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Delicious Regional Hot Dog Styles Around the U.S.

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Americans have long had a love affair with hot dogs, and the numbers speak for themselves: In 2020, they spent more than $7 billion on hot dogs and sausages in supermarkets. On the Fourth of July alone, Americans ate an estimated 150 million hot dogs — an amount that would stretch from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., five times over. However, not all hot dogs are created equal. In celebration of National Hot Dog Day on July 21, kick your next summer cookout up a notch with these seven regional hot dog variations from around the U.S.

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Chicago Dog

Close-up of hot dog in Chicago's Dog House restaurant.
Credit: Jeff Greenberg/ Getty Images

The Chicago-style hot dog dates back to the 1930s, when the city’s immigrant populations were suffering because of the Great Depression. Affordable hot dogs became a typical meal, and to add calories and nutrition, vendors piled them full of fresh toppings, a tradition called “dragging it through the garden.” The toppings became popular, and the tradition stuck. Now, Chicago dogs are all-beef, served on a poppy seed bun with sport peppers, neon green relish, mustard (never ketchup), onion, tomato, a pickle spear, and celery salt.

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New York Dog

Close-up of homemade New York style hot dogs.
Credit: Olexiy Bayev/ Shutterstock

If you visit New York City, you’ll have no problem finding a street vendor selling hot dogs — whether you love or hate the “dirty water” dogs, they are one of the city’s indisputable culinary icons. For a traditional New York dog, grab one topped with spicy brown mustard and either sauerkraut or onions sauteed with tomato paste. The toppings first gained steam in the 1860s, thanks to a German hot dog vendor who drew a following to his cart in the Bowery neighborhood. Today, similar hot dog carts are ubiquitous — it’s estimated that New Yorkers spend $120 million per year on hot dogs.

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Seattle Dog

Homemade Seattle style hot dog with cream cheese and onions.
Credit: Brent Hofacker/ Shutterstock

The Seattle Dog has a topping that’s pretty unique in the country: cream cheese. Add some grilled onions on top and you’ve got the iconic local hot dog. The hot dog style, though, actually originated with a Midwesterner named Hadley Longe and is a relatively recent phenomenon. Longe sold bagels and bialys in Ohio and took them to Pioneer Square in Seattle in 1988 — where no one wanted them. The area was known for its music scene and nightlife, and locals who frequented it craved hot dogs instead. So, he put a hot dog on a bialy and smothered it with cream cheese, and the combination took off. Seattle dogs are often sold at bars and street vendors late into the night.

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Detroit Coney Dog

Homemade Detroit style chili dog with mustard and onions.
Credit: Brent Hofacker/ Shutterstock

Coney dogs have been the go-to style of hot dog in Detroit since the early 1900s, but they didn’t originate in Coney Island, New York. However, it is likely that Greek immigrants who passed through New York on their way to Michigan were inspired by the hot dogs, which many historians believe were invented at the amusement park. Todoroff’s Original Coney Island restaurant, which opened in suburban Jackson, Michigan, in 1914, was the first of many “Coney Island” restaurants in the Detroit area. On the menu was the coney dog: a hot dog in a steamed bun, topped with beanless chili, yellow mustard, and diced white onions. The next two Coney Island diners after Todoroff’s opened in downtown Detroit in 1917 and 1924, owned by brothers Gust and William Keros, and soon coney dogs became a fixture across Michigan and other parts of the Midwest.

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Sonoran Dog

Close-up of homemade Sonoran hot dogs with bacon, mustard, and mayo.
Credit: Brent Hofacker/ Shutterstock

In Tucson, Arizona, street cart vendors serve a Mexican-inspired hot dog called the Sonoran hot dog. The hot dog itself is wrapped in bacon and grilled crisp, then placed into a bolillo roll and topped with mayonnaise, mustard, pinto beans, chopped tomatoes, raw onions, grilled onions, and jalapeño peppers. It’s served with a roasted chile güero on the side. Its origins are unclear, the Sonoran hot dog may have cropped up at baseball games in Sonora, Mexico, in the 1940s, and its popularity took off in the 1980s with students at Mexico’s University of Sonora. Since making its way to Tucson, the Sonoran dog has quickly gained traction and spread to other cities across Arizona.

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Cleveland Polish Boy

A Cleveland Polish Boy hot dog topped with fries.
Credit: Liudmyla Chuhunova/ Shutterstock

The history of Cleveland’s Polish Boy is also somewhat murky, but there’s no question that it has become one of the city’s most famous culinary exports: a bunned kielbasa topped with coleslaw, fries, and barbecue sauce. The first mention of the Polish Boy dates back to the 1940s, when Virgil Whitmore, owner of the original Whitmore's Bar-B-Q in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood, combined the ingredients he had on hand to create the hot dog style. That said, even Whitmore’s family, who still own restaurants in the city today, can’t confirm that he invented it.

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Slaw Dog

A slaw hot dog with mustard, chili, and coleslaw.
Credit: Brent Hofacker/ Shutterstock

Associated with both West Virginia and North Carolina, a slaw dog is a hot dog served on a plain bun, topped with meaty chili, coleslaw, yellow mustard, and diced onions.. It dates back to the 1920s in West Virginia, when coleslaw was first served on a hot dog at the Stoppette Drive-In near Charleston. The hearty style took off during the Great Depression thanks to their affordable ingredients and made its way to North Carolina in the 1950s, when West Virginians moved there on the hunt for jobs. Slaw dogs soon spread to other parts of the South, where they remain a beloved fixture today.

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