by Brian Clarey

Is Winston-Salem the Hot Dog Capital of the US?

I don’t know about that.

Surely the Carolina Dog — topped with chili, mustard and slaw, which is also an apt description of the Carolina Burger — deserves its place in the pantheon of Great Regional Hot Dog Styles, along with New York’s sauerkraut and mustard, or the Sonora of Tucson, wrapped in bacon, charcoal-grilled then nestled in a long torta roll with beans, veggies and sauces, almost like a burrito.

And Winston-Salem’s fine hot-dog venues — a true proliferation for a city this size — have proven themselves adept at interpreting the hot dogs of other regions.

My favorite Chicago-style dog, in fact, comes out of downtown Winston-Salem.

And with the Tour de Frank providing a nice little event-based news hook, I’ll tell you all about it in a few moments.

The Tour de Frank, now in its second year, comes from Camel Citian Philip Pledger of the “interactive agency” Airtype and the man behind Phuzz Phest: a three-week hot-dogging food challenge coinciding with the Tour de France and highlighting the city’s most notorious purveyors of the tubesteak.

On the list: Hot Dog City, Kermit’s Hot Dog House, the Little Red Caboose, PB’s Take Out, Pulliam’s Hot Dogs & BBQ and Skippy’s Hot Dogs.

The problem with Winston-Salem and hot dogs is one of loyalty. You’re not gonna convince a Pulliam’s man that Kermit’s makes a better frank. And for someone who loves the way they do it in the Little Red Caboose, every other weiner she entertains will always fall short.

In his email pitch, Pledger points out: “[M]any locals abide religiously by their favorite hotdog spot…. Our goal is to get people to explore and appreciate our city by way of the frank!”

He asks dog-lovers to post pics of themselves eating the franks of their choice to Instagram, hashtags #TourDeFrank and #WSNC. And because it’s a PR tie-in with Airtype and its clothing line Camel City Goods, there are discounts and gift cards in the offering.

I don’t do the Instagram, though Triad City Beat does, but I’ll take any excuse to stop by Skippy’s and get my hands on one of those Chicago dogs on the pretzel roll.

The grill man splits the franks down the middle, which allows for the building of char on either side and also for easy placement and ingestion of toppings. If you don’t get toppings on your Skippy’s hot dog, you’re clearly a fool.

The Chicago, of course, comes with peppers, relish, mustard, onions, a tomato slice, a pickle spear and a light dusting of celery salt. True to form, when it comes time to make the buy I always go for my old tried and true.

My dining partner, at just 11 years old and far less experienced than I on the ways of the frankfurter, opted for a chili-cheese Coney on a house-made pretzel roll. It looked like something I needed to try.

“You gonna finish that?” I kept asking him. No dice.

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