The hot dog. Food fans choose the beloved treat for everything from a quick lunch and family picnic to a favorite snack or a summertime dinner.
While hot dogs are favored any time of year, the summer months long have been synonymous with hot dog consumption. While July is known as National Hot Dog Month, the treat also receives its own day — July 19 has been designated as National Hot Dog Day by the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council.
"There's nothing better than a hot dog and a cold drink on a warm summer day," said Eric Mittenthal, president of the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, in a recent news release. "It's an American tradition that goes back generations and remains a great way to bring family and friends together."
According to the council, it's estimated that Americans will consume 7 billion hot dogs from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
"Hot dogs are a classic comfort food," said Marc Trevino, marketing manager of Portillo's. Portillo's, which was established by Dick Portillo in 1963 in Villa Park, Illinois, has more than 40 locations in various states, including one in Merrillville.
Trevino said the most popular hot dog style at the restaurant is the Chicago style. He explained the Chicago style dog has specific toppings that must be on every hot dog.
"You have a poppy seed bun steamed to perfection. And it's topped with mustard, relish, onions, tomato, pickles, two Sport peppers and celery salt," Trevino explained. The Chicago style has absolutely no ketchup.
At Portillo's, hot dogs are the No. 2 hot seller behind Italian beef sandwiches.
When it comes to toppings, Trevino said home cooks can be creative with all sorts of ingredients. They can go the traditional Chicago style route or just include one or several ingredients of their choice. Trevino's favorite is simply a hot dog with mustard. Portillo's also sells hot dog kits for food fans to make at home.
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The council includes an etiquette guide to eating hot dogs on its website and also features descriptions of regional hot dogs. In addition to the super popular Chicago dog, also featured are the New York City dog, which is served with steamed onions and a pale yellow mustard; the Rockie Dog, which is a foot-long with grilled peppers, kraut and onions; and the Texas Dog, featured at Minute Maid Park in Houston, which has chili, cheese and jalapeno toppings.
Among dog dos and don'ts for hot dogs, according to NHDSC are
— Don't put hot dog toppings between the hot dog and the bun. Always "dress the dog" not the bun.
— Do serve sesame seed, poppy seed and plain buns with hot dogs. Sun-dried tomato buns or basil buns are considered gauche with franks.
— Don't take more than five bites to finish a hot dog. For foot-long wieners, seven bites are acceptable.
— Do use paper plates to serve hot dogs. Everyday dishes are acceptable; china is a no-no.
Various hot dog eateries usually have specials on hot dog meals.
In celebration of National Hot Dog Day, Portillo's will be offering $1 regular hot dogs with the purchase of an entree, while supplies last.
H Dog in Schererville features its Weenie Wednesday special for 99 cents all day on Wednesdays. The 99 cent offer is also featured from 3 to 4 p.m. every day.