NORTH HOLLYWOOD, WINNETKA and BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — It’s officially summer, the time of year when backyard grills are fired up and the aroma of smoked meat perfumes neighborhoods across the city.
The sizzle of steak, chicken and sausage form a mouthwatering soundtrack that fills families from east Bakersfield to Rosedale, from Oildale to Seven Oaks with the assurance they’re soon about to eat well as they drain another Coke — or ice cold Budweiser — in the 100-degree heat.
Excessive heat aside, it’s a pleasant time of year.
Summer is also the season for hot dogs, whether in ballparks (but not this summer; thanks for nothing, coronavirus), the backyard, roadside stands, diners and occasionally in gussied up versions at restaurants that also feature gourmet burgers and truffle fries.
Inspired by a recent Eater LA article listing the “essential” hot dogs of Los Angeles, I made a road trip to sample a few of the recommendations. I found fault with none of them.
Slaw dog and the ‘Meltdown’ at Vicious Dogs, 5231 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood
Vicious Dogs occupies a space in North Hollywood within walking distance of one of the seemingly ubiquitous hot chicken joints that have popped up of late and an actor’s studio for children.
It’s a small enough spot I drove by twice without seeing it, but once finally inside I found an almost overwhelming menu containing dozens of different varieties of hot dogs.
I selected a “slaw dog” — which comes topped with coleslaw — and a formidable item called the “Meltdown.” They take a Polish sausage, wrap bacon around it and top it with chopped onion rings and melted mozzarella cheese. The whole thing is served on a poppy seed roll.
The Meltdown is, appropriately enough, listed under a section of the menu titled “I’m Hungry.” After eating it, you won’t be.
Chicago dog and chili dog, Cupid’s Hot Dogs, 20030 Vanowen Blvd., Winnetka
The family behind the roadside stand Cupid’s Hot Dogs has been serving up a short menu of wieners since 1946.
They named their specialty chili dog after the business, and it’s certainly good, but I especially enjoyed their Chicago dog, which comes with the classic toppings of neon relish, mustard, tomatoes, sports peppers and a pickle sprinkled with celery salt.
Chili cheese dog, Stars Drive-In, 20445 Sherman Way, Winnetka
Stars Drive-In is a diner straight out of the 1950s, with pop classics on the jukebox and a straightforward menu of burgers, sandwiches and burritos.
Their chili cheese dog is of the knife-and-fork variety. You’ll end up losing half the bun’s contents if you try picking it up, but the oozing cheese and generous amount of chili lends the item a gloriously messy yet satisfying appeal.
Hot chicken, Angry Chickz, 5041 Gosford Road, Bakersfield
One cannot live on hot dogs alone.
For the second week in a row, a KGET staffer visited the recently opened Angry Chickz in southwest Bakersfield to try their hot chicken — the hottest of which requires customers to sign a waiver when placing their order.
Digital Media Manager Scott Herrick ordered the “medium” version of the chain’s fried chicken, and he said even that spice level had him huffing and puffing.
“Worth the hype!” Herrick said.