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Food Porn: Sup, dog!

 Editor's note: It's Memorial Day, or, in the world of cured and processed meats -- dog day. Whether you're grilling in your backyard, passing though Dat Dog, or enviously looking on at the Fly as an adjacent party grills up 'dem doggies -- any way you spin it, dogs and sausages will likely proliferate at your festivities. 

To celebrate Memorial Day (while we too grill our hearts' desires), we are rerunning an article from May 2013, in which NolaVie food writer Scott Gold contemplates the New Orleans dog.

This is how we do hot dogs in New Orleans, ya heard?

This is how we do hot dogs in New Orleans, ya heard?

There are a number of foods that people both here and abroad consider to be distinctly American.  Not "regional American," mind you, but pure red white and blue, through and through.  There's apple pie, of course, and the hamburger (which, having humble peasant origins in Hamburg, is a true American immigrant success story...the Horatio Alger of sandwiches), barbecue, cowboy-style chili con carne, the Reuben sandwich, the Cobb salad, and, naturally, a Thanksgiving dinner plate filled with roasted turkey, stuffing, dressing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and all those other patriotic goodies we love in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And then we have the hot dog.

Like the hamburger, the hot dog is a food item that was born abroad and traveled, with its immigrant parents, to the USA, where it developed its own uniquely American identity.  The history books claim that a German immigrant, Charles Feltman, began selling his Frankfurt-style sausages on rolls (to save money on plates) on Brooklyn's Coney Island around 1870.  One of Feltman's former employees, Nathan Handwerker later went into competition with Feltman, and won his hot dog war by undercutting his former employer by five cents a dog.  Today, Nathan's Famous on Coney Island is the undisputed epicenter of all things hot dog, hosting the annual fourth of July competitive eating contest that draws crowds of thousands and media coverage world-wide.

I am no stranger to the hot dog.  I have thrice served as a judge at the Great Hot Dog Cook-off in Brooklyn (having once been a competitor...my "Loosiana gator dog" -- a butterflied Wagyu beef frank stuffed with a three-cheese blend and topped with spicy alligator chili, sour cream, chives and crushed fritos -- even made it to the hallowed pages of This Is Why You're Fat).  I've prepped, cooked and plated countless dogs for my friends' food truck and catering company, Snap, home of fire-grilled gourmet sausages and thick-cut Belgian fries.

I have even made the hot dog haj to Chicago's Hot Doug's, the self-described "Sausage superstore and Encased-Meats Emporium," where I waited in a block-long line with all the other frankfurter junkies at 10:30 am, methadone clinic-style, for a chance to sample their famous duck and foie gras sausage topped with truffle aioli and three generous slices of pate de foie gras.  My heart and vascular system nearly walked out of my body on strike afterwards, but we managed to work things out.  It was worth it.

Recently, however, I've been thinking about how the hot dog relates to New Orleans.  After all, there are so many different regional variations on the classic, from the bacon-wrapped Sonora dog in Arizona to the Seattle version served with cream cheese and grilled onions, Chicago's famous "dragged through the garden" dog, New Jersey's deep fried "rippers," Maine's "red snappers" and more.

But what, I wondered, could be a "New Orleans-style" hot dog?  Well, I think I've finally cracked that one.  After writing a story about the phenomenally popular local chain Dat Dog, I've concluded that they, above all -- even above the Lucky Dog, which one tends to consume only if he or she is blind drunk at 4 a.m., possessed of an impervious digestive tract, and/or named Ignatius Reilly -- have truly claimed ownership of the NOLA dog: A generously sized sausage (particularly of the crawfish, alligator, of spicy, smoked Cajun variety) served on a steamed, grilled sourdough roll, then piled so high with toppings and condiments that you're absolutely certain you're going to get mustard or relish on your eyebrows at some point.  It is big, and it is loud, and it is colorful and crazy, and it is absolutely unapologetic about it.

Now that is what I call a New Orleans hot dog.


Native New Orleans food writer Scott Gold, author of The Shameless Carnivore, has written for Gourmet, The New Orleans Advocate, Gambit, ThrillistEdible Brooklyn, Tasting Table, The Faster Times, and other publications. His Food Porn Friday column for NolaVie offers a weekly mouth-watering photo essay designed to start culinary conversations in the Big Easy. Find him on Twitter @scottgold.