Hot diggity dog! July 18 may be National Hot Dog Day, but this all-American classic is actually celebrated all month long. Naturally, as a hot dog aficionado, I took it upon myself to try out as many of Denver’s best hot dog joints as my stomach could take. This salty, smoky food is not only a barbecue staple, it can be a taste of home for many different regions all serving up different variations of the dog. Here’s what I now know about Denver’s hot dog scene.
Biker Jim’s has been a staple in Denver for many years, Biker Jim and his dogs appeared in a 2012 episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations that made Bourdain eat his words, literally, about the once dismal state of dining in Denver. The famous menu has unique dogs like Wild boar, Alaskan reindeer, and pheasant, but we’re always game for the Southwest Buffalo made with chipotle, green chilies, and cumin. Top it with flavor combinations that evoke the hot dog styles all over the country, like The Coney or Sonoran, or keep it simple with mustard and ‘kraut. The kids menu offers a kids dog or mac-n-cheese dog. Two locations in downtown Denver and Coors Field.
Steve and Biker Jim go back and forth over who was the first one serving up great hot dogs to Denver, but thankfully, it’s all in good fun. Steve’s family-friendly environment and charisma gives way to a seriously expansive menu, with everything from a deep fried hot dog topped with green chili, red onion, jalapeños, yellow mustard, dollops of sour cream, and red onions, to veggie dogs and other regional style hot dogs. The kids menu dog is served with a squiggle of ketchup and an order of crispy onion rings and freshly squeezed lemonade or limeade. Two locations in metro Denver.
Mustard’s isn’t anything fancy, with a simple menu and a down home feel, but they stake their claim with their Chicago Dog. Served on the traditional steamed poppy seed bun, the soft bun holds a Vienna Beef dog dragged through the garden with yellow mustard, neon green relish, onions, tomato, pickle, sport peppers, celery salt, and tangy sauerkraut. For kiddos, the corndog is a sweet and savory treat that kids can enjoy without the mess of toppings on a heavy dog. Two locations in Denver and Boulder.
Shake Shack is better known for their smash burgers and concretes (basically thick milkshakes with frozen custard), but the sleeper hit on their menu is their hot dogs. My favorite dog on their menu is their take on the Chicago dog, what they call the “Shack-cago Dog,” which is dragged through the garden with neon green relish, onion, cucumber, pickle, tomato, sport pepper, celery salt, and mustard. Not into nitrates? Shake Shack also does a mean chicken, apple, and sage dog that’s light and fresh. Two locations in Denver and Highlands Ranch.
Sausage on the Grill
For those who prefer to fire up the grill in your own backyard, try this recipe for sausage-and-pepper hoagies. It’s a grown-up take on the traditional frank, but kids will like it, too.