amazement, they are all over the country. The majority are clustered throughout the Midwest, from Wisconsin and Michigan clear down to the South and Texas, with just a smattering on the West Coast and more on the East Coast. You can see an overall map and search by state at http://www.hot-dog.org/ht/d/sp/i/51784/pid/51784. Click on any pin and you can read all about that restaurant, from location to menu.  So, reassured that the idea wasn’t bizarre, I proceeded.Danger-MD_(2)

Next came the toppings. I remember a walk-up stand in Santa Fe called, I think, The Chicago Dog. So I began there. A Chicago dog is all beef on a poppy seed bun and topped with yellow mustard, chopped white onion, sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato slices, and pickled pepper. A colorful mouthful of flavors. The traditional Coney Island dog is again all beef, topped with chili without beans, chopped white onions, and mustard. A plain old chili dog may have chili and cheddar (my preference). Don’t confuse the two and don’t associate the Coney dog with Coney Island—it began in Michigan.

But then there are hot dogs called frank and beans, the dog nestled in a bun with a slice of bacon and topped with warm baked beans (no, you Texans, not pintos but “northern beans”) , diced onion, and mustard (in hot dog lingo mustard is always yellow salad mustard, not the fancy stuff like whole grain or Dijon). And then there’s the Reuben dog—you guessed it! Sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and a Thousand Island-type dressing (I make my own Thousand Island and it’s so good—also easy). Somewhere I read about a Banh mi dog, with a topping of brown sugar dissolved in white vinegar with shredded carrots that have marinated in the mixture. Top the dog with mayo, thinly sliced cucumber and jalapeno, the carrots, and cilantro.

Want to give your hot dog a Mexican flair? Char some corn in a skillet, add vegetable oil and thinly sliced scallions (white part only), season with salt and pepper. Meanwhile mix mayonnaise with lime juice. Top the dog with the corn mixture, the lime mayonnaise, crumbled feta, and the sliced scallion greens Sprinkle with chili power. A Hawaiian dog has grilled pineapple wedges and red onion rounds, chopped and seasoned with sugar, salt and cayenne. What to call my café? I ran a contest, and some wonderful names were suggested: Hot Diggety Dog, Dogs of Distinction, Frankly Wienerful, Decadent Dog, Haute Dogs, The Finer Frank, and Hot Dog Heaven, among others. The winner, chosen by my daughter, is Bun Appetit!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Judy Alter’s newest Kelly O’Connell Mystery, Danger Comes Home, launched July 22 in e-book form with print to follow. Others in the series are Skeleton in a Dead Space, No Neighborhood for Old Women, and Trouble in a Big Box. Her second mystery series, Blue Plate Café Mysteries, launched in February with Murder at the Blue Plate Café.

In Danger Comes Home, Kelly O’Connell can’t sit idly by while her world is shattering. Daughter Maggie is hiding a runaway classmate; protégé Joe Mendez seems to be hanging out again with his former gang friends and ignoring his lovely wife, Theresa; drug dealers have moved into her beloved Fairmount neighborhood. And amidst all this, reclusive former diva Lorna McDavid expects Kelly to do her grocery shopping. In spite of Mike’s warnings, Kelly is determined to save the runaway girl and her abused mother and find out what’s troubling Joe, even when those things lead back to the drug dealers. Before all the tangles in the neighborhood are untangled, Kelly finds herself wondering who to trust, facing drug dealers, and seeing more of death than she wants. But she also tests upscale hot dog recipes and finds a soft side to the imperious recluse, Lorna McDavid. It’s a wild ride, but she manages, always, to protect her daughters and keep Mike from worrying about her—at least not too much.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

An award-winning novelist, Judy Alter is the author of four books in the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries series: Skeleton in a Dead Space, No Neighborhood for Old Women, Troubleconvertible2 in a Big Box, and Danger Comes Home. She is also the author Murder at the Blue Plate Café, first in a new series.

Her work has been recognized with awards from the Western Writers of America, the Texas Institute of Letters, and the National Cowboy Museum and Hall of Fame. She has been honored with the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement by WWA and inducted into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame.

Judy is retired as director of TCU Press and the mother of four grown children and the grandmother of seven. She and her dog live in Fort Worth, Texas.

  1. judyalter
    June 6, 2017 at 9:06 pm

    Okay, now I’m hungry for a hot dog again.

  2. July 29, 2013 at 5:57 pm

    Pat, funny how tastes in hot dog relishes differ but I too like sauerkraut and mustard, dill pickle relish on occasion. Coney Dogs probably have too much stuff for me, particularly the peppers.

  3. July 29, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    I didn’t realize there were so many upscale hot dog cafes in the U.S. I wonder if we have that many in Canada. BTW…I love the restaurant name you finally selected.

    • July 29, 2013 at 5:15 pm

      It would be interesting to see if it is a Canadian love, too. BTW, thanks for the tweet about the hot dogs.

    • July 29, 2013 at 5:50 pm

      Thanks, Joanne. The name Bun Appetit was suggested by a former neighbor and longtime good friend–and my daughter insisted on it! As for hot dog places in Canada I bet you could find out on the Web.

  4. July 29, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    I’m a mustard and relishes person, but I’ll also add a touch of sauerkraut if available. I also make hot dogs and beans once in a while. Of course, I have the hot dogs in my fridge but no rolls. Hubby is going food shopping tomorrow…so guess what tomorrow’s dinner will be now? Oh…and Hubby likes BBQ onions on his dogs.

    • July 29, 2013 at 5:13 pm

      Amazing how the power of suggestion works….I served my hubby hot dogs last night.

      • July 29, 2013 at 5:52 pm

        Debra, I even have a recipe for hot dogs cut up in a German potato salad. Check out the recipe on Potluck with Judy a couple of weeks ago.

  5. July 29, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    Polly, OScar Meyer now makes a Select brand that promises no fillers, no preservatives. Chicken is pure breast meat, turkey the same, can’t remember about beef. I still kind of like the kosher ones.

  6. July 29, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    I can’t eat them often, but when I do they taste great. Mustard, relish, onions. Too basic, I know. I can eat them with chili, but not at home.

    • July 29, 2013 at 5:13 pm

      I’m with you….can’t eat them too often, but every now and then a Kosher dog really hits the spot.

  7. July 29, 2013 at 10:03 am

    Thanks all. Sorry to have made you hungry (not really). I love my hot dogs with sauerkraut and mustard–my grandson prefers to bury them in ketchup! I bet chili dogs are among the most popular

  8. Shari
    July 29, 2013 at 9:40 am

    Judy – loved this! Now I want a hot dog! This brought back wonderful memories of a hot dog stand in Connecticut – Guida’s – conveniently located by a hiking trail so you could burn off all those delicious calories (or get a well deserved treat after the hike). Thanks!

    • June 6, 2017 at 8:00 pm

      A really good answer, full of raltnoatiiy!

  9. July 28, 2013 at 10:17 pm

    Sounds like lots of fun, but damnit, I want a hotdog…NOW!

    • July 28, 2013 at 11:45 pm

      I set up this blog for posting and then I went to make dinner. Guess what I fed Joel tonight!

  10. July 28, 2013 at 8:03 pm

    I knew a bit about this subject, but didn’t realize how deep it is! Thanks for an education in hot dogs. The Reuben Dog sounds like I might like it.

    • July 28, 2013 at 11:44 pm

      Makes two of us…..but then again I’m happy with catsup and sauerkraut on my hot dog. Be interesting to see what type most people prefer.

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