Past Weeks' Dogs
One of the best things about writing this column has been the realization that a hot dog is not just a hot dog. While many of us grew up eating poor-quality dogs as a cheap, easy alternative to real cooking, if you start poking around, you'll find an amazing range of toppings and franks themselves.
During a recent trip to beloved Wegmans outside of Philadelphia, my jaw almost hit the floor when I saw all the hot dog options: four or five different premium, regional frankfurter brands placed rightfully over the mediocre, chock-full-of-mechanically-separated-chicken national brands. Sabrett's and Thumann's from New Jersey, Hoffmann Sausage from Syracuse, Sahlen's from Buffalo along with the Zweigle's.
After two Wegmans trips and a New Year's Eve hot dog bonanza—where I cooked up at least eight pounds of three different brands—Zweigle's was the clear favorite. It's a unique dog: bright pink, short and stout with a natural casing, slightly bigger than most at six-per-pound, and made with pork and beef. "Pork/beef NC 6/lb" in hot dog speak. Plus they taste great, with lots of snap and a good amount of spice.
I tried the Zweigle's dogs both boiled and pan-fried in butter. Pan-fried was the clear winner—fantastic on their own, with a line of mustard, and yet still flavorful enough to stand up to a whole mess of toppings. I served a few undressed, others Coney-style with Cincinnati chili and cheese, even some Philly-style with real Amish pepper cabbage and pickles from AJ's Pickle Patch in the Reading Terminal Market (or make it from scratch). Absolute regional blasphemy, but so good.
Zweigle's are from Rochester, locally known as "Red Hots" [Ed. note: See this glossary of Regional Hot Dog Styles.] and served with "hot sauce," which is really a thin meat sauce in the chili/Greek sauce/Texas sauce family.
Rochester's best known hot dog joint is Nick Tahou Hots, which has been around since 1918 and is famous for their garbage plate: a pile of home fries covered in baked beans, a red hot or two, chopped onions and engulfed with hot sauce.
Zweigle's also makes White Hots: white, uncured franks made with veal and pork. I haven't had a Zweigle's white hot but did try the Hoffmann's version. The Syracuse-based sausage company calls their white dogs "Snappys" but to locals they're known as "Coneys," further confusing hot dog etymology.
The white Snappys were interesting but a bit bland for my taste, of course I haven't yet had them in their natural setting (Heid's of Liverpool). For more on Heid's and white Coneys check out this video. [Much thanks to @dhorst for the video tip!]
In Buffalo, the weiner of choice is Sahlen's, also really great dogs with an extra smoky flavor. No white hot dogs here (except for the occasional Zweigle's that slips over the border).
So if you're on the East Coast and looking for an upstate New York hot dog experience without the road trip, pick up some Zweigle's at your closest Wegmans, or beg your supermarket to carry them. A little bit of shopping around and seeking out high-quality hot dogs and toppings, or making your own (toppings that is—I haven't gotten to making my own dogs) is well worth it.
Where To Find These Hot Dogs
Nick Tahou Hots
Heid's of Liverpool
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/.