D's Six Pax & Dogz
1118 S. Braddock Ave., Regent Square (412-241-4666)
4320 Northern Pike, Monroeville (412-856-5666)
Purists sometimes scoff at the notion that hot dogs require anything but a bun. Condiments, they argue, are merely distractions that serve only to disguise the meaty deliciousness of the frankfurter.
But at D's Six Pax & Dogz, toppings are encouraged. And they help transform the hot dog into a means of self-expression.
"Load them up," says Becca Knee, a manager at D's Regent Square location. "We like people to be creative."
If you're not into D's signature dogs like the Mason Dixon (which features chili and coleslaw) or the Mac 'n Cheese dog (which is covered with ... you guessed it), you're encouraged to build your own fantasy dog. Customers can choose from the restaurant's nearly two dozen toppings, all free of charge.
Craving a dog topped with bacon, marinara sauce and jalapeños? Just ask. How about mushrooms, horseradish and sauerkraut? D's can make it happen.
"People get a lot of crazy things," Knee says.
Opened in 1999, D's is a go-to joint for great beer -- there are roughly two dozen brews on tap, and more than 1,000 bottles to choose from -- and tasty, topping-decorated hot dogs. D's hot dogs (your choice of all-beef, turkey or veggie) are served on soft poppy-seed buns.
And D's lineup of signature dogs offers plenty of inspiration for would-be do-it-yourselfers.
A best-seller, the Chicago hot dog would make the Windy City proud. Covered with neon-green relish, onions, pickles, tomatoes, sport peppers and yellow mustard, this dog is a full meal.
I tried the Chicago on a recent visit, and it was hard not to admire the hot dog as a piece of art, with the mustard drizzled in zigzags across the peppers and tomatoes. It tasted as good as it looked: Coupled with the cool relish and onions, the peppers provided a nice kick that perfectly complemented the Vienna all-beef hot dog.
I didn't try the Big Ben, another popular frank, according to Knee. But considering it's topped with French fries, cheddar cheese and coleslaw, its reputation ought to hold up better than that of the Steelers quarterback himself.