Classic American cuisine gets an Austin twist for Fourth of July

Jose Gonzalez

Hot dogs and burgers are as traditional as fireworks on Fourth of July, but in Austin even these classics don’t get away without slight changes and adaptations. In this unconventional Texas city, the adjustments made to traditional recipes don’t just highlight the tastes that set the region apart, but break convention on what defines American food.

Though several restaurants will close to enjoy the holiday, many hot dog venues remain open because they are an Independence Day staple. Though various cities boast their own recipes — from Detroit’s Coney dog to Arizona’s Sonoran dog — most know Chicago-style as the tradition.

The Chicago dog is practically an American institution, and institutions like Frank Restaurant stand behind it. Most of their recipes don’t stray too far from Chicago style, which is why they’re such a hot spot on Fourth of July.

Frank Restaurant set its foundation upon Chicago style but isn’t afraid of revolution, serving a variety of wild game hot dogs made with antelope and rabbit, as well as a Cajun hot dog called the Creole Gator.

“We get game from local Texas ranches, but the alligator we do have to outsource,” Romano said.

While Frank’s hot dogs have held notoriety for over a decade, Mission Dogs in East Austin opened up a restaurant last year that gives a multicultural take on hot dogs. Restaurant owner Michael Farley said his upbringing as an Asian-American is what inspired his diverse menu.

“Each hot dog represents a different country, so you got a Korean dog, a Japanese dog, a Filipino dog,” Farley said. “The Mission dog is the only one that strays from that.”

Farley’s namesake “Just the Dog” hot dog is the barebones option on the menu, a bacon-wrapped hot dog on a bun. Farley said the Mission dog itself is based on the Mexican-style hot dogs he would see street vendors sell in San Francisco.

The Austin hot dog scene is a melting pot of styles, but burger joints take pride in keeping a strictly Texan spin on their food. Daniel Young, general manager at the Austin landmark, Dirty Martin’s, attests to this and said he’s sticking to their trademark way of making delicious American food.

“We don’t try to sugarcoat it,” Young said.  

Though Dirty Martin’s generally sticks to what they know, Young said they do have something new to spice things up on the Fourth. The Guadalupe Red Hot Burger — a spicy variation of their traditional burger — was recently added to Dirty Martin’s menu, but Young said it still embodies a uniquely Austin flavor.

Further up Guadalupe, Hopfields is well-known for their popular, French-inspired Pascal burger, but general manager Maya Shabi said she wanted to try something else this Fourth of July — going American.

 “We’re gonna be offering a classic American burger, super cheesy with double meat on a brioche bun,” Shabi said. “It’s going to be limited so we’re only going to have about 20 of them all day.”

For a more reliable option, wander West 6th Street this Fourth of July for Casino El Camino’s crowd-favorite Amarillo burger. Though their burgers are based on many Northern styles, fry cook Ryan Allan Ruth said there’s a special touch to the pub’s burgers that makes them authentically Texan.

“You just have to add a little love to the meat and a splash of Lone Star beer,” Ruth said.

Though most restaurants have their own take on how to do Fourth of July food “right,” Farley said no matter if their style is traditional or a variation, it is inherently American.

“If you’re already serving a national staple, might as well do it your way,” Farley said.