Sonic recently added four new 100% pure beef hot dogs to their menu â€“ The Chili Cheese Coney, The All-American Dog, The Chicago Dog and The New York Dog. I chose to review the latter two because a.) I thought they had the most interesting toppings and b.) both Chicagoans and New Yorkers take their grub seriously. Lock two of them in a room together that has the word “pizza” written on the wall and see what happens. I’ll give you a hint: bloodshed.
There’s a similar situation with hot dogs. Just Google “chicago vs new york hot dogs” and you’ll see quite a few discussions on the topic. The Chicago dog is iconic, of course; it has its own name and everything. The New York dog doesn’t really have its own name, but put hot dog and New York in the same sentence and anyone who has been there will immediately have an image in their head. I will get to that image soon. Right now, here’s what I imagine a Chicagoan and a New Yorker locked in a room together with the word “hot dog” written on the wall would be like:
New Yorker: “‘How you doin’! We gots the best damn dawgs in New Yawk! I’m just sayin’!”
Chicagoan: “Dat’s cryap! Da Chicago Dog be the best dog use ever taste!”
New Yorker: “Yo, bruh! You bettah bounce, because that is mad bull right thah!”
Chicagoan: “Use think so, do use? Well now we gonna get inta dis!”
The conversation quickly devolves, and two minutes later both sweaty men have bloody noses and their Giants and Bears jerseys are torn and sullied. It’s just a bad situation all around.
(Note: The above scenario uses stereotypical language and situations and is intended as parody [bad parody, but parody nonetheless] only. In other words, please do not track me down and hurt me.)
Now that I feel I’ve been sufficiently offensive, let’s get to the dogs themselves.
The Chicago Dog
I’ve never been to Chicago, but I have had a Chicago Dog before. I respect that any Chicagoan would tell me I haven’t actually had a Chicago Dog unless I’ve been to Chicago; mostly because I’m a soft little girl from the suburbs and anyone who grew up in Chicago probably knows how to beat me up at least three different ways. So let’s say I’ve had a Chicago-like Dog.
I have to say, I was impressed, at least on paper, at how authentic Sonic tried to make their Chicago Dog. As they describe it, “Got love for the Windy City? Then try SONICâ€™s Premium Beef Chicago Dog. A 100% pure beef hot dog topped with pickle, relish, tomato, sport peppers, celery salt and mustard all served up in a soft, warm poppy seed bun.” From what I know, all those ingredients sound pretty legit. I like the addition of the poppy seed bun; very traditional, but could have been easily overlooked.
All of the toppings on my dog were very fresh. The tomatoes were juicy and the dill pickle spear was crisp. The sport peppers brought some serious heat; my nose was running by the time I was done with the wiener. The one topping I could have done without was the sweet relish; the other toppings were tangy and savory, and the relish just didn’t feel like it belonged. However, it is a traditional Chicago Dog topping, so I’ll chalk it up to personal preference. Who am I to argue with an icon?
The Sonic Chicago Dog is not something you’re going to want to eat while driving. With so many toppings, many of them juicy, you’re gonna get your hands dirty. Also, the sport peppers kept sliding around, trying to avoid my mouth like Jonah attempting to escape the whale. Ain’t gonna happen. And, of course, the poppy seeds flew everywhere and stuck to my pickle/tomato/relish/mustard smothered hands. Not the most portable of foods.
My biggest beef (how many times can I use that pun before it gets old? Answer: once) with this hot dog is actually the dog itself. While the toppings were fresh and tasty and the bun was soft, the dog was actually not very good. I’ve been hooked on Nathanâ€™s all-beef natural casing wieners for a while now, so maybe I’m spoiled, but you can taste quality, and these dogs tasted incredibly pedestrian. Whether it’s the 100% beef dogs they’re using or the way they cook them, the vessel of all those delicious toppings was really disappointing. I know promoting them as 100% beef is supposed to be a good thing, but maybe a little pig anus or two would have added some more and/or better flavor.
The New York Dog
While I have never visited Chicago, I have, however, been to New York several times, and I have had several hot dogs from vendors on the street. Here’s the previously aforementioned image: standing at a small cart on the sidewalk while people brush past you, a man with a questionable grasp on the English language opens a lid. Hot steam rises into the cold New York air, and he reaches in with his tongs and removes a hot dog from the water boiling within. He then places it in a bun, which is sitting in a little paper holder. Sometimes you have options; sometimes the man will just choose your toppings for you. He does not have time for you to hem and haw. Brown mustard is applied, then sauerkraut or maybe some chopped white onions. He hands it to you, and you are now holding a New York hot dog. All of this happens in seconds. You may look around, confused; but at least you have a hot dog in your hands!
Interesting bit of trivia about New York: if you ever ask someone for yellow mustard, they will look at you like you are a being from another planet. I’m not even sure they sell yellow mustard in stores. You’re certainly not going to find it at a hot dog cart, or a baseball stadium, or pretty much anywhere else. In New York, it’s brown mustard or GTFO.
Like the Chicago Dog, Sonic stays impressively true to tradition with the New York Dog. “Get a taste of the Big Apple with SONICâ€™s Premium Beef New York Dog. A 100% pure beef hot dog grilled to perfection and topped with spicy brown mustard, grilled onions and crunchy sauerkraut in a soft, warm bakery bun.”
Sounds great, but somehow, things went wrong. As you can see, the mustard got all over the bun, but that’s probably because it was in a sleeve so things got a little smushed. That wasn’t the main problem with the mustard, though. It was oddly colored for brown mustard; too bright, too yellow, and tasted a bit off. I’ve had lots of different brands of brown mustards, and I’ve never seen or tasted anything like it. It was almost like they’d diluted brown mustard with yellow mustard.
The sauerkraut was sparse, but I was okay with that, because it, too, tasted off. The strips were thinner than normal sauerkraut, it was limp, and it lacked the pickled tang of other sauerkrauts I’ve had. It also had a strange aftertaste. Almost bitter, I think. The grilled onions just seemed old and limp, like they’d been sitting out all day. And, of course, the dog itself suffered the same problems as the Chicago Dog.
I like the concept of the Premium Dogs and applaud Sonic for really striving to get the Dogs to be true to the region that they originated. The Chicago Dog had lots of fresh, tasty toppings that were authentic to a real Chicago Dog, but make sure you’ve got a good bit of table real estate and a handful of napkins if you try one. The New York Dog looked great on paper, but all the toppings were somehow fundamentally flawed. I don’t even know how you can screw up brown mustard or sauerkraut, but Sonic somehow found a way, and that was disappointing. Both hot dogs suffered from poor flavor; I don’t know where Sonic gets their 100% pure beef Premium Dogs, but they should look into finding another vendor.
(Nutrition Facts â€“ 1 hot dog â€“ Chicago Dog â€“ 440 calories, 180 calories from fat, 20 grams total of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 40 milligrams of cholesterol, 2300 milligrams of sodium, 49 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 17 grams of sugars, 14 grams of protein, calcium 10%, iron 30%, vitamin A 4%, vitamin C 8%. New York Dog â€“ 350 calories, 170 calories from fat, 19 grams total of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 40 milligrams of cholesterol, 1290 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 4 grams of sugars, 14 grams of protein, calcium 6%, iron 30%, vitamin A 2%, vitamin C 10%.)
Item: Sonic Premium Beef Hot Dog (Chicago Dog, New York Dog)
Size: 1 hot dog
Purchased at: Sonic Drive-In
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Chicago Dog)
Rating: 3 out of 10 (New York Dog)
Pros: Chicago Dog had fresh, authentic toppings. Chicago vs. New York. Fluffy hot dog buns. Going a whole review without making a wiener/mouth joke. New York hot dog carts.
Cons: Hot dogs were not top quality. Bad parodies. New York toppings were all flawed. Recycled beef puns. Chicago Dog was pretty messy.