Summer in Philadelphia is quickly becoming my favorite season. Last year, I was unable to fully partake with periodic traveling, two classes, working at Planned Parenthood, and panicking about my Capstone. But I’ve been able to take things a little slower this summer. I went ahead and got a bike (more on that soon, I’m sure), I’ve been photographed in multiple beer gardens (I’m trying to spend as much time enjoying craft beer outside as possible) and limiting my weekends at the shore to explore my city a little more. As much as summer is about getting outside and drinking excellent summer ales…. It’s also about hot dogs.
South Street Headhouse knows this fact quite well, and has commemorated this with an Annual Dog Days of Summer SHOWDOWN. 20 chefs from 20 different establishments whipping up their take on the American classic. There were spicy sausages, pork-ified puppies, beef brats, and every topping you could imagine. Creativity out the wazoo, and I gotta say, the chefs pulled out all the stops. My stomach reached its limit at 9 half-dogs…. but goodness, what a 9 they were.
I started the day off with the hometown hero Hot Diggity’s Corn Salsa Dog. My first dog was presented beautifully but, truly, all that stood out to me was the corn and bacon salsa. The hot dog, to me, was a little lost in the fray. Luckily, the fray was delicious. So good, in fact, that it earned 3rd Place!
A Korean Fried Hot Dog, eh? Ok, Taproom on 19th, I see where you’re going with this. Jalapeno mayo was the star of the show, in my humblest opinion, but, in a similar vein as Hot Diggity, the dog itself was relatively silent amidst the fresh flavors of the pickled relish and watermelon. There’s something to be said for creative toppings, but as this was a hot dog cook-off…. well I couldn’t hand my “People’s Choice” ticket over to this one.
Chef Adan from Sancho Pistola’s could be heard shouting about his bacon jam throughout Headhouse Square. This was a GREAT dog. A blend of bacon jam, jalapeno ketchup, and some solid crema mixed together with a crisp dog and an appropriately sized bun led to 4 wonderful bites. An early contender, my tastebuds were starting to get real excited….
Chicken Fried Chicken!? Color me drooling with anticipation. This was the first meat-mix-up as far as the content of the sausage went, and I couldn’t wait. There was consistently a line of folks waiting for these bad boys, and I jumped at the chance. Unfortunately… I think I might’ve gotten one from a bad batch. Or, more specifically, a burnt batch. While the meat inside was pretty tasty, the “fried” aspect was almost prohibitively crunchy. That said, I saw almost everyone else cheerily chowing down, so please…. don’t take my word.
Serrano’s Wild Board Hot Dog suffered a similar fate, simply didn’t stand up well to the format. The meat in this sausage was delicious, but my dog was borderline cold. The micro celery, however, was intriguing and I’d like to see it in more dishes in my life. Stat.
Bridget Foy’s served up, quite literally, the hot dog of my dreams. The night previous, I’d been having beautiful, vivid dreams of fountains full of pickled vegetables and what does she go and do? Serves them up on a weenie! Complete with pork belly. I was fairly full of bread at this point, but every topping and ingredient that was NOT bread in this was done perfectly. Bravo!
The People’s Choice went to this little looker: Bistro Romano‘s Scala Duck Ragu. Talk about having everything!! Beef wrapped in pancetta wrapped in romaine, topped with duck and Parmigiano Reggiano? Be still my heart. Were it not for the fact that this was my very last dog (and the fact that the next two won my heart), I would’ve contemplated stealing a number of these to stockpile for later. Consider yourself lucky, BR.
Twisted Tail: You did me dirty. You rifled around in my journal, checked out my fridge, asked friends and family…. and somehow managed to put all the things I love into one miniature, compact delight of a dog. Allegedly The World’s Best Chili Dog, I’m inclined to agree. Everything on this dog came together like a well-written symphony, with the brioche bun crunching in time with the brisket and short rib chili, which was not overpowered by the cheddar. All of this allowed the pork dog to sing like a canary… in my mouth.
Unfortunately, there was another competitor. And she was not to be outdone.
Ladies and gentleman: my vote went to Cherry Bomb Bus’ Broad Street Bulldog.
Imagine, if you will, a world where hot dogs are not standalone. No, they are…. within. This example, particular, held a snappy-cased beef frank within a blend of ground beef on a seeded roll. It was like…. a hot dog…. within a burger…. surrounded by some of the best roast pork toppings imaginable (read: provolone, long hots, and gravy!) It was like Inception…. only with hot dogs.
I had a single ticket left, but I couldn’t bare to look at another rod of meat (not even a euphemism, y’all.) Luckily, there was one last treat waiting for me…
All that heartburn really needed some cooling off. Luckily, mompops was there to send in reinforcements in the form of a strawberry-lemonade popsicle.
I promptly waddled home and fell into a 2 hour food coma.
Thanks a lot, Hot Diggity and the crew….
(no. really. that was amazing. Can’t wait until next year!)