A culture isn't much of a culture without a sausage to call its own. For proof, look at Canada: They can't even do bacon right up there. That's ham, kids.
Worldwide, people love the forthright kielbasa, embrace the portly and pale bratwurst, snuggle with a hot Italian and marvel at the rich blood sausage.
In these United States, we have the humble hot dog. And in Western Pennsylvania, we have the venerable Brighton Hot Dog Shoppe. The mothership of the primarily Beaver County-based tube-steak purveyor is in New Brighton, along the Beaver River. Several other shoppes dot the landscape from Vanport Township to Elwood City.
The place does hot dogs right. They are grilled, as boiling is for suckers. The buns are soft. The condiment selection sticks chiefly to the basics: mustard, ketchup, relish and onions. But what really makes a Brighton Hot Dog Shoppe hot dog is the chili sauce.
Not especially meaty, nor especially spicy (qualities usually associated with superior chili), the sauce transcends. One suspects that engineers working in a secret basement laboratory spent decades exploring the composition of Brighton's franks in an effort to engineer the most complementary chili for the wiener. If this is so, they have met with great success.
The dog and chili harmonize like Simon and Garfunkel, but without all that extraneous parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.
The small chain inspires a loyalty more typically associated with a man and his dog than a man and his hot dog. An Atlanta man who grew up in Beaver County wrote on 4burgers.com that while driving to a Falcons game with a high school friend, they reminisced about Brighton's chili dogs. Instead of driving to the Dome, the friends found themselves at the airport. They hopped on a flight to Pittsburgh, and a couple of hours later, hopped up on stools at the Shoppe in Beaver.
The regional chain also features excellent, though not particularly huge, hamburgers, extraordinary hand-cut fries and a breakfast that will fatten your midsection without thinning out your wallet. (All dishes are under $5.)
Fancy foods and exotic ingredients are grand, but sometimes keeping it Brighton Hot Dog Shoppe simple can be its own reward. See www.hotdogshoppe.com for a location near you.