The Hot Dog Oscars

In honor of the upcoming Academy Awards, let’s see who wins this year’s Best Hot Dog. I ate a lot of hot dogs last year. I gained ten pounds. (It’s disgusting, the things I do for you people).

The nominees for Best Hot Dog of 2008 are:

Gray’s Papaya, for The Curious Case of Coconut Champagne
This old favorite is a standard Oscar-bait dog- a skinny tube steak with good flavor, classic toppings, and they’re open all night. The drinks are amazing, and vhat a bargain!! But we’ve seen this before.

Crif Dog, for Dog/Bacon
Hot Dogs and Bacon- two things that go great together, fried to crispy perfection. Others have done it, but no one wraps bacon around the dog like Crif does, and their toppings selections keep getting better. The one to beat.

Big Daddy’s Diner, for Hotdog Millionaire
Size does matter! But so does flavor. Big Daddy’s diner of decadence makes the best foot long we had this year, a spicy frank smothered in cheese and bacon. But the bacon lacked flavor and more toppings would have been nice.

Puka Dog, for The ‘Furter

Let’s go Hawaiian! You’ve got to go to Honolulu for this one, but it’s worth the flight. The dog is a bit bland and mushy but well-seared. What makes this one amazing is the perfect bun- with a hole seared in the middle to stick the juicy dog, and tons of fruity, spicy and mayonnaise-y toppings!

Ben’s Chili Bowl, for Half-Smoke
Ben’s is a spicy sausage made of beef and pork, slathered mightily with a kick-ass smoky chili and tangy onions. This one’s a classic and a serious contender to Crif Dog. If you’re in D.C., you simply must go. It’s a neighborhood landmark and makes serious good eats.

And the winners are…


Don’t you hate when the Oscars wastes your time and saves the big ones for last? Get used to it.


The Independent Sausage award goes to The Dover Grill for being the most exciting hot dog joint in North Jersey we found. While it doesn’t beat Crif Dog, they make some amazing flavor combos there.

The Irving Whaleberg Lifetime Achievement Award goes to Joey “Jaws” Chestnut, for winning the Nathan’s hot dog eating contest once more. This time he ate 59 hot dogs in 12 minutes, tying champ Takera “Tsunami” Kobayashi, and then defeated him in a 5 hot dog eat-off tiebreaker. He is truly a great American and an inspiration to hot dog lovers everywhere.

and the winner of Best Hot Dog 2008 is…

CRIF DOG!

No big surprise here if you know insiders at the Academy! Crif Dog continues to amaze us with their timeless concoctions. They’ve added cream cheese, kimchi, and Taylor Ham to the roster, but the Spicy Redneck- cole slaw, jalapenos, bacon, and chili- still reigns supreme. It’s such a perfect mix of crunchy saltiness, spicy peppers, and cool creamy slaw. The Good Morning Jersey, with Taylor Ham, cheese and a fried egg, is pretty good but needs ketchup added- Taylor Ham and ketchup are the perfect marriage of flavor. The Jon Jon Dragon, with cream cheese, scallions and “everything bagel topping” is good but strange. Cream cheese goes well, but the topping is too salty. We still haven’t conquered their menu, and they keep raising the bar.
Even when Milky can barely lift a Crif dog, he will persevere and conquer. He won’t let any mere hot dog humiliate him. And just look at how fiercely Firecracker protects her plate. She got the Chihuahua, the avocado bacon dog. That’s the one Chihuahua you won’t wanna dropkick.

Thanks to all who participated, and for those overlooked, better luck next year!

Puka Dog: The Hawaiian Hot Dog

Today the real reason for our trip was fulfilled. Yes, we flew 5500 miles for a hot dog. When we decided to go to Hawaii, Firecracker said things like, “I wanna go horseback riding!” but only one thing came to my mind: Puka Dog, the Hawaiian hot dog joint that Anthony Bourdain went to on his show.

Getting a table is slightly harder than at Bourdain’s… zing!

Bourdain also liked Hiram’s, so I knew his hot dog cred was golden. Puka Dog is nestled in the Waikiki town center, at the mall entrance. They have a huge sign now announcing “as seen on the Travel Channel,” and they sell t-shirts and such. But they still serve up a unique and delicious dog.

Dog rolling off the assembly line

They do things differently here in Hawaii. For one, the pizza comes with pineapple and Canadian bacon on it, but that’s nothing new. The hot dogs at Puka are Polish sausages, and they are cooked well-done on the rolling metal cooker that they use at Nathan’s and cafeterias. The dog gets a crispy shell of burnt skin, like a weller at Rutt’s. Then there’s the bun- a long soft hollowed-out roll that gets toasted on the inside by a special skewer that looks like a violent dildo.

“Steely Dan,” the magical skewer that toasts the inside

Then there’s the choices; you can get a veggie dog if you must, and then you choose the heat level of your garlic sauce, from mild to habañero hot. I chose “spicy,” #2 on a level of 4, and it was still very mild. Next time I’ll try the hottest. Then you choose your relish- pineapple, mango, coconut, guava- I think they also have a sweet pickle relish, but why would you get something mundane if you’ve come all the way to Hawaii? Then finally, you choose your mustard, which is golden and seems mixed with mayo, actually. The lilikoi or passion fruit mustard is a lot like sweet mayo and is the perfect topper. Go hog wild. I went for a pineapple-lilikoi.

More combinations than a Rubik’s Cube

Your dog might take 5 or 10 minutes to cook this way. I had to run and feed the parking meter, since in Waikiki you get ten minutes for a quarter- like a Magic Fingers bed. I mean, come on. But by the time I got back, the dog was done, and so was the fresh lemonade they make. You know, the kind so fresh there’s half a squeezed lemon and a sediment of sugar in your cup. The best kind there is.

Was the hot dog worth the transcontinental flight? You bet your bippy. The gummy roll is the perfect pocket for the crisp and juicy dog. The toasted inside gives it a real crunch, and they squirt the relish and sauces inside. They tend to collect at the bottom, so you get a volcanic eruption of sweet sauces at the end.

Insert gross joke here

The only bad thing about Puka Dog is that the dogs are so big you might only be able to eat one. I had a cheeseburger for breakfast this morning, so I could only manage one Puka Dog. Next time I’ll have a super-hot one with coconut relish or mango. And that just may be Monday… so Mahalo, Hawaiians, for introducing me to a new hot dog unlike any I’ve had before. They may not be as decadent as Crif Dog’s bacon wrapped franks, but they are one of a kind and bursting with tropical flavor. Like my pants.

Viagra in hot dog form.