I was sort of aimlessly roaming Citi Field’s concourses looking for an as-yet-unreviewed sandwich to eat when a friend pulled me on to the front of the line at Shake Shack. Obviously that’s not an opportunity I’m willing to pass up, but since I’ve already had the burger, I went for the Shack-ago Dog.
This brings up an important point: A hot dog is a sandwich.
Several readers and friends have insisted otherwise in the last couple of weeks. But if you believe that’s the case, define “sandwich” for me. I’ll amount that I operate under a particularly liberal definition of the term, but a hot dog should be an obvious sandwich to even the most conservative sandwich stalwarts. I guess if you’re really picky you could argue that a hot-dog bun is only one piece of bread, but so is the roll they use for cheesesteaks. And everyone agrees a cheesesteak is a sandwich, right?
The only reason anyone has given me that even makes a tiny scrap of sense is that we have a name for a hot dog — several, actually — and it doesn’t include the word “sandwich.” So, they say, a hot dog is its own thing, distinct from a sandwich. But that doesn’t make sense. No one calls it a BLT sandwich, but there’s no doubt a BLT is a sandwich.
Look: a hot dog is a piece of meat — or in some cases “meat” — shoved in bread. It’s about as sandwichy as sandwiches get, no matter what we call it. Here’s the Shack-ago Dog:
First off, note that the green thing coming off the end of the bun there looking for all the world like a green hot dog is not a hot dog. That’s a pepper. The actual hot-dog part of the hot dog is buried underneath there somewhere.
The Shack-ago Dog is a split-grilled hot dog with relish, mustard, peppers, tomatoes, onions, celery salt and two different types of pickle. I ordered mine with no onions.
For whatever reason, the people of Chicago strongly prefer that you not add ketchup to your hot dog. I resent that, as I do not like to be told which condiments I’m allowed to use on my sandwiches. But in deference to that city’s rich tubed-meat tradition, I ate the Shack-ago dog as it came.
It’s delicious. I thought I would regret snagging a spot on the front of the Shake Shack line and not using it for a wait-free burger, but this dog is a worthy alternative. The pickles give it crunch, the peppers give it spice, the mustard makes it tangy, and the tomatoes and relish make it sweet.
The hot dog itself is secondary to the condiments, but I think that’s the way it should be. At best, a hot dog is a meaty conduit for toppings, there to add some snap and a hint of salty hot dog flavor.
Also, split-grilling hot dogs needs to catch on beyond Westchester and (apparently) Chicago. More surface area. It’s a no brainer.