"I still can't get those neon red Maine hot dogs out of my head."
Past Weeks' Dogs
My hot dog mania began in my hometown where I would scarf down fish cake combos at the long-gone Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, outpost of Levis' Hot Dogs.
Then reignited in a big way about two years ago on a camping trip to Maine where I stopped at Flo's (who use natural colored franks) and later discovered giant bags of Red Snappers at a Maine grocery store. I think we went through ten pounds of them in one weekend, cooked over the campfire and jammed into split top buns, then washed down with Moxie mixed with Jim Beam.
I've had hot dogs all over the country since then, but still can't get those neon red Maine hot dogs out of my head.
They're natural casing beef and pork franks, dyed with a healthy dose of FD&C Red #40. Great boiled or grilled, they have a serious snap and look great with just a streak of bright yellow mustard. Also available in Pepto-Bismol pink.
W.A. Bean's and Rice's Frankforts, two companies that have been around for more than 100 years, are the only brands left that are actually made in Maine, and have been by the same company—but with different recipes—since 2004. Kayem in Massachusetts is another major producer of red hot dogs for the New England market.
Why red? There's no definite answer but the stories range from a simple marketing scheme to the legend that butchers added bright red dye to hide the gray color of wieners made from old meat. This was likely perpetuated by the same folks who think hot dogs are made from toenails and the scrapings off of the slaughterhouse floor. (They're not, at least not anymore.)
It's also worth noting that red hot dogs are often found in areas where Chourico—bright red Portuguese sausages—are historically popular, specifically Massachusetts and Hawaii.
Believe it or not, the red hot dog phenomenon is not confined to Maine.
Red frankfurters can also be found scattered across the South—from Georgia's famous Nu-Way to Virginia and Mississippi. Then in Hawaii you've got Redondo's Winners used for everything from breakfast to nori-wrapped hot dog musubi, and even red hot dogs in the Philippines, where they cook them up with spaghetti.
While every grocery store in Maine is likely to carry Red Snappers, what's not easy to find is a hot dog stand that serves them. Some folks still look down on artificially dyed weiners, but you can find them at Simone's hot dog stand in Lewiston, or stop by the W. A. Beans & Sons market and pick up a sack or two for your freezer.
Simone's Hot Dog Stand
99 Chestnut Street, Lewiston ME 04240 (map) 207-782-8431
W.A. Bean & Sons Meat Market
229 Bomarc Road, Bangor Maine (map) 1-800-649-1958
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/.