A hot dog throwdown? Why would this humble–and often maligned–sausage need to be compared? Especially since everyone knows the best hot dogs come from Chicago.
Most of the world agrees, right? Okay, maybe not. And certainly not the good citizens of Quebec City. They claim their Hot Dog du Lac is better.
It was time for a throwdown. Bobby Flay fans know that he likes to challenge cooks to make their signature dish or a famous regional food in a contest. A throwdown is a fun and friendly way to see variations on cooking styles.
I happily volunteered for the task. First, I was in Quebec City, where the Hot Dog du Lac abounds. Second, I love hot dogs. Go ahead and tell me about the nitrates and nasty bits that end up in the product. I don’t care. A couple of wieners a year isn’t going to matter.
The hot dog throwdown begins with the Hot Dog du Lac
Let’s start with the Hot Dog du Lac. Based on a recipe from Lac St. Jean, in the Saguenay region of Quebec, it’s also called a “steamie,” because the hot dogs are steamed. Local Quebecers advised me that the best came from Chez Ashton. I dutifully found one in Quebec City for the reasonable price of 3.75$ ($2.90 USD).
Here’s the breakdown:
- Toasted bun
- Hot dog (I was unable to find out what meat is involved or if it’s kosher–and I tried!)
- Cabbage, sliced very thin
- French fries
Chez Ashton is a local Quebec chain, with a sweet start-up story that began in 1969. Though it became popular for its poutine, hot dogs are a big part of the menu.
Pros: I loved the bun! It’s a high-quality bread, and the toasting was perfect. The fries were hot and crisp, not overcooked. Parfait!
Cons: The hot dog was mushy and bland. But, mainly I scratched my head over the purpose of the mayo and cabbage. I know that the French prefer mayonnaise with fries, but there wasn’t enough to make a difference. And the cabbage? What’s up with that?
Grade: C+ There just wasn’t a lot of taste going on, aside from the delicious bread and crunchy frites. I’m a huge fan of “food riffs,” but the Hot Dog du Lac didn’t deliver.
Note: Chez Ashton has two other hot dog items. The Expo Dog features cheese, with thin slices of green pepper, tomatoes, and onions. It’s a better option than the du Lac, but you still have to deal with the soft hot dog of unknown composition. The Picante Dog has cheese and something like salsa on it. No. Just. No. Both are also 3.75$.
Next, the Chicago-Style Hot Dog
At this point, you’re probably thinking this isn’t an impartial hot dog throwdown. Cabbage versus a hot dog that’s been “dragged through the garden?” Yes, I know. The Chicago-Style hot dog is the gold standard. But keep an open mind…
- Steamed poppyseed bun
- Vienna hot dog (All beef) in a natural casing
- Kosher dill pickle spear
- Yellow mustard
- Neon-green sweet relish
- Diced onions
- Tomato slices
- Sport peppers
- Dash of celery salt
Pros: It’s not hard to see that there’s a lot of flavor going on here. While the bun isn’t as crisp as the du Lac, it’s soft and seems to cradle the hot dog. The hot dog itself is flavorful and tender–and the casing gives it a crunch when you bite into it. The combination of condiments fills your mouth with sweet and spice and savory, all at the same time.
Cons: The Chicago-Style hot dog can seem too hot and spicy to anyone not accustomed to it. And that green relish has an unnatural tint. Plus, the bun can get squishy, so you’ll need extra napkins to manage the drips.
Grade: A+ Full disclosure: I tried my best to be neutral, but Chicago continues to dominate the hot dog world. Even when it’s grilled (although that’s called a char-dog) it crushes the competition.
Along with other classic foods, the Chicago-Style hot dog made its debut at the 1893 World’s Fair and Columbia Exposition. It was then that Austrian-Hungarian immigrants Emil Reichel and Sam Ladany introduced their family frankfurter recipe.
Do you have a favorite style of hot dog? Let us know! Maybe we can do another hot dog throwdown!
Learn more about other regional foods–recipes included!