What better time than around the 4th of July to be “puttin’ on the dog?” Every year on Independence Day, Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs holds its annual hot dog eating contest at Coney Island in New York. Legend has it that the whole thing started back in 1916 when four immigrants settled a debate about who was the most patriotic. One of them, an Irishman, consumed 13 hot dogs in 12 minutes. This landmark pales compared to today’s contest where contestants eat 30, 40, and even 50 hot dogs in the 12 minutes allotted time period.
The hot dog probably originated as a sausage in Germany in the 1800’s. St. Louis is important in the hot dog’s history as most people attribute the dog being first served at the 1904 World’s Fair. Actually, the hot dog was first sold in St. Louis at the old Brown’s baseball park in the 1880’s. In the early 1800’s it was widely rumored that stray dogs were rounded up by “dog wagons” and then ground up into sausage. The term hot dog later came to mean someone who was a sharp dresser.
So where can you get a “good dog” in St. Louis? Surprisingly, for a place that invented the hot dog, there are only a few places around town that specialize in the delicacy. At one time there was the Dog N’ Suds and a place called Lum’s where they boiled the hot dogs in beer. Yum! Nathan’s is conspicuously absent. At one time a few years ago, Wendy’s, the hamburger chain, sold their version of a Chicago Hot Dog here.
Everyone seems to have his or her own version of what should go on a hotdog. Some are minimalists, insisting on a simply slash of mustard, ketchup, or relish with an occasional smattering of onions. The Chicago Dog, on the other hand, is loaded up with tomatoes, onions, relish, mustard, pickles, hot peppers, and cucumbers. Anyway you like it, here are a few places to “do the dog” in St. Louis:
Woofie’s Hotdogs on Woodson Road in Overland probably has the best and closest thing to a Chicago Dog in St. Louis. If you’re not in the mood for one, try the chilidog smothered with melted cheese.
The Hot Dog Stand at Home Depot’s around town. Besides having a huge selection of mustards and pepperbellies on the side, it’s one of the few places I know where you can buy hot dogs from a cart, New York style.
Sundecker’s is downtown on First Street with a nice view of the Mississippi River. Eat-Rite Diner in St. Louis is known for a monstrosity called the “slinger.” Eggs and crumbled sausage topped with an obscene amount of chili, onions, and cheese. Imagine all of that, but instead of the eggs and sausage, there’s a quarter pound hot dog on a bun underneath.
Or, you can just go to the place that probably sells more hot dogs than anyplace else: Busch Stadium. And you get the added benefit of watching the game.