When most people think "hot dog relish," the first thing that comes to mind is the sweet, green pickle relish you find at the grocery store. And in a lot of places this's exactly what you'll get if you ask for relish on a frankfurter.
But there's a lot of areas and unique hot dog joints where "relish" has nothing to do with pickles. Some are cooked, some are pickled and canned, others made fresh. In fact the only consistent "recipe" is a vegetable-based sauce or slaw that usually involves some combination of vinegar, sugar, and salt.
Like everything else with hot dogs, relish loyalties are fierce. Local rules about what should or shouldn't go on a hot dog and definitions of what exactly constitutes "relish" or "slaw" are controversial. You have pockets of the country like Connecticut where hot pepper based relish is almost ubiquitous, obscure regional anomalies like Philadelphia's pepper hash—once widespread, now served at maybe five or six hot dog spots at most—and then both gourmet and traditional places that have totally unique secret recipe relishes like nowhere else in the country.
I'm sure I missed a few good relishes, but here are 14 across America. Definitely let us know your favorite! See all the relishes in the slideshow >>
The United States of Relish
Neon Relish (Chicago)
Red Onion Sauce (NYC)
Sauce (Birmingham, Alabama)
Grandma Fencz's Hungarian Onion Sauce (New Jersey)
Hot Relish (Connecticut)
Flo's Relish (Maine)
Snappy Dogs' Zucchini Relish (Eastern Massachusetts)
Paul's Place Relish (North Carolina)
Charlie Joseph's Spicy Relish (LaGrange, Georgia)
Creamy Slaw (most of the South)
Pepper Hash (Philadelphia)
Roast Grill Slaw (Durham, North Carolina)
Mustard Slaw (Tennessee and Alabama)
Rutt's Hut Relish (New Jersey)
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/.