At some point, July Fourth became the Hot Dog Holiday.
Maybe it was in 1974, when “Miss Hot Dog” crowned the first winner of a Nathan’s Famous holiday hot-dog-eating contest on Coney Island. Or maybe it was 1975, when a new TV commercial jingle for “baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet” became summer’s unofficial national anthem.
Today, hot dogs not only come in lengths besides regular and foot-long, but also with toppings besides mustard, relish, onions or chili.
“People think hot dogs are fun,” said Keith Grober, designer of artisan hot dogs for three Fred’s Texas Cafe restaurants after helping launch Rodeo Goat.
“Burgers are very serious. People get a serious look in their eyes when they talk about their favorite burger. But people laugh about gourmet hot dogs. They’re comical.”
Grober’s all-American “Dawg of the Month” for July comes from way out west.
Way out west.
The Aloha Dawg is Kobe beef topped with Fred’s owner-chef Terry Chandler’s barbecue sauce, grilled pineapple, prosciutto and cotija cheese.
Previous “dawgs” included everything from raspberry preserves to horseradish-pepper cream sauce.
Fred’s, known for the Fred Burger and spicy versions such as the Diablo Burger, also now serves an upgraded chili dog with cheese and fried jalapeño strips.
The gourmet hot dogs started at the Western Center Boulevard location but quickly expanded to Bluebonnet Circle and to the mother ship on Currie Street in the West 7th neighborhood.
“Up north [on Western Center], it’s easier to sell interesting items because that area has a lot of chain restaurants and everybody wants something different,” Grober said.
“Now the West 7th crowd wants something new, too, because there are so many restaurants there.”
Grober is negotiating to open a gourmet hot dog restaurant but pitching in to help his friends at Fred’s, a 40-year-old diner-dive with the look of a Texas movie set.
The nearby Trinity River Tap House recently expanded its hot dog menu, and a new gourmet hot dogs-coffee shop, Bentley’s, is promised to open soon on West Magnolia Avenue.
Donnie’s Hot Dog Shop & Phillysteak Supper Club, the Love Shack, Magnolia Motor Lounge and Twisted Root Hamburger Co. are among other local stops for hot dog dining.
Fred’s is open at 10:30 a.m. daily for lunch and dinner at 915 Currie St. (closed Mondays), 2730 Western Center Blvd. and 3509 Bluebonnet Circle; fredstexascafe.com.
Hot dogs, cold custard
Curly’s Frozen Custard will host its own version of the Nathan’s contest Saturday morning and expects a new winner.
Defending champion Eric Dahl — winner of a Woodshed Smokehouse contest the same day — is competing elsewhere. So the field is open again to see who can eat four hot dogs the fastest.
Forty contestants competed last year, with the crowd filling Curly’s patio and spilling out along Camp Bowie Boulevard.
Go for the dogs, but go back for the Parker County peach frozen custard. Try it mixed with fresh peaches or blueberries; 4017 Camp Bowie Blvd., 817-763-8700, curlysfrozencustard.com.
Bud Kennedy's column appears Wednesdays in Life & Arts and Fridays in DFW.com. 817-390-7538