Like American cheese or American cars, American food conjures images of bland mediocrity. But the most American food of all (fuck apple pie) evokes fireworks and steroids, baseball and drunken fistfights. Against all odds, the hot dog—made from scraps and leavings, twisted up in intestines, adorned in unnaturally colored condiments (yellow mustard, DayGlo relish), pinkish brown, glistening—is delicious. And in America, summer is hot dog season, even in food snob-crowded Portland. So here's our roundup of the best franks (not chicken-apple sausages or imported knackwurst) this city has to offer, starting with our favorite.
Wayne's Chicago Red Hots
3901 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 493-4537, wayneschicagoredhots.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
Like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the bitter Chicago vs. New York dog debate rages on. For my money, Chi-Town triumphs on the basis of its strange and spectacular condiments. There's no better place in Portland for an authentic Chicago Red Hot than Wayne's ($3.50 regular, $5.50 jumbo). Amid Cubs paraphernalia, Vienna all-beef franks are laid in steamed poppyseed buns and dressed with yellow mustard, bright-green relish, chopped onions, tomatoes, a pickle spear, celery salt and—the real difference maker—puckery sport peppers. This is the best dog in town.
1033 SW 6th Ave., 719-4009; 1438 SW Park Ave., 243-5045, superdogpdx.com. Lunch and dinner Monday-Friday, lunch and early dinner Saturday.
Super Dog makes a solid Chicago-style wiener ($5), but the chili cheese dog really stands apart. A Nathan's all-beef frank is nestled in melted Tillamook cheddar and smothered in all-meat chili with the distinctive Cincinnati-style spices of bay leaf and (try it before you knock it) cinnamon.
2845 E Burnside St., 239-3647. Lunch and dinner daily. Cash only.
Long known as the Dog House, this A-frame, plopped like an extended middle finger in the face of bobo health fanaticism in a Whole Foods parking lot, traded down in the name department, but the ownership and high-caliber dogs remain the same. They're available steamed or grilled with all the fixings you can think of, but opt for the Jumbo American ($3.45) with sweet-hot mustard, jalapeños and kraut. And don't kiss anyone for a few days.
Taste of New York
Southwest Alder Street between 9th and 10th avenues. Lunch Monday-Friday. Cash only.
Like the name suggests, this is an NYC-esque stand serving Nathan's all-beef franks. There are a few varieties on offer, but go with a Large Coney Dog ($4) dressed in all-meat chili, chopped onion and yellow mustard—the mustard-chili interaction is key—all wrapped tidily in foil.
4611 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 233-4616. Lunch, dinner and late-night daily.
Serving franks from both the Chicago Red Hots brand and locally made Zenner's, Zach's earns bonus points for its late hours. Like all hot dogs, these taste best after a marathon at the bar. Try the Sgt. Peppers ($3.25), musically named, like many of Zach's dogs, and spread with spicy brown mustard and three kinds of peppers.
Nick's Famous Coney Island
3746 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 235-3008. Lunch, dinner and late-night daily.
Beneath its iconic neon sign, this Portland institution has been slinging dogs since 1935. There's only one thing you should ever order: the namesake frank, drowning in chili and a fistful of chopped onions and cheese, with mac salad or potato chips on the side ($6.75). Solid dogs in Portland's best setting for hot dog consumption.
We sampled five made-in-Oregon franks in search of the ultimate home-grilled dog. Here are the results, from best to worst.
Old-fashioned wieners from Otto's Sausage Kitchen (4138 SE Woodstock Blvd., 771-6714): Small, skinny dogs with good snap and a strong porky flavor, they char very well on the grill. It will take at least two to fill you up. Dinner franks from Edelwiess (3119 SE 12th Ave., 238-4411): Big, fat dogs, each weighing one-third of a pound, with excellent snap. One taster described them as "light, salty, almost truffly."
Country franks from Carlton Farms (available at Zupan's and Market of Choice): Chewy, sweet sausages with little snap and a deep red color. They were described by tasters as "breakfast hot dogs."
Wieners from Gartner's Country Meats (7450 NE Killingsworth St., 252-7801): Very bland sausages; the same size as the Otto's wieners, but with little snap and a mealy texture reminiscent of baby food.
Tofurky Franks (available at many area markets): The size, shape and color of a Hebrew National, these wheat-gluten-and-tofu-based dogs taste of undercooked bread dough and liquid smoke. Turtle Island Foods (tofurky.com), based in Hood River, makes tofu brats that are very good. These are not.
We asked local beer experts to suggest brews to pair with a grilled dog. Here are their answers:
Sarah Pederson of Saraveza Bottle Shop and Pasty Tavern: " This is an easy one! For me: Trumer Pils or Weihenstephaner Kristall Weiss. " Pederson asked around the bar, too. Matt Swihart, head brewer at Hood River's Double Mountain Brewery, prefers Paulaner Oktoberfest. Spence Lack, Saraveza's lead chef, likes Sol. "Beertender" Tyler Vickers takes the populist route with a "frosty of Rainier. "
Joellen Piluso of Horse Brass Pub: " With hot dogs, something light and refreshing like a Kölsch or a pilsner. Most of our Northwest breweries have summer ales right now—4th Street Brewing in Gresham has a pilsner that's nice, and Double Mountain in Hood River has a Kölsch, for example, but there are many more available."
Greg Higgins of Higgins: The father of the Portland food scene occasionally offers smoky salmon dogs. "They're not always on the menu, but we make them a couple of times each month and they rock," he says. "Great with a good IPA or weizen bier. " Chris Ormand of Belmont Station: The retail manager of the mind-boggling beer store recommends Anchor Steam ("the 'crusty bread' malt character complements simple baked goods like hot dog buns and hoagie rolls"), Bayern Pilsner ("a little thinner than the Anchor, but it has a nice hop 'bite' to the finish that can cut through the ketchup, mustard and whatever else you're throwing on your dogs"), Aecht Schlenkerla Helles ("comes from Bamburg, home of the famous rauchbier lagers...the Helles is the one beer in the lineup that doesn't use any smoked malt, but apparently their house yeast strain has been through so many generations it's permanently saturated with smokiness and passes some of that flavor on to the brew") and Rogue Chipotle Ale ("It's a little more smoky than the Schlenkerla due to the addition of smoked jalapeño peppers, and the slight peppery heat from the peppers adds another dimension to the amber ale underneath").
By Heather Morse
June 27: Best of Oregon Food and Wine Festival
Keep it local. That's the theme at this festival designed to support and promote Oregon's edible economy. Twenty-six wineries and 12 "culinary artisans" (restaurateurs, chocolatiers, bottlers) have snagged spots so far, with more on the way. Sample volcanic mineral water with Volcanic Minerals, meet the meats of Urban Farmer Steakhouse and plan your next event with Phresh Organic Catering while exploring wines from Seven of Hearts, Brooks and Pheasant Valley wineries, among others. A portion of overall proceeds and the entirety of door prize ticket sales will be donated to Doernbecher Children's Hospital. Oregon Convention Center, 777 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., bestoforegonfoodandwine.com. Noon–7 pm Saturday. $25. 21+.
June 28: Grow by Bike
Good, clean, fair—and slow. That is how the people at Portland's chapter of Slow Food like their food and their bike rides. The grassroots organization works to change the way people see, produce and eat their food by introducing them to wholesome and sustainable products. Grow by Bike lets Portlanders see how their neighbors are creating and enjoying "slow food" with a meandering, three-mile ride through Northeast Portland. Learn about—and snack on—food you can grow yourself. Ride begins at Columbia Ecovillage, 4621 NE Killingsworth St. 9:30 am–12:30 pm Sunday. $5. Capped at 35 riders. Tickets available at boxofficetickets.com/slowfoodportland.
July 25: Tour de Coops
Join East Portlanders as they open their doors and yards for the sixth annual Tour de Coops. The self-guided tour of 25 backyard chicken coops is an opportunity to learn about urban chicken keeping and to meet your neighbors. Many coops are "clustered" to make biking or walking the tour easy. Growing Gardens, a local nonprofit that promotes organic home gardening, provides a booklet of coop addresses, maps and suggested routes for $10 and encourages sharing. Be sure to enter the raffle to win a coop, chicken feed or nursery gift certificate. Various locations, see growing-gardens.org/potland-gardening-resources/chickens.php for details. 11 am–3 pm Saturday. Pre-sale tickets available a week in advance.
July 11: Bastille Day Festival
Who knew a revolution could be so fun? The seventh annual Bastille Day in the Pearl marks the storming of Paris' Bastille prison in 1789. In 2009, the invasion will be of a wine garden, Francophilic market and food court in Jamison Square. The waiters' race returns with waiters from local restaurants feverishly speed-walking laps around the park. The fastest waiter with the fullest drink wins! Jamison Square Park, Northwest 11th Avenue and Johnson Street, afportland.org/bastillepdx. Noon-8 pm Saturday. Free.
Aug. 7-9: Bite of Oregon
Take a bite, drink and earful of the best Oregon has to offer. The 26th annual celebration of Oregon's bounty features wineries, chefs and restaurants. The craft beer garden will debut Rogue's new take on Dead Guy Ale, a deep honey-colored beverage called Double Dead Guy, and the wine pavilion will offer 20-some wineries from the Willamette, Rogue and Umpqua valleys. Two stages showcase local and regional talents, the Iron Chef Challenge and chef demos. Tom McCall Waterfront Park between Southwest Harrison and West Burnside streets. Biteoforegon.com. 11 am–11 pm Friday and Saturday, 10 am–8 pm Sunday. $8, children under 12 free. All proceeds benefit the Special Olympics of Oregon.
Aug. 27-29: Festa Italiana in Pioneer Square
Kiss me, I'm Italian. Like faux-Irish Guinness lovers on St. Patrick's Day, everyone wants to be Italian this week. The culture, cuisine and drink of Italy invade Pioneer Courthouse Square Thursday through Saturday, along with musical performances and games for the bambini. Pioneer Courthouse Square, 701 SW 6th Ave., festa-italiana.org. 4-11 pm Thursday, noon-11 pm Friday, 11 am-11 pm Saturday. Free.