New England hot dogs are easily identifiable in split top buns.
Photo Credit : Aimee Seavey
One way to know for sure that you’ve crossed into Maine is when you notice certain brands of hot dogs in the grocery store are a shocking, bright red. Ladies and gentlemen… the red snapper hot dogs of Maine.
A favorite mainstay at family barbecues and campsites all across Vacationland, these natural casing beef and pork franks earned the name “red snapper” because of their obvious color (just red dye) and the SNAP sound the natural casing makes when you bite into it. More of a “home BBQ” hot dog than a roadside dog, red snappers are jarring to look at, but plenty tasty to eat.
And of course, like all good local hot dogs, they’re served in the traditional top-split New England hot dog bun, which are also a popular choice for all of the best lobster rolls. Unlike the side-split rolls common throughout the rest of the country, top-split rolls not only stand up better on a plate after the hot dog and toppings have been piled on, but its flat sides are ideal for buttering and toasting, either on a grill or in a frying pan. Of course, some folks will say they like theirs steamed rather than toasted, and that’s okay, too.
As a city apartment dweller, grilling is a pleasure I’ve yet to experience, so it’s stove-top toasted for now.
In Maine, Bangor-based W.A. Bean & Sons is the foremost red snapper brand. They’ve been making hot dogs since 1918 (“150 Years, 5 Generations, and 4 Million Hot Dogs Last Year” their Web site says), but once you venture further south you may only be able to find Kayem “Reds,” a red snapper-style dog made in Chelsea, MA. We hear there might be red hot dogs in a few other pockets of the southern USA, but around here, red dogs are as Maine as lobster and blueberries.
When the hot dogs are hot and ready, put them in the warm rolls and load on the toppings. Here, one hot dog is waiting for a simple squiggle of ketchup while the second gets dressed with traditional relish and a slug of Maine-made Raye’s “Down East Schooner” Mustard. A third (the melted cheese underneath hidden by the hot dog) has a few spoonfuls of sauteed mushrooms and onions. When it comes to hot dog toppings, the combinations (and opinions about the best combinations) are endless, and we embrace them all.
Lined up and ready, a plate of red snapper hot dogs is a Maine summer supper at its finest (that is, if you’re not in the mood for lobsters). Just add a bag of Humpty Dumpty chips, potato salad, french fries, or anything else that’s a little greasy with an ice cold root beer, Moxie, or grape soda.
Are you a fan of Maine’s red snapper hot dogs? Or do you prefer the other New England hot dogs, Fenway Franks? Let us know!
This post was first published in 2014 and has been updated.