A chili dog is a hotdog with something resembling chili on it, and it can be a wonderful thing if it's done right. Much depends on the quality of the "chili"; to my mind, the chili is more important than the dog itself. Of course, it may just be that the quality of the "chili" tends to vary more than that of the dog. It's only for the sake of convenience that I use the term "chili" to refer to this substance; I apologize to those who know better.

The chili dogs I'd recommend most heartily are those sold by the Nathan's chain and those sold by the 7-11 convenience store chain. They're both delicious, though Nathan's has a slight edge due to a closer resemblance to actual food. The difference between the two lies in the "chili".

Nathan's "chili" is a relatively thin sauce with beans and soft pieces of something that signifies "meat". The flavor is pleasing, somewhat sweet, and mildly spicy. The "bean" signifiers appear to be actual beans.

7-11 stores offer a more fine-grained "chili", something like a large-grained paste. My belief is that the granular material is mostly derived from soy beans, with a leavening of "meat by-products" to add character. The flavor is spicier than the Nathan's product. If you've had Hormel "chili", it's very similar. 7-11 stores are far more common than Nathan's, so this may be your only realistic option.

Chili dogs go well with an authoritative ale, like Ipswich Ale, Otter Creek Copper Ale, or Magic Hat Blind Faith. Any decent India pale ale (IPA) should be adequate in time of need. If you choose the 7-11 product, try to get something hoppier than those: Due to the greasiness of the food product, you'll want a well-hopped beer. I had some Anchor Liberty Ale recently which would have been just about ideal for the purpose.

sockpuppet suggests Harpoon IPA, and I agree: It's fashionable around Boston to sneer at Harpoon because they've got this ubiquity thing happening, but they deserve more respect than that.

Chili dogs are a ballpark classic and for many people bring to mind fond memories of games, (pro or little-league), and are just as much a part of summer as lemonade and watermelon. James Coney Island is famous for them. They're, as named, a plain old hot dog covered in chili. That's about the only consistant part. The below recipe is just a place to start. After that, the toppings are up to you. Many folks like chopped onion on top, some people swear by pickles, and many of them go for cheese be it cheap nacho goo or a quality aged cheddar. Limited only by your creativity and your ability to stomach unusual foods.

Chili Dog Sauce from http://www.recipecottage.com/sandwiches/chili-dogs02.html

An original version of the classic "Michagan" sauce for chili dogs.
Makes 8 servings.

1/2 lb. lean ground beef
I medium yellow onion-chopped fine
1 1/2 tbl. chili powder-or to taste
2 tsp. cumin-or to taste
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper powder
1/2 tsp. dried red pepper flakes-to taste
salt-to taste
4 to 6 oz. tomato paste-according to taste
I cup water-more as needed

Over medium heat saute ground beef in a skillet glazed with small amount of vegetable oil. When the meat is nearly cooked, drain off most of excess fat. Add the onion, chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, red pepper and salt. Saute for an additional 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and water. Simmer slowly for 10 minutes adding additional water as necessary. Stir frequently. Spoon liberally over hot dogs and top with chopped sweet onions.

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