What makes the perfect Seattle dog? The creator and 4 other hot dog experts weigh in

Consider the mighty Seattle dog, fuel for late nights since the very first time Hadley Long slathered cream cheese on a bun at his bagel dog cart in Pioneer Square in 1989. It’s become one of Seattle’s unimpeachable dishes, versions of it found nearly anywhere hot dogs are sold, but the Seattle dog purist might find that the original Seattle dog no longer exists.

While there is some debate as to what exactly constitutes a Seattle dog, the general consensus is a hot dog in a squishy white bun, a squirt of cream cheese and a smattering of grilled onions.

Geofrey Redd, owner of the pop-up Bigfoot Long’s, said he knew a Seattle dog was a must-have menu item, but in his search to find a definitive answer as to what was a Seattle dog, the only constant he found was cream cheese.

It’s just a person from Seattle making a hot dog, like you can’t tell me this isn’t a Seattle dog, I’m from Seattle and I’m making hot dogs.” — Geofrey Redd

“Generally, everybody has their own version of what it is. It’s just a person from Seattle making a hot dog, like you can’t tell me this isn’t a Seattle dog, I’m from Seattle and I’m making hot dogs,” Redd says.

So what makes a Seattle dog, and what’s the most important element? You might be thinking cream cheese, but according to Long, it has nothing to do with the toppings. It all starts with the bun.

“The bun was everything, and I had the ultimate bun,” Long says during a recent phone call.

He lives in Ohio now, but still fields phone calls from people hungry for the story of the Seattle dog. Long’s story is a well-worn one; he was a bagel shop guy turned cart vendor in his native Ohio before he moved to Seattle when grunge was just getting off the ground. He was a vegetarian and originally set up shop in Pioneer Square right beside the Central Tavern, hawking bagels with an all-vegetarian topping menu. But he kept getting asked for hot dogs.

“I decided to sell out for me and get away from the vegetarian and sell meat. But I just didn’t want to sell meat, I wanted to sell bagels,” Long says.

The solution: a biyali-style bun.

He got Dale Jones, owner of the Bagel Deli (which closed at the end of 2013), to sell him a custom long biyali-style bun on a stick. Like the biyali — a round baked bread sometimes filled with cooked onions and poppy seeds — the dough of the biyali-style bun is the same as bagel dough, but it skips the boiling step and gets thrown directly into an oven. The night Long started selling the biyali buns shellacked with cream cheese hugging a hot dog he became what he calls “an overnight sensation.”

It’s the bun and the cream cheese. You can put whatever toppings you want.” — Hadley Long

Long offered a toppings bar — sauerkraut, jalapeños, pepperoncini, onions — and of course ketchup and mustard, but he says besides the cream cheese, “the toppings are not the big thing to me. It’s the bun and the cream cheese. You can put whatever toppings you want.”

He still eats a Seattle dog weekly, his days of being a vegetarian firmly behind him. Unfortunately, he’s had to start eating them on white bread buns, same as the rest of us. As for toppings, he likes to mix it up — but always keeps it simple, only adding one additional topping besides cream cheese. Sometimes it’s Dijon or raw onions. Right now he’s on a kimchi kick.

“I say less is more,” Long says.

Long left Seattle in the ’90s, spending 20 years in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, before heading back to Ohio. He took his cart with him — and Seattle’s original Seattle dog was no more. But he certainly left his mark on the city.

Now everyone has an idea of ​​their perfect version of a Seattle dog. We asked four Seattle hot dog aficionados for their perfect version of what a Seattle dog should look like. And while they all have opinions about the bun, not a single one asked for a biyali.

Binyam Wolde, Dirty Dog

Wolde immigrated to Seattle from Ethiopia when he was 15. In 2010, he bought his first hot dog cart, opening Dirty Dog. He now has two carts and sells around 1,000 hot dogs a week, setting up on weekends in Capitol Hill and working Marymoor Park concerts, corporate caterings and events. His menu starts with the style of hot dog — beef, vegetarian, spicy or Polish — and people customize from there. He likes to experiment with his topping offerings, whipping pesto, avocado, or jalapeño into his housemade cream cheese. He’s always got to have caramelized onions. “Any time I run out of onions people going crazy,” he says.

His perfect Seattle dog would start with a poppy seed roll and an all-beef dog, whipped jalapeño cream cheese, caramelized onions and a bevy of sauces: Sriracha for heat, barbecue sauce for sweetness and a spicy brown mustard to top it all off.

Jem’ma Anduvate Ptacek, Beast & Cleaver

Ptacek, who works as a butcher at Crown Hill’s Beast & Cleaver, says she’s a purist when it comes to hot dogs. “My controversial thing is I have to have mayonnaise on the bun. And then I just go ketchup and mustard. I keep it simple,” she says.

When it comes to Seattle dogs, however, it all starts with a Polish dog on a squishy white bun. “They have a great snap, are extra juicy and the seasoning is just right for me.” Then cream cheese, of course, followed by sauerkraut, caramelized onions, ketchup and Sriracha. It’s not any one ingredient that stands out for her, when asked what’s the most important element, Ptacek says “I think it’s the whole bite. The bun doesn’t matter to me, I like a cheaper bun.”

Geofrey Redd, Bigfoot Longs

Redd hosted his first hot dog pop-up in March 2020, just a week before the pandemic hit. He’s honed his menu since then, but one constant has been his Seattle Sasquatch, a dog that is his “biggest seller by far.”

It starts with a fresh, housemade footlong brioche bun and a footlong Olympia Provisions hot dog. There’s farmers cheese — a concoction he makes with whipped cream cheese, yogurt, cumin, honey and garlic confit. “It’s next level delicious cream cheese,” he says. Finishing things off are an onion jam and a jalapeño relish.

Josh Nebe, Beast & Cleaver

Nebe is Seattle born-and-raised and has many fond memories “out in the streets eating a Seattle dog covered in cream cheese and sauerkraut, and me covered in cream cheese and sauerkraut,” he laughs. Nebe is a true sausage wizard and while he makes his own hot dogs, he loves a Koegel from Michigan or a classic Hebrew National.

His Seattle dog? Cream cheese, Sriracha, caramelized onions, pickled jalapeños. And make sure the bun is burnt,” he says. His reasoning is that when spreading cream cheese on a toasted bagel it’s got that firmness that holds up to cold cream cheese without ripping. His Seattle dog alchemy is “crispy bun, cold cream cheese, hot fatty snappy dog ​​and it’s not all melty and falling apart in your hand. I also think the burnt bitter plays to the sweetness of the cream cheese.”

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