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Why you should always eat your hot dogs with toppings. 

By Andy Gray
July 03, 2017

Mustard. Ketchup. Relish. Chili. Peppers. Onions. Sauerkraut. Coleslaw. Jalapeno. Bacon. Blue cheese. Salsa.

These are all toppings that make your hot dog better. I’m not here to tell you which to choose, but I am here to tell you that you should choose at least one. Nobody should eat a naked hot dog. Never.

I knew this before I started researching this story. It was Thursday and our SI Eats (SI’s newest section dedicated to food. Check it out now!) editor told me Rohan Nadkarni, a usually smart co-worker of mine, was making the case that “no topping” was the best topping for a hot dog. I laughed at his premise and told the editor I’d take the counterpoint.

And since it was nearly time for dinner, I headed downtown to to Crif Dogs, one of my favorite hot dog spots in the city.

It was Helen Keller who once said, “Security is mostly a superstition. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” I didn’t have enough time to research the context of Keller’s quote but I’m pretty sure it was in reference to the Spicy Redneck—a hot dog wrapped in bacon and topped with cole slaw, chili, and jalapeños—available at Crifs.

It was as if a big jumble of deliciousness exploding in my mouth. The bacon and chili were a perfect combination, like Hall and Oates, but for taste and not ‘80s adult rock. The cole slaw and jalapenos meshed seamlessly and I instantly wanted 10 more. Then I thought of Rohan, sitting in the lame section of a random Gray’s Papaya, eating his dry dog and saving the napkins for later.

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And that’s just one flavor at one restaurant in one city. Hot dogs are a blank canvas that can satisfy any foodie. Know someone obsessed with breakfast? Scrambled eggs and bacon on a frank is the perfect way to start your day. Got a friend in from Greece? Give them a dog topped with tzatziki, Feta and olives. Want to get in with someone north of the border? Give them a Poutine Dog topped fries, gravy and cheese curds.

Or for those less daring, ketchup or mustard work just fine. Relish alone is always a good bet. But nothing at all? No thanks.

So my fellow Americans: As we celebrate our country’s anniversary and stuff our faces with barbecue, I urge you to try an experiment. Take a couple bites of your hot dog with no toppings.Torture yourself with the strange sensation of something that tastes pretty good but could be a million times better. Then spit that out, grab a fresh dog and top it off however you want. But top it off with something. Life is too short not to take chances.