Regional Foods: The Seattle Dog is a Thing
"Oh yeah, it’s a thing,” said a gentleman as I waited to debark from the ferry in Seattle. “You’ll find them near the stadiums.
He then directed me to Occidental Avenue, which connects Lumen Field and T-Mobile Park, as the spot to try one. The street harbors a collection of street vendors, small bars, and merchandise shops. Many vendors grill hot dogs and sausages over an open flame.
Perhaps, this is not a surprise to anyone from the city or who has attended an M’s or Seahawks game, but it was one of those regional foods I was uncertain about.
Fans gravitate to table tops and picnic benches for a pre-game meal that is much cheaper than inside the stadium.
There are a myriad of vendors lined up and down the street. It was not hard to see and smell the hot dogs cooking on the grill in front of lines of people. Next to the grill is a pan with grilled onions and a tub, or a caulking gun, filled with cream cheese. The onions slowly cook away on the grill and many stands mix them with different ingredients from salt and pepper to barbecue sauce.
The bun, more like a miniature hoagie roll, is toasted with a little char and gets a coat of cream cheese. The hot dog is added and topped with onions. Fans then have a choice of additional toppings that include a variety of mustards, Sriracha sauce, barbecue sauce, jalapenos, sauerkraut, pepperoncini, and relish.
It is not the kind of dog you would find in Chicago, Detroit, or New York. They look like little leaguers compared to the giant all-beef ¼ pound Polish sausage served before sporting events. The cream cheese makes the dog a little slippery, but hold on tight before. However, once you get a good grip, it’s an enjoyable experience.
There are more than just Seattle Dogs offered at the various stands on Occidental Avenue.
The cream cheese is the most interesting caveat to the dog and blends in well with the other ingredients, almost like it would on a toasted bagel. Perhaps that is why it is no surprise that the Seattle dog can trace its roots back to a bagel deli located in the Pioneer Square district in the late 1980s.
Hadley Long is the man credited with the creation of the Seattle dog. He began serving biyali sticks from a cart in Pioneer Square with an all-vegetarian menu. He first offered toppings of cream cheese, mushrooms, sunflower seeds, and onions. It wasn’t popular, but customers asked for hot dogs served on bagel-like sticks. The bagel sticks morphed into hot dog buns, but the ingredients remained the same: cream cheese, grilled onions, and Polish sausage.
A Mariners fan explains the complex taste of the Seattle Dog.
“You are mistaken if you think you’re ordering a New York-style dog,” said one fan on his way to the game. “The bun situation is immaculate. It’s thick like a hoagie roll. The onions are amazing, and the sausage has a great casing and snap. It’s phenomenal.”
The stands offer a few more styles f sausages that include a Spicy-Louisiana Red Hot that is half beef and half pork, a 1/2 pound kelbasa, bratwurst, and a veggie dog. You can even order a Polish dog without the cream cheese and onions. A few carts will even off their take on the cheesesteak, but that is for another article.
A specialized caulking gun squirts the cream cheese onto the bun at Pioneer Square Dogs.
There were long lines for many of the stands and they had their choices of where to go. Sodo Grill offered their dogs for $7, while the Pioneer Grill sold their version for $6. Another stand, Seattle Sausage, closer to the stadium charged $10. There were also meal deals for a plain Polish, chips, and a drink for $6. It might not be a Seattle dog, but it's definitely an economical option for those on a budget. On a side note, T-Mobile Park charges $12 for their version.
The SoDo Grill grill beckons customers to choose their favorite sausage and toppings.
T-Mobile Park, Lumen Field, and other hot dog vendors around the city serve their version of the Seattle dog. However, many are unaware of this style outside of the area. Remember, I asked if it was a thing?
Visitors flock to Seattle to buy a cup of coffee from the original Starbucks, a sourdough bowl of clam chowder from Ivar’s, or a pint of beer from Fremont Brewing. A few also find a hot dog vendor or shop and purchase a hot dog with cream cheese topped with grilled onions and other condiments.
The Seattle Dog is a thing.