In the same vein as my fast food fight posts, I’ve decided to post and review gas station hot dogs eaten off the hood of my Beetle. Why? Because this is the Internet, so why not? Also, this provides literally unending opportunities for commentary about low quality wieners, and nobody could argue with that.
Wiener 1 & 2: RaceTrac by Bee Ridge/I-75. Cost $2.88 for two hot dogs and an enormous 72oz soda, 11/12/2018.
There’s a certain je ne sais quoi about gas station hot dogs which makes them a very satisfying food. By this, I don’t only mean in the sense of “stopping you from feeling hungry”, but also something more in the vein of a feeling of accomplishment, both in the act of constructing the hot dog and also of finishing it without adverse gastrointestinal effects. This emotion is a bonus you simply don’t receive with a prefabricated hot dog from someplace like Five Guys, and it begins as soon as you step up to the roller grill counter:
Selecting your wiener, unsupervised, from the rollers is very much like choosing a live lobster for dinner from the tank at Red Lobster. Watch them tumbling and quivering as you snap the tongs above them; always in motion, but never able to escape the descending jaws of doom! However, since wieners are not arthropods and hence lack claws, they don’t need to be restrained with rubber bands. Similarly, since the hot rollers are constantly cooking them, they don’t need to be dropped into boiling water. In fact, now I come to think of it, the other metaphor that seems very apt is that of the treadmills in Victorian English prisons; always turning the wheel, never making progress.
This post got off to a really bad start. I intended to gather source material yesterday, but I came up to the sad, sad sight of all the wieners being behind the “still cooking past this point” line. I actually didn’t think that these sausages needed cooking, but as you can see from the picture above, the uncooked ones are quite differently colored from the cooked ones. Anyway, this failure made me abandon ship and buy empanadas instead (another fine gas station food, but not sufficiently widespread for me to do a full series about them, unfortunately). It’s a shame, too, because I really wanted a couple of good hot dogs that afternoon. In any case, per ardua ad alta, nil desperandum, etc. I sallied forth again today…
… only to find that they were out of sauerkraut (the empty hole in the photograph). Lacking sauerkraut, it is impossible to construct an ANSI Reference Hot Dog (consisting of: bun, wiener, sauerkraut and mustard). This is a travesty, and it prevents us from using Racetrac as a baseline. At worst, it might invalidate the entire experimental protocol.
Channeling the never-say-die attitude of my sturdy forebears, I swallowed my disappointment and constructed two hot dogs (they claim to be Nathan’s, by the way); one onion/ketchup/mustard, and one onion/ketchup/mustard/jalapeno. The mustard and ketchup were in the Heinz “upside down” squeezable bottles, which have a seal on the nozzle that requires way too much pressure to overcome, resulting in an uneven and excessively thick condiment bead. Others on the Internet have noted this and I can do no better than link to a short demonstration video. Both seeded and yellow mustard were available; since this wasn’t an ANSI standard hot dog anyway, I used seeded because it’s tastier. Relish was also available but I don’t care for it. The other items in the condiment rack, such as Tabasco, didn’t seem to be relevant to hot dogs. By the way, the ideal method for delivery of semiliquid condiments onto hot dogs is a pump bottle – or, if you’re fancy like Disney or McDonald’s, a pressurized delivery spout rather like a miniature beer tap. Bottles either suffer from the abovementioned nozzle blowout issue, or from water separation problems that drop a teaspoon full of water onto your dog, making the bun soggy.
The Racetrac buns were stored in the usual steam table drawer under the rollers, yet they were still a little crispy and dry on the outside. Most of them were also a bit mashed up inside their clamshells, like they were ripped apart in haste. I am assuming the gas station gets the buns delivered in bulk bags, and that the employees separate them out into the clamshells individually when replenishing the station. Quite often I see a bunch of squashed buns and discarded clamshells lying out around the roller grill, as if people were sorting through them for buns not deformed or glued shut by the moisture of the steam drawer.
Hot dogs constructed, I paid (and declined the offer of a plastic sack; these things would disintegrate instantly if rolled into a plastic bag!), then headed out to my fine turbocharged stick shift Mexican-German picnic table:
The ketchup bottle nozzle issue is very apparent, especially on the hot dog without jalapenos. But how’s the bite?
The non-jalapeno dog’s bun really collapsed down and stuck itself together when bitten, sort of leading me to believe that despite the crusty exterior, the interior was quite damp – but the flavor was fine. Both buns had a bit too much exterior crisp to be quite fully enjoyable. Strangely, the jalapenos had almost no flavor; they only tasted of vinegar and completely lacked heat. Since they’re pickled, they also didn’t have much texture apart from a general damp mushiness.
How did round 1 stack up?
Buns: 2/5. Too crisp, almost broke apart when spread to insert wiener.
Condiments (excluding sauces): 2/5. Missing sauerkraut. Jalapenos lacked bite.
Sauces: 2/5. Ketchup/mustard bottle issues. Good seeded mustard though.
Wieners: 4/5. Good flavor, could have been a bit warmer though. Skinless, so no snap.
Overall: 2.5/5. Replenish the sauerkraut, you’ll get another half point. Switch to pump pack ketchup and mustard and you’ll pick up another half point.