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Hello, and welcome to National Hot Dog Day! (It’s me, Megan Burns talking, but after the intro PAY ATTENTION ‘CAUSE MAYBE IT’LL BE SOMEBODY ELSE SOMETIMES.) It is important to note that you have the next fifteen hours to consume as many hot dogs as is humanly possible. If we use the results of this year’s Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, and we assume you are built to win (like Joey Chestnut) then you will likely consume fifty-four thousand nine hundred hot dogs over the course of the next nine hundred minutes. (If you are bad at reading numbers, that was: 54,900 hot dogs.) You can do it! You should do it! You should not sue BYT if you do it and regret doing it and/or die doing it!

Before we embark on a magical, hot doggical journey, I would like to discuss with you the history of THE HOT DOG. If I were on Jeopardy and I was asked who invented the hot dog, I would probably say Kip Tindell, Chairman & CEO of The Container Store upon its opening in 1978, because let’s face it, hot dogs are basically just tubed containers of meat. (And then Alex Trebek would go, “NO!” and I would go “WHATEVER.”) But don’t worry, you guys, ’cause I totally Googled “hot dog”, and now I know some stuff. While no one really agrees for sure about when the hot dog was first invented, I would like to go ahead and gloss over the part in which one of our most patriotic American foods was a resident of Germany; instead, let’s skip straight to the part where a German guy called Charles Feltman allegedly started to sell hot dogs on Coney Island. (Other people (including ANOTHER guy who was called Harry M. Stevens) are credited with inventing the hot dog, but I like Coney Island, so Charles is officially the winner of the title.) Ever since that day, everyone everywhere has enjoyed hot dogs always and forever, because anyone who doesn’t like eating hot dogs was ostracized. (Just kidding / I wish.) And now you maybe know some stuff about hot dogs? Regardless, here is some more stuff about hot dogs:


By Megan Burns

(ketchup and mustard, fried quail eggs for extra protein)
(low-carb lettuce bun, absolutely no toppings)
(Skittles for tasting the rainbow, one lit sparkler for pizzazz)
(pizza flavored Doritos, mini Oreos)
(mustard pentagram, ketchup / blood)

 By Brandon Wetherbee, originally published July 7th, 2014

Patrick Bertoletti is on the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs billboard on Coney Island. He’s the guy that looks like a fan of really good music. Mohawk, purple coat, wristbands, metal sign. He’s why I tuned into ESPN on July 4th for the annual Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest. He did not compete this year. Or last. But he’s still on the billboard. And he’s still eating in competitions. So why didn’t he compete on the biggest competitive eating stage in the world?

Photo via Wikipedia

Photo via Wikipedia

I met Bertoletti in April 2012. He was kind enough to come on my talk show. We talked about what makes someone brutally abuse their body for seemingly no reason. We found out we both enjoyed the style of Jim McMahon (Bertoletti has paid tribute to the Punky QB by writing the name of the Major League Eating commissioner on his headband, something that got McMahon in trouble in 1986). We casually stayed in touch. He’s why I made a July 4th BBQ stop watching the Red Dawn remake and turn on ESPN. But he wasn’t there. I checked his Facebook page. He was in New York and in an eating competition and hanging out with the only eater better than him, Takeru Kobayashi. So I called Bertoletti.

“I swore I’d never eat hot dogs again, but I was in New York anyway and a contest with no buns seemed appealing. The hot dog buns are the worst part.” Bertoletti ate 87 bun-less hot dogs. When I told him that that’s fucking absurd, Bertoletti’s response was calm and collected. “I guess it’s a lot. Kobayashi beat my ass. He ate 113. I did pretty good, not great.”


Photo from Patrick Bertoletti’s Facebook page. Patrick is the smiling white male in the black t-shirt behind green haired Kobiyashi.

You most likely will not see Patrick Bertoletti at any officially sanctioned Major League Eating events. He didn’t want to sign a contract — the same contract that is keeping Kobiyashi from the mainstream competitive eating spotlight.

“I just do it for fun now. My priorities have changed.”

Bertoletti now is a co-owner of Taco In A Bag, a restaurant in Dundee, Illinois that serves tacos in a bag. He’s traded in water training for competitions for an hour commute from the Pilsen neighborhood in Chicago. He says the commute is tougher than the competitive eating.

The competitive eating lifestyle is similar to that of a mid-level stand up. Short trips to big and mid-level cities. A paycheck of a few thousand dollars for a short amount of work that only a few people will ever attempt. A lifestyle that tends to lead to health problems. Glory.

When I asked Bertoletti if he’d ever leave his more normal life to go back to MLE and appearing on ESPN on America’s birthday, he responded like any former athlete. He’s reluctant, but can’t pass up the big time. “The only reason I’d go back is to win the Nathan’s Hot Dog contest. When Joey Chestnut retires, maybe I’ll go back.”

Bertoletti is 29. After competitively eating for more than 10 years, he essentially retired from the big leagues at 28. Nicknamed “Deep Dish” for his location and his record (“I have the record in pizza, I think I ate 47 slices in ten minutes.”) he’s a modest, not-fat, nice man. Similar to Jordan (I realize this is a big stretch, but it does make sense), he peaked in his late 20s and now, “[has] nothing left to prove.”

“A lot of times I’d show up and just not want to eat. The reason why it’s fun is, every once in a while you eat really well, you surprise yourself, and you feel good.” Now he does it when the mood strikes. It’s a chance to catch up with some old friends and maybe make some ‘easy’ money. “All throughout my early 20s I’d fly somewhere, eat for ten minutes, make a couple grand and then party with my friends,” he said.

What do you do after you eat a bunch of stuff for ten years? “It was such a shock to my system when I had to rely on regular work for money. I’d work for two weeks and get paid $700, and before I could just eat for ten minutes and make all I’d need for a month. There’s no end game for competitive eaters. There’s not a lot of tangible skills. What the hell are you supposed to do once you’re done?”

Selected by Megan Burns
Hot Dog Happy Hour w/ Mo Rocca @ The Standard High Line ($99, Groupon real life / not even joking)
Selected by Megan Burns

Bold Bite

This small Bethesda spot has the best hot dog in town, and here’s the real shocker: their best dog is a veggie dog! It’s an Italian veggie sausage, which means it is full of Italian flavors like oregano and red pepper, and it has a great, meaty texture. Some of you may not even know that it is vegetarian! Get it Chicago style, with mustard, relish, onions, tomatoes, and pickles on a poppy seed bun. Then pair it with some fries and you’ll be celebrating National HotDog Day to the nines. -Priya Konings

Bravo Bar

Hot dogs are meant to be sucked down in defiance of one’s gag reflex, much like cheap beer. Studies have consistently shown that the more you savor your hot dog, the more likely you are to die like a small child eating legos. Ergo, best place to get hot dogs? Bravo Bar on Georgia Avenue in Park View. Thought up by bartender Robin Brock, Bravo enervates the generic beer-and-a-shot combo by giving you a hot dog for a dollar (making it five bones for the whole shebang) and encouraging you to end your awful day at work by cramming processed meat down your throat with abandon, followed by whiskey and a Natty Boh. Followed by more hot dogs and more whiskey and more Natty Boh. It’s so great that even this (lousy at it) vegetarian does it. -Legba Carrefour

Costco (or Price Club, if you’re really cool)

If you haven’t tasted the awesome that is a Costco hot dog, you need to get yourself over to the DC location as soon as humanly possible. I’m serious. First of all, it’s delicious, and I don’t even like hotdogs. I spent most of my childhood skipping out on hotdogs in favor of their superior cousin, the hamburger (If it wouldn’t kill me, I would seriously eat a hamburger a day for the rest of my life), but as soon as I tried a Costco hotdog I was hooked. I don’t know what the hell the Costco does to their hot dogs, but I’m pretty sure they’re injected with heroin. Plus, they’re only $1.50 with a soda. For real. I can’t even think of a cheaper meal. I mean, at those prices how can you afford not to buy one? Also, the great thing about the DC Costco is that it also sells liquor, so you can pop by for a Kirkland brand hotdog and pick up a couple handles of $14 Kirkland brand vodka. It’s a match made in heaven. -Kaylee Dugan


Being from WV, anywhere I can proudly get a proper West Virginia slaw dog with out judgement is almost heaven to me. DC3 specializes in regional hot dogs from all over the country – the Classic NY Coney Dog to the bacon wrapped Tuscan Sonoran. If you’re really feeling bold get the Q’s Seoul Bulgogi and Kimchi – it’s actually large enough to share and only $5. -Allison Lane


Greatest American Hot Dog

In the aftermath of the burger craze that swept though our nation’s capital a few years ago, it is only appropriate that the lowly hot dog is the next food renaissance to grip the guts of our city’s citizens. “Frankly”, there are a number of options in the DMV area where you can get your fix for frankfurters. Everyone knows D.C.’s vanguard half-smoke, it would be too easy to name Ben’s Chili Bowl as my favorite hot dog. Worth mentioning is Eastern Market’s DC Three, dive bar Ivy and Coney’s Chicago/Detroit style dogs, Bethesda’s Big Bite, and even the Whole Foods in  Friendship Heights has a gourmet hot dog bar.

If you want to go for the full-fatty experience I highly recommend a gem nestled away in my old stomping grounds of Montgomery County, enter Greatest American Hot Dog. With a menu that boasts over 25 varieties of wieners this is a place that jumps leagues and bounds past your general hot dog. You want a dog wrapped in curly fries? Done. You want bulgogi on that joint? Of course. How about a pastrami, reuben dog? Child’s play. This place is determined to give you a coronary before you succumb to the itis that is inevitable to take place once you house your hot dog. You have over 25 choices of toppings to go along with your heart attack, so get creative and move past the atypical ketchup or mustard and let your culinary inhibitions run wild when you order. -Seannie Cameras

Red Apron

My husband and I went camping the other weekend with a bunch of friends, including Sarah Gordon and Sheila Fain of Gordy’s Pickle Jar. They showed up with a cooler full of Red Apron Dogs + buns and their own Sweet Pepper Relish; those forces combined made for what is hands down my favorite DC hot dog situation. –Morgan West


Did we fail to mention something on this most important of days? Please feel free to DIGITALLY YELL AT ME (Megan Burns again) in the comments and/or on Twitter. BYE!