Best Hot Dog St. Louis 2004 - The Monte Cristo
Two all-beef wieners, strawberry sauce, Swiss cheese, neither pickles nor onions, on a Save-A-Lot bun. OK, so that's a highly bastardized version of the McDonald's jingle, but then again, the Monte Cristo dog at Iron Barley is like one big middle finger flipped toward the ho-hum frankfurter. Taking a cue from his own childhood, when he used to put jelly on his bologna sandwiches because, hey, there was nothing else in the fridge, Iron Barley chef/owner Tom Coghill audaciously slaps strawberry preserves all over those puppies; for an even more pungent kick of savory-on-sweet, he melts a few slices of Swiss over them, too. Not only is the resulting sandwich unlike other hot dogs around town, it also bears scant resemblance to a traditional Monte Cristo (sliced chicken, turkey, Swiss and sometimes ham, dipped in egg and grilled to a golden brown). Same goes for Reuben the Dog, a close second to the Monte Cristo in Coghill's repertoire: It's just like a Reuben, except there's a hot dog instead of corned beef, and a hot dog bun instead of rye bread. Coghill serves his dogs open-face because they're so big (easily a lunch and a late-afternoon snack) he has to. At $5.95 a pop, he's got the real deal when it comes to supersize value meals.