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Hotdogging the frank: Enter the Tater Dawg
Among other toppings showing up on hot dogs these days, Southern-style Potato Salad makes a nice contrast on this Tater Dawg. - photo by Michelle Boaen Jameson

Some consider it a staple of summer, right after watermelon. I consider it a staple of my refrigerator simply because there are nights I don’t feel like cooking.

Can you guess what it is? The hot dog. Good ol’ frank.

From Memorial Day to Labor Day, more than 7 billion hot dogs are consumed in the United States, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council. (In case you were wondering, that’s 818 per second.) I don’t think Joey Chestnut is included in this count. USA! USA!

Hot dogs are so pervasive, chefs everywhere are experimenting with the basics (dog, bun, mustard, ketchup, onions, relish).

So what kinds of toppings are popping up on dogs everywhere?

Carole Wendling, 28, corporate executive banquet chef for Matt Prentice Restaurant Group, loves Latin flavors and created two dogs — the Argentinian, with chimichurri, chorizo, pickled red onions and marinated queso fresco; and the Cuban, a variation on a Cuban-style panini.

"I figured chimichurri goes well with grilled meats, so it would go good with a hot dog with a little bit of char on it," Wendling says.

At Hippo’s Hot Dogs in Clinton Township, Mich., owner Mark Platt’s menu already features more than a half-dozen hot dogs with various toppings.

There’s the classic Hippo Dog, a Chicago-style Vienna beef dog with mustard, relish, onion, tomato, pickle, sport peppers and seasonings. Variations include the Slaw Dog, topped with mustard and coleslaw.

Platt, 48, started with a Chicago-style dog and produced the Southwest Chicago-Style Dog topped with a salsa-pickled vegetable mixture and crunchy tortilla strips.

"I wanted to create something from the Southwest because on our menu we already have the New York-style, the Chicago-style with its traditional toppings and the Slaw Dog that originated in the South," Platt says.

Ah, yes. The South. And what could be more Southern, and also a summer staple, than potato salad?

Focusing on the sides, like slaw and baked beans, I decided to invent my own gourmet wiener. Introducing the Tater Dawg: Kosher frank, steamed bun, mustard, ketchup and Southern-style Potato Salad piled high.

Better than a Slaw Dog. Better than a Chili Dog. The Tater Dawg was the perfect contrast of hot and cold. And the potato salad wasn’t as messy as slaw or chili.

Union Woodshop in Clarkston, Mich. created the 3 a.m. Dog topped with fried eggs, hash browns and bacon jam.

Suggested side? Maalox.

The Detroit Free Press contributed to this story.