Potato Salad Is the Best Hot Dog Condiment

How do you take your hot dogs? A squiggle of ketchup? Mustard? Maybe some relish or diced onion if you nasty. Well, the absolute best hot dog condiment has been at the BBQ this whole time and you didn’t even know it. 

My dad is the cook in the family, and he’s long served me hot dogs (probably boiled, definitely Boar’s Head all-beef, natural-casing franks) heaped with potato salad. It’s a cool, creamy condiment that compliments a plump, beefy dog. If there’s onion or celery (or both) in the salad, the dish is all the better for the bit of crunch. Starchy cubes of potato turn a snack into a full-blown meal. Seattle has cream cheese dogs, West Virginia has slaw dogs, and my parent’s house in Palm Coast, Florida, has potato salad dogs. I guess you could call it a hyper-regional delicacy. 

I asked my dad to explain how he was introduced to potato salad dogs, and he wove this rich tapestry of a story about being a kid in the Bronx in the 1960s. If this story is true, the man has an incredible memory, especially when it comes to food: 

“I was 12 years old in the summer of ‘63, and for reasons unknown to me, my Aunt Wanda developed a phobia of riding alone on the subway. So, for the sake of companionship, she got me a summer job at her shop. I was too young to get working papers (the age minimum was 14 for part-time work), so I was illegal and off the books. The Gaimaris paid me in cash in a little brown envelope every Friday. The company made men’s overcoats and uniform coats for the New York City police and fire departments. My job involved making two trips a day, walking a two-wheeled wooden cart full of garments, from 23rd Street and 5th to 18th and Union Square to Mr. Winnick the buttonhole maker. Drop off a load in the morning and pick up a load at about 4 p.m. In between, I worked at ironing the seams of satin sleeve linings on a steam press. (I also used that press to heat people’s sandwiches at lunch time.) That was my day. 

Now, the little restaurants and delicatessens did a big lunch trade but closed up around 5 p.m. when the garment district became like a ghost town. There was a kosher deli on my daily route that had a flat-top grill in the front window. There would always be a couple of Hebrew National franks, overdone on one side from sitting since the last lunch rush. One evening, I decided to stop in there and order the two dogs to go. The counter man asked if I wanted anything on them; I replied no. “No sauerkraut?” he asked. Again, I replied no, but said I would like some potato salad. Now, I expected a little cardboard tray of potato salad, but much to my chagrin, when I settled on a park bench to enjoy my snack, I found that he had put the potato salad directly on the hot dogs. So being easy going as usual, I said what the hell, and thus was unintentionally introduced to a dining experience that I relish (no pun intended) to this very day. Potato salad dogs.”

For a lot of people who weren’t inadvertently served a potato salad dog by a confused deli worker, mayonnaise on a hot dog is anathema. As Kate Bernot wrote for The Takeout in 2018, “A hot dog is already juicy and fatty, so it calls for a vinegary counterpoint to its meatiness, not more richness.” I have to disagree! Mayo pairs beautifully with all sorts of rich, fatty foods (french fries, for instance). In fact, I’d argue the creaminess of the mayo actually cuts the salty bite of the dog. I mean, have you had a Sonoran dog?

Okay, so now you’re probably like, “Well, what about the potatoes?” Yes, a hot dog on a bun topped with potato salad is starch on starch. But if you were going to have a side of potato salad anyway, what’s the difference? And don’t tell me you’ve never pregamed a gigantic bowl of pasta by downing half a basket of garlic bread. Throw carb caution to the wind and opt for a squishy potato roll in lieu of a regular old bun. And if anyone gives you side-eye when you try this at a summer BBQ, tell them about the kid in the Bronx who paved your way.

About the Author

Gwynedd Stuart

Gwynedd Stuart, Sporked’s managing editor, is an L.A.-based writer and editor who spends way, way too much time at the grocery store. She’s never met an Old El Paso taco or mozzarella stick she didn’t like.

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  • good points. also, doesn’t mayonnaise go onto a classic, LA, bacon-wrapped street dog?

    Doubling down on fat rules.

  • Legit. Although if I were preparing potato salad for this particular use case I would make sure my potatoes were diced extra small, or maybe a little smashed. It won’t take the place of the One True hotdog condiment, though: French’s yellow mustard. Add some diced dill pickle and you’ve got everything a hotdog needs.

    • Thanks, Scott! Yellow mustard and pickle rock for sure.