It's still summer, which means it's hot dog season. But for all the democratic appeal they can rightly claim, hot dogs — also known as weiners — don't get much respect.
"They're cheap. They have notoriously been cheap. They're just a filling, inexpensive way to get something in your tummy," says Jenny Vergara of Feast Magazine.
But The Pitch's Liz Cook thinks we need to reconsider the hot dog.
"There's a huge difference between your $2 supermarket bag of Oscar Meyer weinies and then a frank that's handmade from a better cut of meat," Cook notes, and she has serious questions about the Costco hot dog lunch combo.
"Should we trust a ¼-pound hot dog that costs less than something off a gas station roller? Probably not," she says.
That's not to say Cook takes issue with the traditional hotdog or its pricetag.
"I'm not going to denigrate the cheap hot dog, the ballpark dog," she says. "I think there's great pleasures there."
And despite varying opinions about the ideal pricepoint for a hot dog, Central Standard's food critics agree that size matters.
"I personally like a hot dog or sausage that is bigger than the bun," says Carlton Logan, who writes for KCFoodguys.com. "I do not like a hot dog or sausage where I put it in the bun and the bun is overwhelming it."
Now that Kansas City is seeing a wider variety of hotdogs and sausages on restaurant menus — in addition to the city's concession stands, hot dog stands and food trucks — it's worth distinguishing one hot dog from another.
Here are the critics' hot dog and sausage recommendations:
- Wiener Kitchen — Bacon sausage dog. This brunch dish comes with country-style sausage gravy and hot sauce on request, and you can also add an egg. Wiener Kitchen also has a killer vegan dog — the link's made with cauliflower wild rice — with green tomato relish, Brussels-kraut and whole grain dijon. Their hot dog specials are wonderful, too.
- Krokstrom Scandinavian Comfort Food — Copenhagen street dog. This garlic-pickled hot dog from Fritz’s hangs outside the bun. It comes with a Danish remoulade, cucumber, onion and crispy-fried onions, served with house made chips.
- Marco Polo's Deli — Charcoal-grilled Italian sausage sandwich. This is the sandwich that made Jasper Mirabile's deli famous. It's served with potatoes, peppers and onions on a soft bun.
- Leeway Franks — Chili dog. Leeway Franks in Lawrence serves an all-beef frankfurter with Texas red chili, yellow mustard and diced onions on a poppy seed bun, served with tater tots or french fries. It's worth the drive from Kansas City.
- Twin City Tavern — Mini corn dogs basket. It comes with fries or tots.
- Westport Flea Market — Fritz’s smoked hot dog. Order it with or without the 'kraut.
- Costco — Hot dog lunch combo. Say what you want, but the food court at Costco still has the most reliably delicious, filling and affordable hot dog you can get for the money. This is the cheapest dog in town. For $1.50, which never seems to change with inflation, you get half a pound of meat and a bun, as well as condiments of your choice and a fountain drink.
- Kauffman Stadium — Super dog. This is a plain-old foot-long hot dog on a soft bun that you can top with condiments of your choice. It's perfect for sharing, but also works as a meal for just yourself. That and a can of Boulevard beer.
- Grünauer — Currywurst. This Austrian restaurant in the Crossroads is known for serving plenty of comforting dishes, but it also happens to have an entire menu section dedicated to sausages. The currywurst, my favorite, is a bratwurst with curry sauce.
- The Brick — Kansas City Reuben Dog. It comes with swiss cheese, sauerkraut, 1,000 island dressing and a pickle.
Liz Cook, The Pitch:
- Peter May’s House of Kielbasa — Classic walnut-smoked Polish kielbasa. This neighborhood outfit has been open since 1929. Grab a sliced polish sausage sandwich with mustard at the counter.
- Grünauer — German sausages. The bar menu sometimes includes a special that is essentially a Viennese chili dog snowed with mozzarella and served on a poppyseed bun and it's the best.
- Harp Barbecue inside Crane Brewing Co. — homemade sausage. Sausage is the unsung hero of most barbecue joints. It tends to get overlooked in our pursuit of the best brisket or burnt ends. Harp’s homemade sausage is great and getting better as chef Tyler Harp tweaks his recipes (I loved the smoked jalapeño cheddar). New flavors and experiments are rolling out all the time. A street-corn-inspired sausage is set to debut soon.
- Broadway Butcher Shop — Brisket sausage links are my go-to for grilling. But the Broadway Butcher Shop offers all sorts of creative brats and sausages (like the chicken-and-waffles breakfast sausage with a hint of maple flavor).
- Shelia’s Grinder Shop — Italian sausage grinder. It's the messiest sandwich, but it’ll keep you full for a week. Get it with a cup of red sauce on the side, which is great for dunking the dry toasted ends of the hollowed-out hoagie.
- Werner’s Fine Sausages — linguica links. They're smoky, garlicky and spicy. For those who don’t eat pork, the turkey Italian sausage links are good as well. In addition to the sausages to take home and prepare, Werner's has grilled sausage specials at lunch and on Saturdays.
- Krokstrom Scandinavian Comfort Food — Copenhagen Street Dog. This is a 9-inch, bright red showpiece brined in garlic and vinegar and topped with curry remoulade, with enough fried onions for a green bean casserole.
- Detroit Coney — Coney dogs, a variety of all-beef hot dogs doused with beanless chili, onions and mustard, come from this sunshine-yellow food truck, which also serves good chili-cheese fries (though there are no bad chili-cheese fries). It's run by friendly Michigan natives.
- The Brick — Kansas City Reuben Dog. It’s worth pointing out that you can get a veggie dog Reuben-style here as well. It’s good!
- Pretzel Boys – The Pup. Dan Wikiera brought Pretzel Boys to Kansas City after his wife introduced him to the original in St. Louis. Pretzel Boys also sells hot dogs and sausages wrapped in pretzels. The hot dog is called The Pup, but they also serve brats, Italian sausage, a hot polish sausage and chicken andouille. If you're smart, you’ll eat your sausage or pup with some mustard made by Helga Fine Foods in Kansas City.
- Costco – hot dog lunch combo. It is written in the Book of Retail Shopping that if you shop at Costco, you cannot leave without buying a hot dog.
- Weiner Kitchen – chili cheese dog. This chili cheese dog is made with Wagyu beef, chorizo-black bean chili, shredded cheddar cheese, diced onions and hot sauce.
- Krokstrom Scandinavian Comfort Food – Curry Korv and Copenhagen Street Dog. Both are wonderful.
- Grunauer – sausage duo. You get to choose two sausages from the menu selection and it's served with sauerkraut. I usually like the currywurst and pork with cheddar.
- Marco Polo's Deli – charcoal-grilled Italian sausage sandwich. This famous sandwich comes with onions, potatoes and peppers.
- Custard’s Last Stand — The Classic Dog, with onions, relish, ketchup and mustard, is available only at the Lee's Summit location. They also have a Coney Dog, Chicago Dog and New York Dog. The fries are good, too.
- Up Dog — classic dogs representing U.S. cities. Going to Up Dog in Independence is like stepping back into the 1950s. It has a counter with padded red stools, booths with Formica tops and wrap-around chrome skirts (the name comes from the phrase what up, dog?). If you're looking for a variety of hot dogs, this is the place. Besides the classic dogs, specialty dogs include Scimeca stadium brats and Klement-brand sausages with all sorts of toppings.