The Great Hot Dog Project: Panama City, Panama

[This is the first in a running sequence featuring an International take on one of Jim’s favorite street foods: The Chicago Style Hot Dog. A snappy sandwich which can be considered a 400 calorie snack or the cornerstone of a typical Chicago lunch from 1983: two hot dogs, a basket of fries and a Coke.

Chicago Style Dog Official IngredientsPoppy Seed Bun, Steamed Hot Dog, Yellow Mustard, Chopped White Onions, Sweet Pickle Relish with Mint, Tomato Wedges, Dill Pickle Spear, Sport Peppers and Celery Salt.

The Dogs I’ll be eating? Well, they might be actual dog. I’ll have to run down the toppings as well because there is zero consistency.]

As a Great Hot Dog Project correspondent for, I have the responsibility to uphold the standards and founding principles of the Hot Dog Quotient. This is my quest, and I aim to apply the Hot Dog Quotient around the world from the beef dogs of Argentina to the actual dog-meat-based hot dogs (I’m assuming) of Vietnam. I plan to make my vendor/restaurant selection based on popularity.  Popularity will be determined by the amount of people in the immediate vicinity of the dog vendor. In the name of proper statistical science, I’ll need to normalize my scale with Jim’s for any proper comparison.

First stop for this correspondent was Panama City, Panama. Hot dogs are a pretty popular street food here in construction areas (which is the entire city). I’ve even seen a beacon of entrepreneurial genius that Henry Ford would appreciate.  This was a moto-hotdog-cart that comes stocked with a pink thermos and fire extinguisher to put out the flesh fires that will occur when the propane tanks on the front of the cart are crushed in a head on collision.

I took a walk down one of the main drags, past a few out-of-the-back-of-my-van vendors that showed promise, to a tiny Panamanian street dog vendor. This place (nameless) sold hot dogs stewed in bay leaves and mystery sauce (photo) and Chichas, which seemed to be Orange Tang to this gringo. The hot dogs are placed singularly lengthwise along the bun – obviously – and then topped with cabbage, onions, ketchup, mayo, mustard, and hot sauce.  They are hand-delivered by the chef and restauranteur himself to his patrons (on a paper napkin).


Saucy: The dogmeat itself was quite good and the preparation had some nice culinary balance. The stewed nature of the dog and the addition of the mayo paired well with the spice of the mustard and the acid of the hot sauce. The cabbage and onions delivered on crunch and texture.  It made me wonder why finely chopped cabbage isn’t used more frequently. The price of this dog was 50 cents, which explained the popular nature of the tienda with the locals.

Sloppy: The dog had ketchup on it, which on its own isn’t a sin for dogs not claiming to be Chicago Style. The bun was also pretty forgettable. It dissolved in your mouth like cotton candy, wasn’t toasted or steamed, and had no redeeming qualities other than its capacity to deliver the ingredients straight into my face.

The dog was pretty delicious. I liked the atmosphere of streetside stands with locals hustling to get their lunch. In keeping with the designated bell curve, where roughly 70% of all of the ratings should fall within 1 standard deviation of the mean given a normal distribution (if I remember stats correctly), I give the Hot Dog a 6 for quality/taste. If you divide that by 50 cents, the Score/Price ratio is a 12 (not bad).

The Hot Dog Quotient on the Panama hot dog is currently a 29 which suggests one of 2 things: 1) the hot dog quotient does not apply internationally, or 2) The Hot Dog Quotient points to Panama as the world Hot Dog mecca.

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