UPDATED: Though it’s hardly a newsflash, the Bay Area just isn’t known for its hot dog culture. Outside of backyard barbecues, Brats, foot-longs and chili dogs were almost unheard of if you traveled north of Modesto or west of, well, Chicago. Maybe it’s the fact that sauerkraut and relish can be so darned hard to pair with wine.
But we’re evolving. Though Wine Country doesn’t even register among the top hot dog consuming spots (New York is, not surprisingly number one with LA coming in second) more and more doggeries are popping up around the county to the delight of foot-long aficionados, New York transplants and, oddly enough, local chefs who are among their most devoted fans. Go figure.
Top Dog: Taps
If for no other reason than the 30-plus beers on tap and their heart-stopping fried bacon dog (with mayo), this Petaluma newcomer gets a howl-out. Housed in the former Petaluma Hotel courtyard, the spot is still trying to figure out if its a sports bar (flat-screen tvs dominate the wall above the bar along with some good-natured rowdiness on Sunday) or a family restaurant (with plenty of stroller-setters as well). The menu of specialty dogs (BLT, Seattle dog with sauerkraut, cream cheese and mustard, Reuben and Buffalo), Italian sausage and steak sandwiches match the hoppy-heavy selection of craft brews. Fries are standard-fare, but bonus points of small-production root beers for non-drinkers. 205 Kentucky Street (beneath the historic Petaluma Hotel), Petaluma, 763-6700. Open daily.
Roy’s Chicago Doggery
Folks got a little concerned when Mike’s left the Petaluma stockyard. The french fry-free burger institution, however, begat one of the county’s best hot dog spots, serving up Chicago-style Vienna dogs with serious fixins, from kraut and mustard to the Windy City classic of peppers, onions, celery salt and relish, to chili dogs and, of course, the famous Home Wrecker, a 12-inch half-pounder loaded with toppings that dares you to even try. And fries. Glorious fries. 84 Corona Rd, Petaluma, 774-1574. Closed Sunday.
Charlie’s Serious Chili Dogs
Newly relocated from Rohnert Park, Charlie Timmsen’s minimal set-up at the south end of Santa Rosa Avenue features Casper’s Hot Dogs with steaming chili inspired by SoCal’s Cupid’s Hot Dogs. So far no fries or other frills, but $3 for lunch ain’t bad.
3444 Santa Rosa Ave., Santa Rosa. No phone. Open weekdays from 11am to 3pm.
David’s Hot Dogs: Old school rules and a soda fountain featuring Dr. Brown’s, Faygo, Egg Creams and root beer floats (the perfect dog accompaniment). A fiver will get you anything on the menu, from the simple Windsor Dog ($3.50) with just mustard, relish and onions to a Chili Cheese ($4.500), Chicago Style (with green relish, tomatoes, pickles, peppers and celery salt, $4.50), the South of the Border (with guacamole, tortilla chips and pico de gallo) or the Mock Ruben (mustard, Swiss and sauerkraut or cole slaw, $4.50). Don’t miss the mini dog for kiddos. 716 McClelland, Windsor, 707.836.1196.
Code 7-Mealtime: Taking its name from the police code for “Mealtime”, this hot doggery recently re-opened in a yellow Victorian in downtown Healdsburg. It’s a simple affair: Straightforward dogs, sodas, chips, coffee and pie. Always pie. Dogs are thin and snappy, with all the fixin’s or without. Law enforcement get free refills on the joe. Consider it the safest lunch spot in Wine Country. 60A Mill Street, Healdsburg, 433-3377.
Walnut Park Grill: Lots of raves for this central Petaluma stand that’s SoCo’s answer to Taylor’s Automatic Refresher. 131 4th St., Petaluma, 776.4737
Hot Dog City: Now under new management. 631 4th St, Santa Rosa, 579-4885.
Happy Dog: A trip down memory lane for south-county folks, this spot’s been serving up doggies to local weiner fans for years. 18762 Sonoma Hwy., Sonoma, 935-6211.
And of course, I’d be remiss in not mentioning the under $1.50 (before tax) Costco dog that many locals say they can’t live without. It’s a different dog than you may remember, however, and no longer Kosher. In 2009, Kirkland-brand dogs replaced the old Sinai Koshers after the plant was closed.
What’s in Hot Dogs, anyway? Contrary to what you might have heard, hot dogs don’t contain lips, ears, eyeballs or snouts. Instead, most hot dogs are made with cuts of muscle — stuff you’d probably use in stew. They can be made with beef, pork or poultry but if your dog includes anything, well, weird like heart or kidney the package must be labeled as “variety meats” or “meat by-products” so read that label. Also look for things like “All Beef” which must be made with a single species rather than a mish-mash. Finally, ask or look for information about nitrites or other additives that just aren’t good eats.