Hot dogs, and their consumption, is nearly a religion in Chicago.1 Dogma proclaims that a hot dog has certain condiments, and ketchup is not one of the allowed sacraments. Cecil Adams offers one explanation:
Ketchup smothers the flavor of the hot dog because ketchup makers add sugar to their products. That takes the edge off the highly acidic tomatoes, but it takes the edge off everything else, too. Which is exactly why a lot of parents like it, according to Mel Plotsky, sales manager for the David Berg hot dog company in Chicago. (Chicago is one of the hot dog’s holy cities.) Put ketchup on it and a kid will swallow anything–and from there it’s a straight shot to Velveeta cheese, Franco-American spaghetti, and Deborah Norville.
For that matter, you want to watch the mustard, too. Plotsky says your mainstream brands like French’s put in too much turmeric and whatnot. What you want is some unpretentious mustard like Plochman’s that enhances rather than competes with the flavor of the beef. You should also steam or grill rather than boil your hot dogs–water leaches away the flavor and softens the wiener till it becomes non-tooth-resistant mush.
But–getting back to the original question–you say you like the taste of tomatoes. Fine, then eat tomatoes, as God meant them to be eaten–fresh sliced and piled on top of the hot dog. The recommended ingredients of a hot dog with everything, in order of application, are mustard, relish, chopped onion, sliced tomato, kosher pickle spear, optional peppers, and celery salt.
If I grill my own hot dogs, and have time to create it exactly as I wish to eat it, I add mustard, chopped onion, giardiniera peppers, and serve the grilled hot dog on a lightly toasted whole wheat bun. If I eat a hot dog somewhere in the city, I may have the extra “Chicago-esque” ingredients like celery salt, sliced tomato and kosher pickle in addition to my other favorite ingredients.
[A Chicago style char dog from Wiener’s Circle on Clark Street]
Never ketchup. I actively avoid ketchup on any food item. If for some reason I am eating french fries, and I can’t have vinegar, I’ll use mustard as a dipping condiment.
- slightly more adherents than simply a cult, but not quite enough attention with atheists to qualify as a real religion [↩]