#978 Putting the toppings on a hot dog bun before the hot dog

Slide that beef tube right on down

Toronto is home to some of the best hot dog street vendors in the world. Street meat, we call it proudly, waiting in lines to get char-grilled, crisp-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside, big, brown beautiful hot dogs. The dogs usually come set perfectly in a puffy, yellow bun, like a smiling child tucked tightly into bed. Yes, it’s a glowing little beef-tube of heaven, a spicy little meat-wand of joy, the perfect company for a movie or a long walk home after the bars.

Now, despite the powerful taste-punch to the mouth the street vendor hot dog delivers, I’m sorry to say there is just one little problem: my friend, there is spillage, and plenty of it. Hot dog vendors pride themselves on their never ending array of toppings, from spicy mustard to onions, pickles to olives, sauerkraut to banana peppers. It’s a delicious den of germs just sitting out on the street in little glass jars, protected from gas fumes, building exhausts, and pigeon crap by nothing more than a large umbrella.

Now, like most people, I love hot dog toppings. But you and me, together we face a common problem: trying to balance piles of wet toppings on top of a round, slippery wiener. It ain’t easy, homes. Usually the relish slips off first, and you get those artistic looking ketchup and mayo swirls dripping onto your pants. Worst-case scenario you get a rogue pickle coated in mustard leaving a big yellow skid mark right on the belly of your T-shirt. The ladies sure love those.

I laugh, but folks: this is a serious problem.

Thankfully though, there is a solution: Yes, I’m talking about The Toppings-First Method. That’s right, believe it. Now here’s how it all goes down:

  1. First, ask for your bun while the hot dog is still cooking. “Mind if I get the bun first?” There, just like that. Most vendors will just hand it over, so now you’re holding a big empty hot dog bun in your hand. Everyone with me so far?
  2. Next is the very important bedding step. I cannot overemphasize the importance of this step. You can’t just lay your wet condiments down in the crack of the bun and expect the integrity of the bun to hold up. That would be ridiculous. No, you need to lay down a layer of condiment bedding first that gently cradles the wet toppings while preventing them from soaking through. Your ideal choices here are diced onions, pickles, or even lettuce if you have to.
  3. Okay, now… load that bun up like there’s no tomorrow! Just keep piling the wet toppings in there! Deep red river of ketchup, bright yellow pools of mustard, generous spoonfuls of relish. Load it up. Believe me, the dog will still fit.
  4. Finally, dog up! Rest that beautiful Fat Jim right down on your sugary bed of condiments. It may lay a bit high on the bun, but don’t you worry. Everything will still fit. Now the hot dog serves as shield and a guide, protecting your pants while escorting the delicious condiments into your hungry stomach below.

This is a magical technique I first learned from my friend Chad. He has perfected it to a science, where he has a very specific condiment architecture involving categorizing condiments into “wet”, “gritty”, and “cheese.” He can talk for five minutes about how relish is the most underrated topping or how proper cheese placement is key to fine melting. The point is that there are more advanced versions of this technique, but you really need to master the basics first. Sure, I’ve given you a guide. But only you can do the rest.


Good luck.

56 thoughts on “#978 Putting the toppings on a hot dog bun before the hot dog

  1. I’ve been to New York, Chicago, The Varsity in Atlanta; All the famous American places to get a hot dog (still wanna try Toronto). But there’s a little hole in the wall restaurant (aren’t those the best?) off of Cedar Street, right here in Cookeville Tennessee, that serves a mean Detroit style coney. And it blows Chicago and New York dogs away. I’m moving to Nashville in a few weeks, but I’ll be back here for a dog once or twice a month.

  2. In the eastern parts of Norway its traditional to serve hotdogs in a tortilla like bread called “lompe” instead of in a bun. At the 7-11s in Oslo you can choose which you want. Perfect solution is to go for both. Just put the sausage in the bun and fill up with topping, wrap the tortilla around it to keep it all in place :)

    1. The toppings in Norway come a little different: Three kinds of potato salad, fried onions (similar to the ones you might put on top of a green bean casserole), and then your regular ketchup and mustard types. Ketchup tends to be a bit sweeter here too. The chili ketchup has a nice kick.

      My favorite: Cheese and bacon dog in lompe (potato flour based tortilla thing), potato salad, chili ketchup and crunchy fried onions, “sprø stekt løk.”

      But I do still love a good chicago style all-beef vienne when in the states. The celery salt makes all the difference in the world. And /no ketchup/ on a chicago dog.

  3. I’ve been living in England for 4 years now and every time I go home to Toronto I get myself some street meat. I like to try the street food in every city that I go to and I have to say that there’s nothing like a spicy Italian sausage with all of the trimmings eaten standing on the street in -10 degree weather. Next time I’ll definitely try it your way putting the toppings on first. One thing to note, the bun must be toasted, otherwise everything just smooshes together.

    btw, love the blog, keep it up!

  4. have to say that there’s nothing like a spicy Italian sausage with all of the trimmings eaten standing on the street in -10 degree weather.

    It’s the first thing I line up for when I get back. And yes, it has to be a spicy Italian. Why people bother with the dogs I don’t know.

  5. First, I just want to say: There are two of us at Teapot Army, so please don’t think we’re a 68 year old schizophrenic guy who just likes to leave you a lot of comments.

    Secondly, the reason I have to comment on this is because after reading this, I made myself a hot dog, and put all of the toppings on the bun first. It was a pretty special moment for me and that hot dog. Thank you.

  6. Hey we’ll be fine as long as we don’t start commenting twice on the same article.

    Seriously though there’s a place round the corner from my work which puts the toppings on the bun before the hotdog as a matter of course and they are heavenly. I’ve never correlated the order of ingredient-adding with the deliciousness of the final product before, but thanks to this entry I now know the truth.

    Thankyou, 1000 Awesome Things. Now I am stronger.

  7. But can you still call them “toppings” if you don’t put them on the top?

    The best system was one I saw in Germany, many years ago. They used long peices of bread, like a french baguette, cut into two pieces. Then they made a length-wise hole in the bread, using a metal spike/rod, which didn’t quite reach the full length of the half-stick. Ketchup, mustard and whatever other… err… toppings could be squirted into the hole before the sausage was inserted.

    The end result was a hot dog where there was no danger of anything falling out. Just easy to handle bread/meat/ketchup laden goodness.

  8. This theory works great for tacos too! Moisture from the meat won’t soggy the bottom of the shell and, the cheese gets melted from the hot beef!

  9. Any post dedicated to delectable hot dogs, is something I want to read.

    My hot dog prep:
    Mayo (I’m southern) on both sides of the inner bun
    Little ketchup, little mustard – spread around together
    Sweet Pickle Relish on top of the dog

    Or, Mayo and Chili

  10. In Moscow they have hotdog stands called Stardogs (transliterated from Cyrillic), and aside from the standard hotdog fare you can get from them, you can get a hotdog (wrapped in bacon, filled with cheese, whatever) in a wrap with ketchup, mustard, pickles, fried onions, cheese sauce, mayo, and mashed potatoes. Yes, mashed potatoes. It’s a level of awesome previously not thought possible.

    1. ive done the dog in the tortilla thing,,,pig in a blanket. try ham cheese and potato salad on a big soft heavilly buttered kaiser,,,also sweet ass!

  11. Not the same, but similar- eating a ham/cheese burger upside down. The top bun is 2-3 times bigger than the bottom, so all the condiment drip doesn’t disintegrate it.

  12. If you are ever in Easton, Pennsylvania, find a place called Jimmy’s Hot Dogs. Hebrew nationals cooked in a special secret cooking oil, put on steamed buns (which may just be the best part). The classic Jimmy Dog is served with a kosher dill pickle spear, diced red onions, and mustard (but none of that bottled crap, they have to spoon the mustard on). And all the dogs are served by one Italian family, all day, everyday, and the guys who own the place are super cool.

  13. Did anyone ever think of saying to the vendor, could you please put my toppings on first???????????????
    That word please, used so little in the country anymore can do wonders at getting just what you’re looking for.
    Doesn’t work all the time, but I have found it does at least 90+% of the time.
    Also a Thank You can go a long way at making another feel good as well as yourself.

  14. i’d never thought of that! might try it the next time i get street meat downtown. (do they call it street meat in other cities too?)

  15. There is actually hot dog etiquette and it says toppings should never go before the dog. “Always dress the dog, never the bun” (National Hot Dog and Sausage Council website). Chads order of putting toppings on the dog “wet, gritty, cheese” is also considered proper hot dog etiquette.

  16. The street meat vendor just around the corner from my office always makes a series of criss-cross cuts on my spicy italian sausage. It makes lots of crispy little edges and produces a pattern of little sausage wedges that cradle all the toppings perfectly!

  17. I believe I would love to hear Chad’s ideas on Hamburger content and condiment layering and perhaps a sidebar on Hoagie/sub free crap to meat and cheese taste order.

    I have actually stopped a Subway employee to correct the layering order in which the condiments and veggies are layered with the meat and chees items.

    1. I definitely have to disagree with the person who called it a dick move. I myself have never done that, but you’re the one who is spending the money so you should be able to have the sub built like you want it. Right on.

      1. I work at Starbucks, and people come in with completely ridiculous, detailed drink orders all the time. I figure, if they’re paying for it, they should get exactly what they want, the way they want it….because that’s what I want when I go to an establishment to purchase their product, be it sandwiches or coffee or whatever.

        Honestly, though, I don’t mind those high-maintenance orders at all! In fact, if they’re decent and they talk to me like a human, rather than a vapid idiot behind a green apron, I WANT to make their drinks perfectly! It’s all a matter of respect. For me, it’s only when people act like a dick that their special requests are “dick moves”.

  18. That’s so true, just like who ever thought of flipping the ketchup bottle upside down.

  19. I’m born and raised in Toronto, and I love street meat. I’ve found greater hot-dog etiquette rules in Montreal though. Montreal “steamies” (steamed dogs, not grilled) can be purchased anywhere in the city, for as little as 50 cents. A popular topping combo is “moutarde, mayo, et chou” (mustard, mayo, and shredded cabbage) but it must be put on in the requested order. I’ve seen people offended when its done otherwise…….

  20. Yeah i am not gonna lie, Kyle that was pretty rude. But thanks for apologizing! The fellow hot dog lovers of the world and I appreciated it. We sure relish in the fact that we all care about these delicious weiners…. Get it? RELISH lol

  21. That was hilarious. I love a good hot dog joke. I can never mustard the confidence to tell one of my own. teehee i said mustard instead of muster

  22. There’s a hot dog vendor where we live who recommends this!
    For all reasons mentioned and because it actually even tastes better, this is awesome! Add potatoe chips, perfection!
    I also love those who make time to talk about such things as this…
    my step-son Mitch, is a master, (sounds alot like Chad), and I just loooove the times when we can talk until the sun sets, enter giddy-land until the sun rises again…such a blast!
    He lives in Ontario, so don’t get to see him often as I wish, so lots of “ketchup” when we do, like the summer’s he’d visit his dad, and for the entire month eat only hot dogs! And how he could (and should) write a book on “Cleverly creative mater-mind cooking of 150 hot dogs in 30 days!”
    His stories are hilarious! Holla Mitch:D

  23. We have some Hot Dog carts here that some charities use.
    Some of those people put the topping on the bottom..This actually changes the flavor of the hot dog…nope,not for me as I like the flavor of fried onions and mustard to hit the pallet first.

  24. We absolutely love your blog and find nearly all of your post’s to be exactly what I’m looking for. Does one offer guest writers to write content for you? I wouldn’t mind writing a post or elaborating on some of the subjects you write concerning here. Again, awesome website!

  25. Simply want to say your article is as astonishing. The clearness in your post is simply excellent and i can assume you are an expert on this subject. Well with your permission let me to grab your feed to keep up to date with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please continue the rewarding work.

  26. Wonderful blog you have here but I was curious if you knew of
    any user discussion forums that cover the same topics talked about here?
    I’d really love to be a part of group where I can get suggestions from other knowledgeable people that share the same interest.
    If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Many thanks!

Comments are closed.