Garnished with harissa spread, za'atar spiced and fried kale, stewed tomatoes and a close to perfectly fried egg, this Israeli-style dog was one of the most beautiful of the whole competition, and really good. Entered by Gavi and Tova Raab.
Shakshuka Slammer Art
This one also came with its own illustrated menu card, and two different dipping sauces, I assume for consideration on Hot Diggity's dipping sauce menu. These guys really went all out (and I'm really surprised they weren't in the top three).
Smoked Watermelon Dog
A really creative, refreshing summer dog topped with fresh avocado, smoked watermelon (great on its own), lemon aioli and sprouts. Delicious, but the large amount of toppings really overwhelmed the dog, that maybe didn't even need to be there. I would happily eat this as a salad without the dog and bun. Entered by Tai Ha.
Surprisingly there was a lot of vaguely Greek and/or Middle Eastern dogs in the competition, a cool concept that I haven't seen too much of. This one started with hummus on the bottom, topped with cucumber, kalamata olives, carrots and tzatziki sauce. Entered by Joe Howe.
Heirloom Tomato Dog
A summery dog topped with nice heirloom tomatoes, shredded lettuce, scallions and a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette, plus a smear of mascarpone cheese underneath for some richness. Entered by Corey Kline.
Grilled Watermelon and Feta Dog
Yet another watermelon dog, this one was topped with grilled watermelon, feta and mint. Understated compared to similar entries but the balance of ingredients was spot-on. I would love to see this on a hot dog menu. Entered by Kyle Kane.
Another one that spoke "hot dog language" in terms of topping texture, consistency, and ratios. This Mexican Coney from Thad of Philly Phoodie really nailed it with a chorizo chili (tasted very similar to hot dog chili), chipotle-lime crema, and a pickled jalapeno-onion relish that I would put on a hot dog any day. Was definitely expecting this to make the top 3; my fellow judges may have been thrown by the liberal use of the term "Coney" here. Entered by Thaddeus Suzenski.
Topped with vegan garlic avocado mayo, potato sticks, chayote, mango relish, Mexican crema and potato sticks. Nice to see a South American style entry (I'm a big fan) even though it's not 100% authentic. Typical Venezuelan street dog toppings are less Latin-leaning than you expect: raw cabbage, potato sticks, garlic sauce and/or pink sauce, mayo, mustard, ketchup, sometimes even corn and parmesan cheese. This was delicious and another I would gladly order if it were on the menu at Hot Diggity. Entered by Kyle McHerron.
Shrimp Spring Roll Dog
One of the more creative entries, this guy rolled a grilled dog with cooked shrimp together with rice paper before topping it with lettuce, crushed peanuts and peanut sauce, sort of a Southeast Asian surf and turf dog. With a little less peanut sauce, which sort of masked the other flavors, this could have been a contender for one of the top spots. Entered by Charles Tran.
This wild looking thing was pretty high up there with the weirdest hot dogs I've ever eaten. Artistically topped with sour cream, mandarin orange segments, lemon zest and shaved coconut, the flavors didn't work at all but it was definitely an awesome psychedelic hot dog experience. Apparently the marshmallow was left off to keep it "simple." I say just go for it next time. Entered by William Congelton.
A lot of dessert dogs were happening at the contest, which is pretty risky for a panel of judges that consists of about 75% hardcore hot dog traditionalists (I would consider myself about halfway there). A hot dog take on the infamous Elvis sandwich, this bacon-wrapped dog was also topped with apple/banana relish and a peanut butter sauce. Surprisingly mild for something that sounded intense. Entered by Paula White.
Another dessert dog that we were sort of dreading, but turned out to be amazing. Somehow a hot dog topped with bourbon-scented maple syrup, peaches, and toasted pecans in a french-toasted bun, totally worked. Nice one. Entered by Stephen Berg.
The Pølser Chill
A take on the popular Icelandic Pølser, this version was topped with fried onions, remoulade, shredded gruyere and scallions. Entered by Caitlin Downs.
Un Chien Andalou (3rd Place)
This Salvador Dali-film-themed hot dog was topped with the ingredients of Andalusian gazpacho: diced tomato, cucumber, pepper, onion and cilantro. A refreshingly simple break from the bacon dessert dogs. Entered by Nancy Lowell.
Kimchi Dog (2nd Place)
Topped with a mild young radish kimchi and quick-pickled cucumbers, this was at once creative, beautifully presented and simple. The interesting flavors worked with a hot dog that doesn't hit you over the head. Even though it was one of the last dogs we tried, we ate the whole thing. Entered by Hahri Shin.
The Marrakech (1st Place!)
All four judges definitely agreed on this first place winner. The harissa and ham hock braised lentils somehow tasted almost exactly like traditional Greek-spiced hot dog chili, even seasoned hot dog expert Holly Moore said if he closed his eyes he might not know the difference.
The fresh red cabbage and harissa-marinated onion rings added a nice light texture, and overall just some great technique of truly elevating the frankfurter with modern flavors with a foot still in the hot dog wheelhouse. Check it out on the menu of Hot Diggity soon! Entered by Jason Bartlett.