With barbecue and picnic season just around the corner, I decided it’s time to conquer my pathological fear of tubular meat. That’s right. I’m giving hot dogs another chance.
At 9, I turned my back on the iconic American food. That’s because one afternoon as my mom boiled wieners on the stove, my sister picked up the package and read the ingredients aloud.
Horrified by her litany of unspeakable cattle parts, the tipping point came when she concluded with “and ox lips!”
Shelley got an extra hot dog that day, and I got a lifelong loathing of wieners.
Family picnics presented a challenge because my folks always made “Peel Deals”: hot dogs stuffed with cheese, wrapped in foil and baked in the oven. All I could think about as my family relished their dogs were those poor lipless oxen.
But recently, I watched my husband and sons chow down on hot dogs at the Costco food court. Those dogs looked and smelled so good, I asked my husband for a bite. To my surprise, it tasted so good I found myself wondering what I’d been missing all these years.
So, on Saturday, armed with recommendations from Facebook and Twitter friends, my husband and I set off on a culinary journey to cure my hot dog hate.
Our strategy? Order one dog per stop and split it.
Our first stop: Crazy G’s. We chose the Super Crazy Dog – a hot dog slit while it’s still cooking and stuffed with bacon and cheese. It comes topped with mustard, ketchup and relish. I requested a generous spoonful of onions, too.
Owner Gary Swiss said this was the first menu item sold when they opened three years ago. I had no fear of ox lips, because only 100 percent beef wieners are sold at Crazy G’s. I bit into the smoky dog and the buttered, toasted bun added to the satisfying crunch. The bacon was incredible. Derek loved the firm texture of the frank, but a few bites were enough for me.
I still wasn’t a dog-devotee, so we made our way downtown to find a hot dog cart – any hot dog cart.
We happened upon Droop’s Dawgs on the corner of Howard Street and Spokane Falls Boulevard. A fellow sitting nearby dressed in full pirate regalia, minus the parrot and peg leg, informed us, “This is the best dog in town!”
Owner Tyler Layton said it was his third weekend at this location. He proudly serves Nathan’s Famous Frankfurters. I found the many options a bit bewildering, but finally settled on the Chicago. Topped with relish, mustard, pickles, red onions, tomatoes, celery salt and spicy sport peppers, I needed a spoon to scoop up all the goodies that spilled from the bun.
We stopped by the popular Wild Dawgs on Howard, but they don’t open till 11 p.m. on Saturday. I can’t imagine wanting a hot dog at that time of night, but apparently some folks do. Derek was just happy he got to take an up-close look at their controversial logo.
From there we headed to Big Red’s on the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Government Way. This food truck proved to be a popular Saturday afternoon stop. We waited in line and tried not to drool over other customer’s orders.
The garlic fries smelled delicious, but we knew we’d never have room for side dishes. I ordered the Cream Cheese Dog. This tasty dog comes slathered with cream cheese and topped with caramelized onions and spicy mustard. While I loved the onions, I found the wiener too salty for my taste. I told Derek I wished I’d developed a Philly cheese steak version, so we could have sampled Big Red’s version of that culinary classic.
Then it was off to Spokane Valley to find Frank’s Authentic New York Franks. We didn’t find Frank, but we found his son, manning the hot dog cart on University Road, just across from Rosauers on Sprague Avenue. Frank’s son works on Saturdays so his dad can have the day off.
By the time we arrived, a line had already formed. Frank’s serves Sabrett Frankfurters, a famed New York dog. Ours came topped with spicy mustard, cheese sauce and Sabrett Red Onion sauce.
When I posted on Facebook about my pending hot dog adventure, a friend asked, “If you find a tube steak that snaps when you bite it, please will you tell me where you found it?”
I found it at Frank’s. When I took the first bite Derek said, “There’s the snap!” Indeed, it was the perfect dog for the conclusion of our culinary quest. With our tummies as stuffed as Crazy G’s Super Crazy Dog, we headed home.
I’m still not a huge frankfurter fan, but I think I’ve overcome my hot dog hate. I also learned several things during our escapade.
• Hot dogs are the messiest food in the universe. I should have worn a bib.
• Ketchup is a totally unnecessary condiment in frankfurter land.
• My husband really likes to help me with column research.
• Hot dog vendors are the nicest, friendliest people in the food industry.
Who knows? On our next family picnic I may even eat a Peel Deal. Some childhood traumas are easier to overcome than others.