Today’s dining scene practically begs for innovative sausages and hot dogs, driven by a couple of trending factors. First, our robust modern beer culture demands casual, craveable fare that pairs well with a pint or two. Second, a format this familiar guarantees a safe adventure, yielding a platform that invites intriguing flavor combinations.
Dog Haus, a 30-plus-unit gourmet hot dog, sausage and burger concept based in Pasadena, Calif., takes full advantage of the modern landscape of flavor preferences, serving dogs like the Pineapple Express, a bacon-wrapped hot dog topped with “bouillonaise” (mayo flavored with chicken bouillon), sweet ginger glaze, pineapple, jalapeño relish and crispy onions.
“The creativity behind our hot dogs is where we have all our fun, and it’s where we separate ourselves from the traditional hot dog,” says Hagop Giragossian, partner. Whether pulling from German traditions or doubling down on American stadium culture, chefs across the country are demonstrating seriously creative takes on this beloved handheld.
A Little German
Newer concepts aimed at younger consumers tap into the sociable, beer-centric fun of German food and beverage, then modernize it for American dining consumers. Places like Funkenhausen in Chicago, and Wurstküche, with two locations in Los Angeles, illustrate the opportunity.
At Wurstküche, the menu includes an array of sausages, ranging from classics (bratwurst with coriander and nutmeg) to gourmet (mango-jalapeño chicken and turkey sausage) to exotics (rabbit and pork sausage with leeks and carrots). Toppings include a variety of mustards, along with caramelized onions, sauerkraut and sweet peppers.
Berlin Currywurst is a modern German concept in New York and Los Angeles that serves up its take on Berlin street food. Guests can choose from eight sausages, ranging from a Paprika Sausage to a Tofu Brat. If they go with the bun, it’s topped with minced onion and sauerkraut.
Toppings can move a dog from predictable to extraordinary. Here are a few that demonstrate clever and craveable flavor combinations at every turn.
- Curryous Frank: Curried “scooter” onion relish, cilantro chutney, sweet potato crisps, Sriracha ketchup, roasted garlic aïoli
—Good Dog Houston, Houston
- Imperial Sonoran: Bacon-wrapped hot dog with stewed beans, tomato, onion, poblano-lime cream, salsa verde, queso fresco, guacamole and cilantro
—Imperial, Ferndale, Mich.
- Empire City Wagyu Beef Hot Dog with baby arugula, tomatoes, bacon bits, royal fry sauce
—Kings of Kobe, New York
- Bop Dog with teriyaki sauce and shredded nori, served on a lobster roll bun with garlic-butter cream cheese, caramelized onions, Japanese mayo, spicy mayo and fried shallots
—Spicy Dog, based in Houston
Vegan on a Roll
There’s no denying that plant-forward and vegan fare are having a serious moment in foodservice today. One of the more interesting phenomena is the indulgent side of vegan, where consumers are delighting in the flavor experiences of rich, flavor-forward, decadent vegan dishes.
Beelman’s, a plant-based Asian-inspired pub in Los Angeles, offers a vegan hot dog on the menu that cleverly interprets the flavors of the popular banh mi. The build is topped with Sriracha mayo, pickled carrots, green papaya and daikon, jalapeños and cilantro on a pretzel bun.
Duck is a Hot Dog
The Duck Inn, a Chicago gastro-tavern serves up a decadent dog. In fact, it’s received a number of awards, including “Top Dog” by Food Network. Made with all-natural beef and duck fat in a hog casing, the Duck Fat Dog is grilled and topped with classic Chicago dog ingredients: mustard, relish, tomato, onion and celery salt, nestled in a brioche poppyseed bun. Not only does it demonstrate a smart way to tie into the brand promise of creative American fare, it also brings a sense of community by touting a local favorite.
World View From the Bun
Innovation in the hot dog and sausage category—much like most of foodservice today—often sees chefs dipping into global food cultures for inspiration. There’s a natural fit here, as many countries hold a tradition that includes some kind of sausage in a bun.
At Barleygarden, a gastropub in Alpharetta, Ga., variety is the name of the game. “We offer five great sausage choices and five great dressings to go with them—that’s 25 unique choices,” says Matty Hutchins, executive chef. The sausages take a turn toward global profiles with builds like the Amigo, which tops anything from the Sweet Italian to the Red Hot Link with a jalapeño relish and shredded carrot. “Any of our dogs can be ordered Amigo-style,” he says. “The secret to this delicious topping is in the texture—the carrots are crispy to balance out the softer, juicier pepper.”
At Von Elrod’s Beer Hall & Kitchen in Nashville, Tenn., the menu features sausage builds that are both eclectic and global. For instance, The Gaucho is the restaurant’s translation of an Argentinian sausage. It stars prime ribeye sausage, chimichurri, pickled red onions and horseradish sauce. “It was designed to be the Cadillac of sausages,” says Hillary Holmes, general manager. “We wanted to put our own spin on Argentinian sausage, so rather than using traditional chorizo, we use a phenomenal cut of meat. Featuring chimichurri and pickled red onion as toppings not only continues the South American theme, but also perfectly complements the richness of the sausage.”