Food Fight: Fast Food Hot Dogs — Burger King vs Sonic vs 7-Eleven (sort of)
Fast-food hot dogs, from left to right: regular dog from Tetco (7-Eleven's "Big Bite" dog); Tetco dog with chili and cheese; regular and chili cheese dog from Sonic; chili cheese and "regular" dogs from Burger King.
Photo by Phaedra Cook
Convenience store chain 7-Eleven has been throwing major shade on Twitter at Burger King, which just introduced two hot dogs: one topped with sweet relish and onions, and one with chili and cheese. Here is just one example of 7-Eleven's cheekiness. (Burger King hasn't responded so far.)
It got us to wondering: Are 7-Eleven's hot dogs really better than the new ones at Burger King? For that matter, did either have a prayer against Sonic?
One problem: There are no 7-Elevens in Houston. Well, there kind of are and kind of aren’t. 7-Eleven had a big Houston presence many years ago before selling all of its stores and taking our precious Slurpees away. (No one mourned harder for cherry Slurpees than teenagers in the '80s.)
Way back in 2013, 7-Eleven announced that it had bought 143 convenience stores in Texas, with two in Houston, and would be rebranding them. That’s never quite happened. A little more than a year ago, the Houston Chronicle reported that as of then, three Houston-area stores had been purchased and were operating as Tetco. According to the report, a spokesperson for 7-11 said that “the transition isn't far enough along for those shops to display the 7-Eleven sign and sell Slurpees or Big Gulps.”
However, the store at 18555 Tomball Parkway does sell 7-Eleven coffee and Big Bite hot dogs. Ah-ha! So, you can get 7-Eleven hot dogs in Houston at one place, at least. We picked up two hot dogs for testing, because companies shouldn't throw shade if they can’t stand a little time in the sun.
At each place — Sonic, Burger King and that one precious Tetco on Tomball Parkway — we purchased a regular dog and a chili cheese dog. The definition of “regular” dog varies from one place to the next, and so does the ability to customize toppings. Two of the three tasters prefer dill relish to sweet, but that wasn’t available anywhere. One believes ketchup has no place on a hot dog, only mustard. (To quote the great Cecil Adams of The Straight Dope: "Behold this creature that walks like a man...it wants ketchup on its hot dog!")
Burger King puts a hefty amount of sweetened, chopped onions on its regular dog in addition to the sweet relish. (Note that we said “sweetened,” not sweet. Those are chopped white onions that have obviously been soaked in some sort of sweet and vaguely tart brine.)
Getting it your way at Burger King might be harder than you think. We asked them to leave off the onions. They didn’t. Oh well.
Also, Burger King’s chili includes beans, which is a really divisive choice, especially here in Texas.
Here’s how the taste testing went — and the winners may surprise you.
From left to right, "regular" hot dogs from Tetco (the 7-Eleven "Big Bite" dog), Sonic and Burger King.
Photo by Phaedra Cook
The Buns: Sonic’s was deemed “sweet and fluffy,” Tetco’s/7-Eleven’s was a little dry on the exterior but a pretty yellow color, like that of an egg bun. It was also the biggest of the buns, which made the hot dogs overall seem a little bready, but still good. Burger King’s was deemed “very standard, like a grocery store bun.”
Sonic’s hot dog seemed defined by rampant saltiness. One taster compared it to a canned Vienna sausage. For another, the saltiness in the first few bites was pleasing, but then got to be overwhelming halfway through. All tasters thought that Burger King’s got too much of the flame-broiled treatment the chain is so proud of. Essentially, the wiener tasted like it had been cooked on a natural gas grill — and that’s not a compliment.
Far and away, the winning wiener was the Tetco/7-Eleven dog. It was thicker and denser than all the rest with a nice snap to it, thanks to a sturdy casing. It wasn’t overly salty, either.
Regular Hot Dog Test
Sonic: Condiments — mustard only. Taster comments: “Meat tastes like Vienna sausages.” “I kind of like the saltiness.” “These hot dogs go down way too easy.”
Burger King: Condiments — sweet relish, sweetened onion, mustard. Taster comments: “This tastes like that crappy vinegar stuff.” “You mean chow-chow?” “Yeah, but not a good one.” “Tastes like a gas flame.” After this one, all of the tasters dived for plain crackers and glasses of water to try to get rid of the relish and onion flavor and reset their palates.
Tetco/7-Eleven: Condiments — mustard only. Taster comments: “Tangy sausage. Nice snap.” “Thick sausage — the biggest of all of these hot dogs.” “I like the Dijon mustard.”
From left to right, chili cheese dogs from Tetco (the 7-Eleven "Big Bite" dog), Burger King and Sonic.
Photo by Phaedra Cook
Chili Cheese Dog Test
Sonic: “Is this Wolf Brand chili? I’m okay with this.” “The hot dog tastes like it has a lot of nitrates.” “Salty.” “This is a very standard cheese sauce, but I like it.”
Burger King: “Beans in chili??” “I found a tiny bone fragment.” “Tastes like a natural gas grill.” “Flavorless cheese shreds.” “Balance of salt to meat is better than Sonic’s.”
Tetco/7-Eleven: “Inferior chili and cheese sauce to Sonic’s.” “Still really like this hot dog, though.”
The consensus was that the best chili cheese dog would be if Tetco’s bun and wiener were topped with Sonic’s chili and cheese. Since that’s not going to happen, our pick for the best hot dogs in both categories was Tetco’s/7-Eleven’s.
Burger King's were, by far, the worst in both categories — and the most expensive. Total cost for a regular dog and a chili cheese dog was $4.63 for both, while both Sonic and Tetco charged $4.31.
7-Eleven is well within its rights to throw some shade. Now, if it would just get around to opening some more Houston stores — we need Big Bites in more places around town.
Of course, we Houstonians know which place would likely beat them all — James Coney Island. There’s nothing like the sloppy goodness of a James Coney Island chili cheese coney.
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