Today is a national holiday and I bet you didn’t know it. Today? We celebrate the humble hot dog. As an ode to red hots, I checked in with the owners of The Red Hot, Tacoma’s top spot to grab a dog and a craft brew (you’ve got to be 21 to eat there). Owners and brothers Stu and Chris Miller gave me the lowdown on how to construct a perfect hot dog. I also compiled a list of my favorite places to celebrate National Hot Dog Day. The list includes, but is not limited to, the region’s best destination for al fresco dogs, Chicago dogs (and beefs, too) and burger stand dogs.
Q: What’s the best way to construct a hot dog at home?
Stu Miller: When making a hot dog at home just make sure you have ingredients that go well with hot dogs and with the saltiness of the dog, to make it a well-balanced delicious meal in a bun. Start with your condiment of choice first to act as a “glue” to hold it together. Then add the rest of your toppings, use just a little of each topping, sometimes less is more when you have a lot of toppings on your hot dog.
Most important is to have fun with it, try different combinations and ingredients that you may not think about putting on a hot dog.
Chris Miller: The wet ingredients as glue method works great, and what Stu says is key: sometimes less is more. We’re always trying different hot dogs around here, so for ‘testing’ I always keep my toppings minimal to taste the tubesteak itself.
Q: Is using ketchup a crime against hot dogs?
Stu Miller: If you like ketchup go for it, I am not the hot dog police, just don’t put it on my hot dog! If having hot dogs at home you can add a little curry powder or smoked paprika to some ketchup for some kick.
Chris Miller: Exactly. I still hold fast to the ‘no ketchup on my hot dog’ decree. It’s just personal, I’m no judge. We’ve been given more than a few sideways glances for the things we put on hot dogs.
Q: In a hot dog smackdown, would Nathan’s or Hebrew National win? Or is there an underachiever you think would put them both out of the ring? Tell us!
Stu Miller: I’ll take a Chicago brand over one of the New York City brands. When picking a hot dog for home, make sure you get a brand that has a natural casing so it has that has that snap when you eat it. Please, no Chicken or Turkey hot dogs!
Chris Miller: There are so many better options than supermarket brands. And natural casing is a must. Look around, you’d be surprised what you can order off the internet these days. There are many local options, too. Check your local butcher. (TNT Diner tip: Blue Max Sausage, check out their smoked sausages)
Q: Should you toast or steam your buns? Which is better, in your hot dog expert opinion?
Stu Miller: Personally, I think steam makes the bun softer and easier to eat the hot dog, where toasting can make the bread hard and can make the toppings slide all over, and fall off. I would say that fresh buns or rolls are best and try different things, we’ve been experimenting with brioche buns at The Red Hot, and at home I like to use a smaller fresh baguette.
Chris Miller: If you’re doing it at home, it depends on your bread. If you’re using a thick, soft bread, stay away from steam or you will end up with a soggy mess. Toasting is tricky because you can toast too long and get the dreaded bun-break. If you’re doing it at home, you really can’t go wrong with fresh baked rolls, no steam or toasting needed.
EAT ‘EM: Here’s where to get the best dogs in the region.
2914 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253-779-0229, redhottacoma.com
Today, the hot dog emporium will celebrate National Hot Dog day with a $3 Red Hot, an all-beef dog with spicy brown mustard, onions, sweet relish on a steamed poppyseed bun. If you’ve never checked out the hot dog menu, find it here. It’s the best dog menu I’ve ever enjoyed. The Coney and Chicago are executed perfectly, but do try the Tacoma-themed dogs. They’ve got a great selection of vegetarian dogs, too. Here’s a 2010 review.
Tacoma Farmers Markets on Thursdays and downtown at the Post Office Building at 1102 A St. Mondays-Wednesdays. Check website for details.
The mobile food cart Jay Dogs got its official launch at last year’s Moveable Feast (the second one happens this Sunday at Cheney Stadium). Owner Jay Gallinatti has his hot dog heart in the right place – his dogs are grilled and his buns are toasted and diners get unlimited free toppings from a condiment bar heavy on mustard, onions and relish. Here’s a 2013 review.
Chicago Hot Dogs and Beefs
19319 Meridian Ave. E., Graham, 253-875-5979
As far as I can tell, this is the region’s only Chicago themed restaurant serving what taste like the real deal Chicago dogs and hot Italian beefs. The tiny, order-at-the-counter restaurant is quite a haul from Tacoma – it’s in Graham. The restaurant is run by Dave Rasmussen, a Tacoma native who lived in Chicago for 50 years, and his family. Here’s a 2013 review.
Eddie’s Dawg House
10625 Pacific Ave. S., Parkland, 360-223-0934, Facebook
Eddie Serrano covers the classics with a list of great hotdogs in a small cafe in Parkland that also houses the Yummers cupcake bakery (owned by Eddie’s daughter, Amber). They’ll make a dog any way you want it, or check out the specialty menu. Here’s a 2013 review.
Shake Shake Shake
124 N. Tacoma Ave., Tacoma, 253-507-4060, Facebook
Grilled dogs on good buns, Shake Shake Shake – the new burger restaurant in the Stadium neighborhood – is a great stop for a griddled dog and shake. Check out the new courtyard with picnic tables behind the building. Here’s a 2013 review.
4306 Pacific Highway E., Fife, 253-922-5599, pick-quick.com
Since 1949, this walk-up burger stand in Fife has served griddled dogs in original, classic or deluxe configurations. Choose from 1/8 or 1/4 pound dogs.