Trend watchers, take note. Former food darling bacon is out (or at least on the decline). The hot dog is on the rise. Not your average Oscar Mayer wiener - sorry, Kraft Foods. Think of them as enhanced tube steaks, superpooches, haute dogs.
The national food press has lauded dogs that are made with ingredients as diverse as lamb, veal and even rabbit (and some are sausages Cheeseheads might be more likely to define as brats).
We could stand to get more inventive with toppings. Elsewhere, dedicated doggeries feature relishes that range from pineapple to mango to green tomato, and veggie add-ons from pickled daikon radish to chunks of avocado.
The hautest dogs locally are still recognizable as good old-fashioned franks, but with a twist. Now that both Mad Dog's and The Dawg House have folded, where do you get a hot dog that deserves to have graduated from the kiddie menu? (Note: Mad Dog's on Henry Street is back in business.)
23 N. Pinckney St.
This shrine to Wisconsin food offers a natural-casing hot dog from Salmon's Meat Market of Luxemburg, Wis. The very flavorful wurst brings to mind ring bologna. It's split and grilled, so no boiled pink look here. The No. 39 normally comes served with raw onions, excellently spicy Düsseldorf mustard, a sweet and slightly tingly-spicy sweet pickle relish and sauerkraut. The bun is the biggest disappointment, a dry, flavorless, supermarket roll that has the consistency of packing material. If it weren't for that, I'd recommend the $1.50 upgrade to the chili dog, but I fear the bun is not up to the task of containing the chili (it barely manages the kraut). Still, with a side of the O.F.'s thin crispy fries or the mixed greens with the mysterious and wonderful house dressing, the $5 price tag is right.
310 S. Brearly St.
Tijuana Hot Dog
Hello, bacon! It's wrapped around Burrito Drive's hot dog, an all-beef version. It's topped with melted asadero (a white, mild Mexican cheese), pickled red onion (which is a welcome changeup from the kraut/raw onions/pickle relish triad), and topped with a smooth, garlicky crema. Again for an extra $1.50 you can turn it into a chili dog, but it's not really necessary. The chili is available as veggie or with meat, although after giving in to the bacon and the beef, skipping the con carne is really sort of an empty gesture.