Fourth of July, Philly Style: The Hot Dog Cheesesteak Hoagie
What do you do in a town known for cheesesteaks and hoagies when on our nation’s day of independence (and barbecues), when everyone in America is inhaling hot dogs as quickly and consistently as humanly possible? Combine them. Combine them all. That’s what we did at The Pop Shop in Collingswood, NJ a few months ago, accidentally creating the greatest hot dog based sandwich a Philly taste bud could imagine.
The Hot Dog Cheesesteak Hoagie is almost too good to be true, but it’s true. We made it, we ate it and we are finally able to share it with you.
A few months back, The Pop Shop put a message on Facebook asking for different suggestions to add to their extremely diverse (and universally delicious) menu. Designed like an old 1950s diner, The Pop Shop has carved out nice niche of serving old classics and All-American comfort food in an environment that’s perfect for everyone from the couple who wants to grab a burger before a night out in the city to a family of four with two kids who will only eat grilled cheese and pancakes for dinner (that’s us).
I took to the tweets to suggest a Hot Dog Grilled Cheese, and idea too good not to exist.
A short while later, I heard back from Kevin Sperlunto–one of the managers of The Pop Shop–who liked the idea as much as I did. The next day I received a message that no combination felt inspiring, asking if I’d want to come in and help him with the project. “Yes. Yes, I would. I would like that very much.”
We set up a date and invited resident Foobooz foodie Arthur Etchells to come along for the sandwich designing session.
We created ten different sandwiches using eight different types of bread, nine different cheeses, a ton of extras inside each sandwich and, of course, copious amounts of wieners. If you didn’t know, The Pop Shop specializes in grilled cheese sandwiches with dozens on the menu, one of which went up against Bobby Flay in his Food Network show Throwdown. This is high-level grilled cheese brainstorming.
What we learned, of course, was that the best sandwich we could create wasn’t a grilled cheese at all.
“Why don’t you chop it up,” came a suggestion from the kitchen. It’s so simple, yet so perfect. We chopped up the hot dog to mimic cheese steak meat, then cooked it together with the Pop Shop’s brand of whiz (cheddar cheese sauce). We then topped the hot dog and cheese combination with shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes and raw red onion. We sliced the hoagie roll in two and put spicy mustard on one side and regular yellow mustard on the other.
The creation was not a hot dog grilled cheese by definition, but it was the most scrumptious sandwich any of us could recall eating. The combination of the cheese whiz and mustard balanced out the sandwich so well. The spicy mustard gave the sandwich a little kick, but even the yellow mustard somehow enhanced the experience, something that came as a surprise to us as we thought the combination of yellow mustard and cheese whiz would not fit well. The fresh, raw veg on top made served as enough of a buffer, helping the sandwich taste just like a cheese steak hoagie, only with hot dogs.
If this isn’t the next great Philadelphia-area sandwich staple, I won’t believe anything can be. It’s not gimmicky like adding a pretzel roll to be more regional (though that might be really delicious too). It’s not filled with nonsensical ingredients. It’s just a really amazing sandwich and a total reinvention of the All-American hot dog.
Somewhat sadly, the overwhelming success of the Hot Dog Cheese Steak Hoagie made it feel like our hot dog grilled cheese experiment was a bit of a failure. That’s not to say we didn’t come up with some delicious grilled cheese either. Nothing was as good as that sandwich, but a few of the grilled cheese were pretty spectacular.
You can see the breakdown of each sandwich below. We started out more traditional and ended up off the deep end of sandwich construction. Some were good, while one, admittedly, was the worst thing I have ever put in my mouth. Here is the list, in order, of the sandwiches we created that day:
Sandwich 1: Hot Dog with American, cheddar and provolone, red onion and chili on sourdough bread. This was good, not great. The chili took away from the hot dog.
Sandwich 2: Hot Dog with cheddar and a chipotle ketchup and relish blend on ciabatta bread. This sandwich was delicious, especially the sauce. It was missing something to be considered a great sandwich, but the sauce was worth the bite.
Sandwich 3: Hot Dog with jack cheese, sauerkraut and salsa on foccacia bread. The sauerkraut killed this sandwich. Without that, it could have been really good. Though if you like kraut, this one was was great for you.
Sandwich 4: Hot Dog with mozzarella rolled around the dog and crisped, then placed inside two slices of white bread also covered in mozzarella. And topped with bacon. Connie, whose smiling face you see whenever you enter The Pop Shop, thought up this gooey, salty treat. This is a great sandwich, but needed a sauce or something that wouldn’t make you think you just clogged all your arteries in one bite.
If you put the chipotle ketchup and relish sauce on this, it would have been almost as good as the winner.
Sandwich 5: The winner. I think chopping up the dog was Connie’s idea too. She deserves this to be named after her, no?
Sandwich 6: Hot Dog with roasted red peppers, caramelized onions, provolone and American on foccacia bread. This was my idea, sort of a play on sausage and peppers. It was good, but clearly not the best.
Sandwich 7: Hot Dog with cheddar and jack cheese, salsa, black beans and jalapeno, wrapped in a tortilla. This was not great, and it wasn’t a grilled cheese.
Sandwich 8: Hog Dog for breakfast. An english muffin with hash browns and American cheese topped with hot dog, hollandaise sauce and a perfectly poached egg. Add scallions for color and texture. If you ever have a hot dog for breakfast, this is that sandwich. Amazing how the egg breaks open over the hot dog and hash browns. It’s the most wonderful breakfast sandwich you could eat once a year.
Sandwich 9: A Veggie Dog with goat cheese, avocado and tomato on rye bread. I almost threw up just writing that again. This was the worst thing I have ever eaten. Sorry vegetarians…we really did try.
Sandwich 10: Hot Dog with hot sauce, on white bread with blue cheese crumble and chopped celery with carrots. This started with the idea of putting celery salt on a hot dog, so why not try actual celery? If you have celery, why not blue cheese and hot sauce? It was good, but it felt like we constructed the sandwich backwards.
We came up with 20 more options before realizing that tasting 10 different hot dog dishes was enough for one day. But the day was clearly a success, epic hot dog grilled cheese or not.
Thanks to The Pop Shop, social media, and lots and lots of wieners.
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