#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.