Thursday, March 4, 2004
Yearning for the #6 From Hamburger Hamlet
By ROGER M. GRACE
A hot dog on a bun. That’s as typically American a dish as could be imagined, and a gastronomic delight to millions.
It can be served with sundry accompaniments, most often mustard, relish, onions, ketchup, chili, or sauerkraut.
At Pink’s at La Brea and Melrose, a stand where long lines form, there are inventive varieties such as “The Mulholland Drive” with grilled onions and mushrooms, plus bacon, topped with warm nacho cheese, or the “Millennium Dog” with jalapeño, chopped tomato, lettuce, chili, and grilled onion, splashed with guacamole.
When I was growing up, I often walked into Westwood on Saturdays to attend the children’s matinee at the Bruin. East of the theater was Hamburger Hamlet (which closed several years ago). When I went there, I usually ordered the #6, a hot dog with melted cheese, bacon, and barbecue sauce. Those, of course, are now toppings for the western bacon cheeseburger. It’s a wonder they’re not commonly used on hot dogs. Indeed, a “cheesedog” of any sort is rarely found, though melted cheddar cheese goes well with the frank.
In the late 1950s, or maybe it was the early 1960s, hot dogs were available in markets with a stream of cheese inside. The product soon disappeared. In recent years, however, hot dogs containing specks of cheese have been available.
Shredded cheese is frequently sprinkled on chili dogs. It melts, somewhat, from the heat of the chili. Better yet is the chili dog at Pink’s with warmed nacho cheese ladeled on.
The Hot Dog Show in the Pacific Palisades (long gone) offered a cheese dog—but the cheese wasn’t melted. That’s like meatloaf with cold gravy.
Across the street from the Bruin, at the southeast corner of Weyburn and Broxton, was an Orange Julius stand. One part of the counter was on Broxton and the other part was inside an open-air market. It was run by “Paul.” I used to order the #4. On top of the hot dog, Paul poured a combination of baked beans and chili. “You mean chili and beans,” my father insisted when I recited to him the toppings. No. Paul had one pot in which he heated the contents of a can of baked beans and another pot which he had cooked chili from another can. The combination of these two separate products was unusual but was, at least to my youthful palate, pleasing. Would I pull a can of baked beans and a can of chili from the pantry now and see if the amalgamation of the contents would still taste good to me on a wiener? Er, no.
And whether by virtue of a matured palate or a retarded sense of culinary adventurousness, I do not intend to sample a hot dog with both chili and sauerkraut. Standing in line recently at Bob’s Big Boy in the Civic Center mall, I heard one order-taker extolling to another order-taker the virtues of a hot dog, sold at an establishment that was a rival to Bob’s, topped by those two enhancements. It sounded pretty bad to me.
Prying into my wife’s cookbooks, I find no recipes for hot dogs until the 1950s. Earlier, they were sold at hot dog stands, in diners, in lunch wagons, by push-cart vendors—and, of course, at ballgames—but apparently were not a common dish in homes in the first half of the 20th Century.
The “American Home All Purpose Cookbook” from 1966 proposes various toppings for hot dogs on buns. Inexplicably, it calls for splitting the bun open when, of course, the two sides are traditionally joined, permitting a cradeling of the contents. On those rare and regrettable occasions when the seam tears, there is a cascading of contents, potentially including chili, onto the lap.
Included among the recipes are “teen club frankfurters” with bacon and American cheese, placed under a broiler to melt the cheese. Another ingredient is slices of raw tomato. If you take away the raw tomato—please!—and add barbecue sauce, you have a #6.
“Hoagie frankfurters” have a layer of lettuce at the bottom of the bun, drizzled with oil and vinegar. Next come slices of provolone and tomato, then the hot dog, finally onion, Swiss cheese and shredded hot peppers. That sounds to me like a hot dog salad on a bun, with a tongue-burning extra.
The recipe for “pizza frankfurters” strikes me as more promising. The hot dog is placed on a toasted bun, topped with tomato sauce sprinked with oregano, mozzarella, and Paramesan, and broiled.
A “Scandinavian frank” is a hot dog on a bun with melted blue cheese and butter poured over, and chopped onion added.
Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company
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