David Trachtenberg is passionate about hot dogs. The 48-year-old Rockville resident spent nearly half a year eating more than 50 kinds of dogs trying to find the perfect one for his recently launched Montgomery County food truck, Greatest American Hot Dogs. After coast-to-coast tasting trips and dozens of hours of online research, he decided on franks from Chicago’s fabled Vienna Beef.
The snappy, skin-on hot dogs star in a number of the offerings at the chef-owner’s mobile operation, which is also manned by Emmanuel Ayissi, the former head chef of the Cameroonian embassy. Local favorite the West Virginia Slaw Dog ($4.50) gets a ladle of chili, a blanket of coleslaw and a zigzag of bright yellow mustard, making it a sloppy yet absolutely delicious proposition. The Chicago Dog ($4.50) is a solid interpretation piled high with relish, mustard, chopped onions, tomato cubes, a pair of sport peppers and a fried pickle with an afterburn — plus a shake or two of celery salt. The poppy seed bun is slightly steamed as tradition dictates, but then it’s griddled brown with a little butter. (Purists can get their buns simply steamed upon request.)
Of course there’s a half-smoke. It’s sourced from Baltimore’s Manger Packing, where Ben’s Chili Bowl gets its sausages. I enjoyed Trachtenberg’s more than the ones I’ve had at the tourist-infested U Street institution. The key to its success is the spicy chili sauce, which possesses a depth of flavor and heft that are not evident in the Bowl’s weak, watery stuff.