A HOT DOG coated in school-bus-yellow mustard on a white-bread bun might have been America’s least impressive contribution to global cuisine, but you can hardly deny that the dish is having a moment. Wieneristas now choose from a variety of exotic meats, and toppings that range from kimchi to breakfast cereal. Haute dogs have risen to national acclaim—the august New York Times recently devoted a spread to them.
My Santa Fe fave has always been Chicago Dog Express, a humble shack with a blue awning, just blocks from my house. I have patronized it for decades. These days, I find myself opting out of the traditional Chicago dog in exchange for a kielbasa laden with sauerkraut, mustard, and onions.
The new pup on the block (well, nearby, anyway) is Brochachos’, an old-fashioned pushcart that sets up on St. Michael’s Drive, in front of Candyman Strings & Things. One of the most popular options, the Wolfy Dog, gets topped with an intriguing mix of cream cheese, jalapeños, and chipotle fried onions. Co-owners Ignacio Dominguez and Matt Sheldon have been best friends for 24 years and went into business this past November.
Dominguez, whose full-time job as emergency management coordinator for Santa Fe County kept him busy during the spring fire season, turns to his hot dog biz to unwind. I recommend embellishing your meal with the pair’s classic Frito pie—and make sure to thank Dominguez for keeping us safe.
Albuquerque is a dog town, too, and two (of many!) places for summer visits include the Urban Hotdog Company and the Clowndog Hot Dog Parlor. Urban Hotdog owner and self-described “wienerologist” Matthew Bernabe dropped out of the University of New Mexico in 2012 to open his first hotdoggery, which set him off like a goldendoodle at a dog park. He eventually completed his business degree, and now, a decade later, Urban Hotdog has logged six wins for Albuquerque’s best hot dog (Albuquerque The Magazine), mentions in Condé Nast Traveler for Best Hot Dog in New Mexico, and an appearance on the Travel Channel’s Food Paradise.
“It’s nostalgic,” Bernabe says of his favorite dish. “Whether it was chopped-up hot dogs in mac ’n’ cheese as a kid or your dad grilling some dogs in the backyard for the Fourth of July, everyone has some sort of core memory tied to a hot dog. One of my favorite comments to get from guests is they didn’t know a hot dog could be so good.”
You can still get your urban dog on at the original location, by Cottonwood Mall, or on Saturdays at Marble Brewery’s Northeast Heights taproom. Imagine biting into the Le Blue—bacon-wrapped, fried, and topped with grilled mushrooms, blue cheese, and thyme—or the Banh Mi, with pickled carrots and daikon, red onion, cucumber, jalapeño, sriracha mayo, and cilantro, on a poppyseed bun.
The circus-inspired atmosphere of Clowndog Hot Dog Parlor gets you in the mood to chow down on a build-your-own version with a frenetic collection of toppings, including wildly nontraditional options like coconut shavings, peanut butter and jelly, and Froot Loops. Owner Rich Bartel and chef Casey Clare also offer the trendy Sonoran dog, popular in southern Arizona since the 1980s, when the concept was brought over the border by street-food vendors called dogueros. Clowndog’s take includes the requisite bacon, pinto beans, onions, and tomatoes, plus their house-made Flame-Roasted Jalapeño Salsa (see recipe). For the vegans in your pack, they even make a red lentil version.
If friends offer to take you out to the ball game at Isotopes Park this summer with promises of only peanuts and Cracker Jack, Jim Griego might howl. Griego, who started as executive chef for the Albuquerque stadium this spring, serves up an eclectic selection of hot dogs made with rabbit, elk, duck, kangaroo, and (would you believe?) rattlesnake. What fun, when the kids send you to the Section 102 cart for a dog and you return with an animal kingdom!
My culinary roots lie in Rochester, New York, and in its most famous hot dog: the Garbage Plate. It’s a dog with macaroni salad, crispy home fries or french fries, American cheese, ketchup, yellow mustard, raw onions, and a meat-based “hot sauce” (see recipe), all indelicately piled on buttered white bread. Originating at a local eatery called Nick Tahou Hots, it is particularly satisfying after a big night out and may well be my motivation for seeking a culinary career.
If you’d rather do your hotdogging at home, every New Mexico butcher offers a range of tasty sausages. But for something classic, consider Zweigle’s, a Rochester-based company that’s been grinding out a variety of meat goodies since 1880. They ship throughout the country—I always have some in my freezer. Order the Pop Open variety, which bursts on the grill. I particularly like the unique White Pop Open, which resembles a German bockwurst.
Clearly, a squirt of yellow mustard won’t cut it anymore. Haute dog season has arrived. Want a bite?
Get Your Dog On
Start hunting for your favorite dog at these stops—and send other favorites to email@example.com.
505 Burgers & Wings, Gallup. Try the Cali Dog, topped with chile con carne, Fritos, and American cheese.
Old Apple Barn, Mountain Park. Venison sausage? Yes, please, and we’ll wash it down with the famous cherry cider.
Foxy Drive In, Clovis. This classic carhop joint serves foot-long corn dogs.
Andele’s Dog House, Mesilla. Relish a chile con queso dog on the patio.
Caliche’s Frozen Custard, Las Cruces and Alamogordo. Most folks go for the best frozen custard on the planet, but don’t miss the Aggie Dog, “the pride of NMSU,” with barbecue sauce and shredded cheese.
Classics Frozen Custard, Roswell. Want a dog that’s out of this world? The Pucker Dog with sauerkraut and mustard fits the bill. Add a Passion Fruit Alien Ice.
Traditional Sonoran dogs are wrapped in bacon, grilled, and served on bolillo-style buns, then topped with beans, onions, and tomatoes. These days, a full menu of toppings invite new fans who choose from mayo, mustard, radishes, cucumbers, chiles, mushrooms, and salsa. Clowndog Hot Dog Parlor, in Albuquerque, shares this recipe for a salsa that fires up any kind
Students often ask me if it’s possible to bake a batter-coated relleno rather than deep-fry it. This is the only batter I’ve found that works. Should you choose that option: Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray and then lay the dipped rellenos on it. Spray the rellenos lightly and bake at 400° until nicely browned, about 12 minutes.
This is my take on the hot sauce served as part of the Garbage Plate hot dog topper of my youth in Rochester, New York. If I’d known then how much better it tastes with Chimayó red chile, I would have moved here sooner! The recipe makes enough to satisfy a tailgate party, but you can refrigerate or freeze leftovers.