For this week's cover story, I traced the history of the Seattle dog back to its invention in Pioneer Square. Incredibly, the tale of how Seattle eaters developed a fondness for cream cheese on their hot dogs had been lost over the span of just two decades. But the previously unsolved mysteries surrounding the snack haven't prevented it from becoming hugely popular. Over the next few days, Voracious will look at off-the-street versions of the dish made famous by late-night cart operators.
"I can't find the cream cheese," the obviously distressed staffer at Po Dog's Capitol Hill store told me shortly after I asked for a Seattle dog. "I don't know where they put the cream cheese."
Without cream cheese, it was going to be a long night.
Po Dog's the place to go for hot dogs dressed with peanut butter, scrambled eggs and guacamole, but it's also the most reliable centrally-located, off-street source of Seattle dogs. Other local hot dog specialists with permanent locations have largely ignored the city's cream cheese craving: Cream cheese isn't on the regular menus at Shorty's or Shultzy's, and The Wurst Place doesn't stock the condiment (despite Biker Jim's contention that cream cheese is made to smear on game sausage.) At the all-veg Cyber-Dogs, the menu pays tribute to Chicago and Detroit dog styles, but there's no mention of the homegrown preparation involving cream cheese and onions.
At Po Dog, though, cream cheese is a steady seller. It's slathered on a dog tucked into a mitt of a bun and garnished with fresh green scallion confetti, in standard Seattle fashion. But it also shows up on other dogs, including The LO Dog, which was February's Dog of the Month.
The LO Dog is topped with dill pickles, cucumbers, celery salt, lettuce and cream cheese, which - as owner Laura Olson explained in a blog post - was added to enhance the dog's "flavor and texture profile." While it's common for Seattle dog skeptics to crack jokes about cholesterol, Olson considers the LO Dog a healthy alternative to the restaurant's macaroni and cheese dog.
"There are days when you're up for a lighter treat," she wrote.
And, fortunately for folks who were having that kind of day, the guy at Po Dog found the cream cheese.