Your hot dog deserves more than just a pedestrian squirt of mustard.
When it comes to the summer grilling hierarchy, hot dogs and hamburgers might be mentioned in the same breath, but they’re usually not considered equals. While burgers bask in the glory, dogs are often an afterthought. But at Destination Dogs, a sausage-centric restaurant with outposts in Philadelphia and New Brunswick, New Jersey, those snappy little meat tubes are given the respect they deserve.
For co-owner Jimmy Cronk, hot dogs are less of an afterthought and more of a way of life.
“Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I know I would have never gotten married to a woman who didn’t love hot dogs,” he says. In fact, the woman he married was the one to suggest that Cronk's hot dog restaurant should be inspired by his travels. “I did a ton of traveling, a ton of research, a lot of eating hot dogs, and really tried to get the flavor and the feel of each place.”
So Cronk, along with business partners Sean Hosty, Michael Parker, and Frank Karthaeuser, opened their first restaurant in 2012 with a mission to elevate the dog. “There’s always a stigma that comes along with hot dogs, but I get people who come in and are like, ‘Wow, I didn’t know they could taste like this,’” says Cronk.
Broken into domestic and international menu options, there are dogs that reflect a city’s standard order (like the Chicago Bull, an all-beef topped with yellow mustard, onions, tomato, green relish, hot peppers, and a pickle), and dogs that just aim to capture the flavor of a place. Every preservative and nitrate-free sausage—from the standard all-beef to wild boar, lamb, python, and kangaroo—is made in-house. Inventive, outrageous toppings may seem like stunts at first look, but they're all thoughtfully constructed; one bite and you’ll understand why this crew of restaurant-industry vets is so devoted to dogs.
Read on for six of Cronk’s most creative ways to elevate your hot dog.
Pile barbecue beef short ribs onto a hot dog, and add a little coleslaw for what Cronk calls a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. “It’s super simple, and people get down on it.”
Take a cue from the Vietnamese Bánh mì sandwich. Pickle shredded carrots and daikon in seasoned rice wine vinegar, and add those, along with some sliced jalapeños, a cucumber wedge, a little mayo, and a handful of cilantro.
A Destination Dogs, the popular "Conquistadog" has a spicy chorizo sausage with patatas bravas, scallions, and a spicy aioli. At your backyard barbecue, top your dog with fried potatoes, a little hot sauce, and mayo for a similar taste.
“It’s not for everyone,” admits Cronk. “But it’s so good.” Dress your dog up Colombian-style, with the surprisingly good combo of coleslaw, pineapple relish, ketchup, mustard, mayo, bacon, and a layer of crushed potato chips.
Drawing from elote, the traditional snack sold on the streets of Mexico, slice off grilled corn kernels and add them to a hot dog, along with some crema (or mayonnaise), queso fresco, and a sprinkle of chili powder.
A slight departure from their travel-inspired dogs, the restaurant’s July 4th special is called "Bun in the U.S.A.," and it's pretty easy to replicate at home. Top a beef hot dog with barbecue beef short ribs, spoon over cheese sauce, and casually top with two deviled eggs. “It’s like your standard American picnic,” says Cronk.