Independence Day brings fireworks, sparklers and backyard cookouts with plenty of burgers and hot dogs. While some get all fancy with their hot dogs, many prefer things simple like the plain grilled dog with just ketchup or the crunchy, snappy dog you get out of a steaming cart on a New York City street, brushed with a swipe of mustard.

There’s also the hot dog you get at a ballpark like the Fenway Frank in Boston. The natural casing Kayem dogs made in Chelsea are boiled and grilled so you get both the juiciness and the snap and then placed in a split-top hot dog roll, just like we do our lobster rolls, and traditionally topped with mustard and relish.

At Flo’s in Cape Neddick, Maine, you had better get your dog one way with their famous hot relish, mayo and a dash of celery salt. They’re fine with mustard and ketchup, too, but that’s the preferred combination and the one most order. While many opt for a burger at Gilley’s Diner in Portsmouth, their dog is great, too. Get it steamed or grilled with kraut and/or chili.

If you want to try something new and very tasty, go to Fuki in Portsmouth, too. Their K-town dog is 100% Wagyu beef topped with American cheese, kimchi and scallion Kewpie mayo in a steamed bun and the Okonomiyaki dog is topped with American cheese, pickled ginger, okonomi sauce, Kewpie mayo and scallions. The flavor combinations are perfect and the hot dog itself rich and juicy.

Elsewhere in the country, you’ll get a Chicago dog with yellow mustard, dark green relish, chopped raw onion, a pickle spear, tomato slices and sport peppers with a sprinkle of celery salt and that simple NYC dog with steamed onions and yellow mustard. I’ll try any new idea for hot dog toppings and themes when presented with more creative options like those at Fuki, but my “go-to” is sauerkraut, mayo and Dijon mustard. Now, I also go for a Detroit-style coney dog like the one at the Delray food truck in Austin, Texas. Admittedly, I’ve never tried one in actual Detroit, but Michigan natives tell me it’s the real deal.

Not to be confused with the dog you’d get at Nathan’s Famous in Coney Island, New York, the Detroit-style coney has a meaty chili sauce with mustard and onion, similar to the Cincinnati Coney with Cincinnati-style chili and a big pile of grated cheddar cheese. Flint, Michigan has its own variation with both ground beef and beef heart.

The chili is not like what you’d find in Texas or New Mexico, with plenty of hot peppers and sometimes beans, enjoyed as a stew rather than a topping. Some say “chili” is without tomatoes and beans at all, but we’ll get to that debate one of these days.

Make your own Detroit-style Coney Sauce

The sauce used to top steamed hot dogs in Michigan often includes brown sugar and celery seed and gets slow-simmered so the beef breaks down to very small bits. You can freeze this sauce and have it on hand whenever you have a yen for one. This recipe is for a Detroit-style sauce, which I adapted from a recipe found on MealHack. It tastes very close to the Detroit dogs I’ve enjoyed. Be sure to have some yellow mustard and chopped onion on hand as a topping for each dog.

1 lb. ground beef

1 large onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 6-oz. can tomato paste

2 c. water

2 t. light brown sugar

1 T. prepared yellow mustard

1 T. dried onion flakes

2 t. chili powder

1 t. Worcestershire sauce

1 t. salt

½ t. celery seed

½ t. ground cumin

¼ t. ground black pepper

In a large skillet over medium heat, brown ground beef, breaking it up into very small chunks with the blade of a spatula or potato masher.

Cook until just browned, then add onions, cooking them until just starting to become translucent. Add garlic, stir to combine, and cook for an additional minute.

Add remaining ingredients. Stir well. Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, or until sauce thickens.

To serve, place a steamed hot dog on top of a steamed bun. Ladle with a scoop of chili, and finish with yellow mustard and chopped onions.

The Dish

Speaking of hot dogs, Moxy Restaurant chef Christopher Hayes gathered up some hot dogs and string cheese for the New Hampshire SPCA last week. You can help stock their freezer to help the shelter dogs, too. These two items are used in a variety of important ways at the shelter, including for training, enrichment activities, to help a shy dog build trust, to kick start the appetite of dogs too stressed to eat, or to hide medications in to help them get well.

Given that cheese and hotdogs should be refrigerated, they ask that donations be dropped off during normal business hours, so check out the hours here. They also need durable toys and chews for the dogs to help reduce kennel stress. See their wish list here.