Hot Dog Of The Week: Seattle Style

"Seattle has many hot dog joints but until recently didn't have its own definitive Seattle Dog."

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[Artwork: Hawk Krall]

Whenever I think I'm out of regional hot dogs to cover, I get four or five e-mails about hot dogs I've never even heard of. It's amazing how quickly a hot dog style can be established. This week's dog, the Seattle Style cream cheese dog, seems to have popped up out of nowhere.

Served at carts and trucks all over the city, popular for a quick lunch or after the bars at 2 a.m., the Seattle Style hot dog is a wiener or Polish sausage grilled and often split (to hold more toppings?) then jammed into a cream cheese slathered toasted bun.

Standard garnishes include grilled onions, jalapenos, and either kraut or grilled cabbage. Condiments range anywhere from mustard to barbecue sauce or Sriracha. A few carts are even edging towards Tijuana Style with pico de gallo or bacon.

It's almost "anything goes" with the toppings, yet Seattle Cream Cheese Dogs are rarely topped with chili or any other cheeses. Pickles are available but not often, and they usually seem to avoid ketchup.

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[Photographs: Garrett Morlan]

The Seattle Dog takes cues from Chicago (the Polish sausage option and even celery salt at a few vendors) New York (the kraut) and Tijuana dogs (cream cheese instead of the mayo or crema), but the new regional hot dog was also born out of Seattle-specific influences. In fact it's so new, most sit-down hot dog "restaurants" don't even have it on their menu, with the exception of Cafe Racer, where they offer a Polish dog slathered in cream cheese, green chilies, and bacon.

Seattle has many hot dog joints but until recently didn't have its own definitive "Seattle Dog." Chicago-style dogs are popular at Matt's Chili Dogs and Shorty's, a combination bar, arcade, and hot dog joint. Or you can go the gourmet route at Diggity Dog and the soon-to-open Po Dog (seaweed-wrapped wasabi dogs anyone?).

Or check out Cyber Dogs, an internet cafe that offers sixteen different veggie dogs—everything from a veggie Coney to a beet-topped "borscht dog" to the Brazilian "Dog From Ipanema" overflowing with fake beef, rice and beans, hearts of palm, cilantro, avocado, and walnuts.

In 2003, Seattle passed legislation cracking down on street vendors and even banned them in certain areas. But earlier this year the laws were revised and Seattle has seen a boom in street food, hence facilitating the growth of the cream cheese dog.

Hot Dog Joe's has a whole fleet of carts and serves latenight cream cheese dogs all over the city, offering wieners and sausages from Seattle's own Bavarian Meats Delicatessen. Dog in the Park is a friendly family-run stand where you can enjoy a grilled cabbage-topped cream cheese dog in the park. Comet Dog and S&S Cream Cheez Dogs—open after 10 p.m. with 80s music blasting from a jukebox—are two more favorites.

I'm surprised by the lack of Seattle Dog coverage even in local Seattle papers and food blogs. Either it's taken for granted or every food writer in Seattle is vegetarian (although many of the vendors offer veggie dogs as well). I think it's an awesome development in hot dog evolution because no particular stand, restaurant, or chef seems to have created it. Instead it's a style that developed naturally on the streets and quickly became a tradition. That, and it sounds delicious.

Dog in the Park

1520 4th Avenue, Seattle WA 98101 (near Westlake Park; map)
Open Monday to Saturday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Comet Dogs

922 East Pike Street, Seattle WA 98122 (in front of Comet Tavern; map)
Open after 11pm

S&S Cream Cheez Hot Dogs

Belltown, 1st Avenue and Bell Street, Seattle WA 98121 (map)
Open Thursday through Saturday after 10 p.m.

Hawk Krall is a Philadelphia-based illustrator who has a serious thing for hot dogs. Dig his dog drawings? Many of the illustrations he has created for Hot Dog of the Week are available for sale: hawkkrall.net/prints/.

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