For the second year in a row, I sacrificed my insides to help Sheldon find its Top Dog.
On Monday, Aug. 12, I served as one of three judges for the Hot Dog Day Top Dog competition. Joining me on the esteemed panel were Jim Buenger and Drew Haack.
As I noted, this was the second time I’ve served as a judge and Shanelle Matus, chamber director for the Sheldon Chamber and Development Corporation, added some new twists this year.
Instead of going around and visiting all of the stands — 12 of 19 participants were going for Top Dog — we were sequestered in the upstairs conference room of the Sheldon Community Services Center and contestants delivered their hot dogs to us. They were supposed to be intercepted so that we would not know where the dogs were coming from, but a few slipped through before Shanelle’s go-between could catch them. Whoops.
Participants could send up to two hot dogs at a time — and many of them did — and we had to rate them on taste (worth up to 10 points) and toppings (worth up to five points).
Even while dividing them into thirds, this was rough. It didn’t help that I foolishly ate lunch, which seemed like a good idea beforehand.
Iowa Information graphic designer Bri Harrell and I theorized that if I ate lunch, I wouldn’t be super hungry when it was time to judge, therefore I wouldn’t overeat during the time of the event. I should mention that we were hungry when we came up with this plan.
Anyway, my fellow judges and I powered through. I knew when we were in for an interesting competition when the first hot dog we tried had peanut butter on it.
Weird peanut butter hot dog aside, trying all the dogs was fun at first. But as the plastic food containers kept piling up and our stomachs swelled with processed meat, it became a chore and true battle of the wills.
It didn’t help that some hot dogs were just brutal to eat, no offense contestants who I shall not identify.
To my surprise, my personal favorite hot dog came from Maintainer Corporation of Iowa.
The business served two hot dogs, but the one the stood out to me was the BLT Dog, which featured lettuce, tomato, light mayo served in a bun with a perfectly grilled bacon-wrapped hot dog. I hate mayonnaise, so that’s why I was surprised at how much I liked the BLT Dog. Of course, when a hot dog has the perfect amount of char on it and you couple that with bacon, it is easy to overlook the yuckiness that is mayo.
After surviving eating what roughly comes out to be eight hot dogs each — 24 hot dogs divided into three pieces — it was time to make our rounds.
We hit up all of the downtown and downtown adjacent places first. As usual, Cain Ellsworth & Co. brought their “A” game and hosted a luau where they served three kinds of Hawaiian Punch with little umbrellas in the drinks.
Unfortunately, the test of their dog is what wound up hurting them later. However, I gave them perfect scores of five for creativity and atmosphere.
Ag Partners, which tied for second for the second year in a row, also maintained its high standards — peanut butter hot dogs aside. I also gave them perfect scores in creativity and atmosphere but was sad to see the selfie station did not make its return.
First place went to G&E Cabinetry, which served a corn dip topped dog that was my second favorite of 2019. They had five toppings at their station, wore matching outfits and knocked it out of the park on crowd and atmosphere.
With two years under my belt, I’m officially hanging up my Hot Dog judge apron. However, if you have an affinity for franks and love free food, I encourage you to reach out to Shanelle and lock up a judging spot for 2020.