Philadelphia's summer of hot dog madness continues, with a new cart featuring honest-to-goodness handmade hot dogs from chef Scott Schroeder of the South Philly Taproom, well-known for their grass-fed bacon cheeseburgers, "Mexican construction worker style" head cheese tacos and crazy craft beer selection.
Scott Dogs came out of Scott's love of hot dogs from his hometown of Detroit (his grandmother Verna worked at Lafayette Coney Island) and his inability to find anything comparable in Philadelphia.
Rather than shipping in dogs from Koegel's or Winter's Sausage in Michigan, Scott wanted to use something local and after a mini Philadelphia hot dog tour—including stops at the legendary Jimmy John's and Illg's Meats—he decided to just make his own.
The dogs—made by Scott himself, at least until he finds someone who can replicate the recipe—start out with a mix of locally farmed meat, about one-third beef to two-thirds pork, cured for 24 hours with pink salt and spices. The meat then goes through a grinder four or five times until it achieves proper hot dog texture before being stuffed into natural sheep casings and lightly smoked.
At the cart, the dogs are kept warm dirty-water style (it will be a broth of beer and onions in the future) and finished off on a propane grill ingeniously jerry-rigged to the cart and outfitted with a flat-top griddle surface to mimic the cooking technique at a lunch counter or Coney stand.
The dogs on opening day were served on Martin's Potato Rolls and topped simply with a homemade dill pickle and yellow mustard relish. Fresher and not as sweet as commercial relish, with extra points for using yellow mustard (one of my goals in the hot dog world, along with discouraging the use of giant rolls, is yellow mustard advocacy). Some people were put off by the $5 price tag and lack of ketchup, at least until they tried one, and then usually ordered another.
Showing up on the cart soon, and currently on the menu at the South Philly Taproom, are Detroit style dogs topped with homemade beef-heart sauce, and Mexican street-cart style dogs. I recently tried the Mexican dog, which has actually been on the menu for a while, but only now with the homemade dogs. Wrapped in bacon and topped with pico de gallo, mustard, mayo and ketchup, it's awesome.
So the final verdict? These things are incredible.
Think a cross between Jimmy John's "special frankfurter" and a Detroit Coney, with a little extra pork and smoke. Really one of the few "artisan" hot dogs I've had that's true to the flavor profile and texture of a frankfurter, rather than just being a small fancy sausage, not that there's anything wrong with that, it's just...not a hot dog.
This was Scott's intent. He says he loves what's going on in Philly at new spots like Hot Diggity and Memphis Taproom but wanted to do something a bit different that was really all about the hot dog, especially with frankfurter history running through his veins.
For now the Scott Dogs cart is only licensed for special events, so you'll likely see them set up at street fairs and outdoor events in Philadelphia. In the meantime all these dogs are on the menu at the South Philly Taproom.
Follow Scott on Twitter for his event schedule.
South Philly Tap Room
About the author: 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/.