Nothing says summer like eating a hot dog fresh off the grill.  As a kid, many a summer day was spent devouring a hot dog on a scorching day, dripping wet from playing in the water, finishing it all off with a fresh slice of watermelon.

As a big kid now…okay, adult….my love for hot dogs remains. And it is equally felt by my family.  But we don’t always agree on how we like to eat our hot dogs. My husband is a die-hard Chicago dog fan. One of my sons keeps it simple with ketchup, another loves mounds and mounds of mustard, and I just love it all!

And since hot dogs are an easy party meal, we decided to start doing summertime dinner party hot dog bars.  We have done several of these as a family and with friends, and they are a hit!  Knowing everyone likes their hot dogs a different way, or if you’re like me, you’ll try a little of everything, a hot dog bar makes it ideal to cater to different tastes and preferences.  Plus, it’s super easy to prepare and put together.

There’s no right or wrong way to go about having a hot dog bar.  It doesn’t have to be fancy or coordinated.  Just keep it simple with a few bowls of varying sizes for your toppings to go in, have a list of possible hot dog varieties to try ready to go for your guests, and let them do their magic.

The majority of the work is in the preparation so I like to have as many toppings chopped, assembled, and ready to go as I can in advance in the bowls and stored in the refrigerator until I’m ready to pull them out.  If needed, I’ll tap a few items in the microwave to reheat beforehand. Have some chips, fresh fruit, and grilled corn on the side, and you have a deliciously simple meal.

A few of these hot dogs our family came up with so here are recipe ideas to type up and use for your hot bar:

All American Dog – ketchup, mustard, pickle relish, onions

Chicago Dog – mustard, onions, pickle relish, sliced dill pickle, tomato wedges, peperoncini peppers, celery salt

Chili Cheese Dog – chili, onions, shredded cheese, jalapeños (optional)

Texas Dog – BBQ sauce, onions, shredded cheese, jalapeños (optional)

Carolina Dog – chili, onions, coleslaw

Gourmet Dog – chipotle aioli, carmelized onions, banana peppers, cilantro

Mexican Street Dog – chipotle aioli, Mexican street corn**, jalapeños (optional), cilantro

Your Dog – Mix and match your way

**For the Mexican street corn, I use 4-6 ears of grilled corn cut off of the cob and put it into a large bowl. Add in 2-3 T  mayonnaise, 1 T fresh squeezed lime juice, 1 tsp chili powder, dash of cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to taste, 1/4 cup or more of crumbled cotija cheese or queso fresco, and 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro.

It doesn’t matter how you eat your hot dogs, but it’s the memories around mealtime that matter most. Happy summer!

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