In honor of National Hot Dog Month—shut up, it’s a real thing—I roamed the streets of Scottsdale looking for the best franks in town. While hot dogs are a favorite flavor from our childhood, we drift apart as we get older. Turns out, hot dogs have grown up, too.
Scottsdale Burger Bar
It takes incredible willpower to walk into Scottsdale Burger Bar and order a hot dog. A hamburger is always my go-to meal, especially when it’s in the name of the establishment. My choice becomes easier when I see a listing for bacon dog.
They keep the menu simple. Order a burger or dog and customize it. Choose from a selection of cheeses, toppings and condiments. I start with the bacon dog, an oversize all-beef wiener nesting on a bed of bacon pieces. Then I add onions, jalapeños and mustard.
It’s a devastating combination if I do say so myself—one that should be on every menu. The smoky notes of bacon blend superbly with the onion sweetness and the light spice of the peppers. And like the Dude’s rug in The Big Lebowski, the mustard ties it all together. The lightly toasted bun provides sturdy architecture. Like astronomers allowed to name the heavenly bodies they discover, I dub this dog, Roger’s Rhapsody. Feel free to order it as such.
Fries and onion rings are available. The most intricate dishes served at Scottsdale Burger Bar are the loaded fries ranging from buffalo chicken fries to bacon burger fries. They’re entrees unto themselves.
Designed to look like a diner from the outside, the spacious eatery seems to be always bustling. Walk into Portillo’s and you would never guess its humble beginnings. In 1963, Dick Portillo opened a small hot dog stand in Villa Park, Illinois. For running water, he stretched 250 feet of garden hose from a nearby building.
Portillo’s continued to expand, growing into a beloved Chicago institution. Exactly 50 years after that first hot dog stand opened, Portillo’s came to Scottsdale. By then the menu had expanded to include burgers, chicken, beef sandwiches, ribs, specialty pastas, and an array of salads. But this is still a business built on the slender backs of tube steaks.
While their default dog is Chicago-style, they also offer a chili cheese dog and a char-grilled Maxwell Street Polish Sausage. Made famous by hot dog stands at the corner of Maxwell and Halsted in Chicago, Portillo’s starts with a grilled Makowski’s Real Sausage topped with grilled onions and yellow mustard.
If possible, save room for a slice of cake. That’s something you don’t find at many hot dog joints.
Simon’s Hot Dogs
They have a mad scientist vibe going at Simon’s. The signature dog is the Colombian where the wiener is tucked into a soft, locally made bun (baked without milk and eggs), and crowded with mozzarella cheese, crushed potato chips, chunks of pineapple and topped with a creamy sauce. I still can’t believe something that sounds like it was invented by a 10-year-old left alone in the kitchen can be so delicious. It’s a culinary riot of sweet and salty, soft and crunchy.
Simon’s serves up several gourmet hot dogs, like the Hola Amigo that comes with avocado, cream cheese and jalapeños or Tokyo Madness piled with teriyaki onions, wasabi mayo and seaweed. Even more surprising, anyone can enjoy these delicacies, including vegans. Choose the hot dog you want as your base, all-beef, bratwurst, chorizo, vegetarian or vegan.
Side dishes range far beyond the standard fries and onion rings and include ceviche and Columbian street food. There are plenty of vegan options among them, which is pretty cool.
I’m married to a vegetarian and for the first time we can go on a date to a hot dog joint. It will seem kind of romantic since it’s our first time, which will earn me some romance points and I get to enjoy a delicious dog. Win-win, baby!