Dress your Dogs and Stack the Buns for a Fun-Filled Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a holiday that elicits thoughts of beach BBQs, picnics, and fun-filled family gatherings.

Dress your Dogs and Stack the Buns for a Fun-Filled Memorial Day | Foodal.com

Let’s just take a moment to really give some thought to what Memorial Day is all about.

It’s a day to reflect, thank, and celebrate our (American) heroes of war and military service, the men and women who, through personal sacrifice, lost their lives to protect our country.

Memorial Day is the day that we honor all who have done this, and appreciate the freedom they have gifted all Americans.

And now, back to the fun of celebrating! Most people love good old hot dogs and burgers, yet some step it up by offering steaks, shrimp, and all of the uppity-do foods, too. It’s all wonderful, but it occurs to me that not everyone wants to spend a week’s paycheck on what should be a fun family or neighborhood celebration.

Unique Memorial Day Food and Recipe Tips | Foodal.com

Here are a few all-American ideas and tips that will elevate hot dogs and burgers to both entertaining and memorable proportions without breaking the bank.

How about a condiment bar? Everyone loves to make their own special combo.

Easy Sparkling Watermelon Cocktails, Foolproof Grilled Corn with Herbed Compound Butter, and fun Party Hat Popcorn Cones for all? A few decorative picks, the right tablecloth, and some all-American themed dinnerware and cups, and you’re good to go.

A quick lesson in party planning – If people ask if they can bring anything the answer is always, “Yes, I would love it if you brought a dessert.” This way dessert is covered, and if the guests arrive a bit late, you won’t have any worries.

Plan B: Wash up a big basket of fresh summer berries and put them in the refrigerator (this is okay, since you’re going to be eating them right away! Check out our post on getting the most out of fresh berries here, for more tips).

Vertical image of multiple glasses filled with a light pink drink with a garnish on a pick next to a white towel.

Sparkling Watermelon Cocktails – Get the Recipe Now

Of course, if you happen to know that Aunt Susie makes a mean potato salad and always comes early… well, you know what to do.

Make yummy drinks for the kids

Easy Peasy… Lemonade or Hansen’s Natural Soda garnished with a red licorice stick, or a very cool straw! Don’t forget to provide lots of chilled bottled water for all.

Party Hat Popcorn Cones


  • 2-3 cups popcorn (popped per person)
  • Store bought popcorn flavor shakers, according to your tastes


Children’s themed party hats are perfect for scooping and serving popcorn.

Party Hat Popcorn Cones | Foodal.com

Just scoop and hand out popcorn cones to your guests. Be sure to point out the flavoring shakers. Enjoy!

Tips for Grilled Hot Dogs and Burgers

Offer variety, but keep it simple. Try some regular dogs and maybe some turkey or natural dogs. Put some beef patties on the grill, but consider turkey or veggie burgers too. Adjust your menu according to your guest list, as you see fit.

Easy Grilled Dog Tips

  • If you are grilling for a crowd, you might want to use picks to mark different varieties.
  • Always start with a clean grill.
  • Heat the grill to medium-high heat before adding any food.
  • Turn your dogs as they start to get brown grill marks, until you’ve turned them all the way around. They will give a pleasant snap when you bite into them and nobody will make any remarks about blackened dogs. You know what we mean here.

Here’s another tip, especially if you want a Southern twist for your occasion: throw some shrimp on the barbie and go for a po’ boy-style hot dog! Follow the link to explore the recipe.

Burger Grilling Tips

  • Don’t stab, squish or nudge your burgers. You don’t need to. They are already dead.
  • When forming patties, pack lightly. This will help your burgers to stay juicy. Use your thumb and make a nice firm imprint right in the middle of the patty. This will keep your burger from ballooning in the middle and it will cook more evenly.
  • Grill with an open lid to avoid drying out your meat.
  • Flip one time and one time only.

Display a hot dog and hamburger condiment bar for your guests (Best tip: be creative!).

On that note, if you’re looking for some whacky new hot dog inspiration, check out our post that covers some of the best and most unique hot dog ideas out there – give them a try!

Use small containers and bowls to hold the condiments, set them up on bricks at various elevations, and remember to add color, maybe even balloons to make it fun! Don’t forget the ketchup, mustard, mayo (set in ice water), relish, onions, and pickle slices. Sounds a lot like what they offer at the ballpark, right? But as we all know, these are the basics.

Gourmet Burger Condiments | Foodal.com

Now let’s talk about adding Sriracha sauce, spicy brown mustard, shredded lettuce, baby spinach, sliced cucumbers, chili (red or black bean – yum!), cheese (grated cheddar or Swiss, crumbled feta) chopped tomatoes, chopped green onions, avocado, sour cream, and don’t forget freshly crisped bacon crumbles. Oh, yes!

Foolproof Grilled Corn

Peel husks back from each ear of corn (as many as desired, usually one per guest), keeping them attached to the ear at the base. Discard silks. Replace the husks over each ear of corn and place in cold water for at least 10 minutes. Drain.

Grilled Corn on the Cob with Herbed Butter | Foodal.com

Lightly oil grill grates. Grill should be at medium-high to high heat. Arrange the ears on the grill. Cover and cook, turning occasionally until husks are lightly charred and corn is tender, about 15-20 minutes.

Remove ears from the grill. Pull back husks and butter each ear with herbed compound butter. Our homemade version includes garlic and assorted fresh herbs, fresh from the garden. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and/or smoked paprika if desired and serve.

Vertical image of a small white bowl filled with a creamy light yellow mixture speckled with finely chopped greens next to a white towel.
Photo credit: Nikki Cervone

Fresh and Simple Herbed Compound Butter: Get the Recipe Now

Feel free to use your favorite combination of herbs, anything that is fresh from the farmers markets, or pulled from your own backyard supply. We love a fun mix of basil, dill, thyme, parsley, and more.

Do you enjoy hosting a barbecue for family and friends to celebrate the holiday? Tell us about your own traditions in the comments.

About Marla Tetsuka

As a professional chef, author of multiple cookbooks, and graduate of the esteemed Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, Marla brings a professional touch to the community that we call Foodal.

30 thoughts on “Dress your Dogs and Stack the Buns for a Fun-Filled Memorial Day”

  1. That’s a great tip about putting a bowl of mayo in iced water. The thing I hate about bowls is people leaving bits of other things in the dipping bowl. It’s trying to train them to spoon what they want onto their plate.

    I use a lot of flatbreads or tortillas for parties as they are easier for people to eat and to add toppings to. Of course I like a batch of fried onions to go with everything and a bowl of grated cheese so people can add their own.

    • Keeping your hot food hot, and cold food cold is always a challenge. With mayo, if you put it in ice water, make sure to check that it has fresh ice. One tip may be to keep a glass or cup with plastic-ware beside the bowl to encourage single dipping.

    • It really is a good tip. I always put a container of ice beneath dishes that contain mayonnaise (or otherwise need to be chilled for freshness). Just don’t forget to replenish the ice from time to time. Ice packs work too in some cases.

      I just keep coming back to this article, because it is packed with so many good ideas. I think I’m going to use my air popper as a way of providing the main crunchy snack. I can make a huge bowl for a lot less than it would cost to offer chips.

  2. The watermelon cocktail looks so delicious, I want some right now. I will make this happen soon, haha.

    Really great ideas for a foolproof and fun BBQ. I especially appreciate the condiment bar and the tip to offer a variety of hot dogs/burgers, I love experimenting with toppings on my veggie burgers. And of course, nothing beats the perfect grilled corn on the cob. Especially with herbed butter, yum!

    • Thanks for sharing your “foodie” excitement for culinary fun with us all. I hope that you have had the chance to try some of the ideas here–especially the delicious cocktail.

  3. I save money in two ways every summer when I throw a BBQ: First, I like to have guests bring the sides. It’s usually various salads & such but I love to see their offerings because my rule inside that rule is you MUST make it yourself. It helps me focus on the quality of the meats & the dressing of those meats. I also don’t mind kosher dogs for the kids. They love to dress the hot dog themselves & I love that it’s a cheap yet healthy option. Oh, yes, one more thing: NO KETCHUP ON HOT DOGS. No.

    • Terrific idea. Having your guests bring sides can be so much fun. A bit of a taste sensation adventure, and who doesn’t enjoy that? Also, there’s a lot to be said about the fun of getting people involved in dressing their foods just the way they like them. Everybody leaves full and happy.

  4. A big yes to…sparkling watermelon cocktail…quite the thirst killer don’t you think?!… can i ‘mess’ around with other fruits perhaps for this cocktail?…or its strictly meant to be a watermelon cocktail?

    Those buns and dogs {the presentation looks amazing} and i’ll be seated right by the serving table… for more helpings than i can take…please, don’t mistake that act for greed 😀

    • I sure hope that you’ve had the chance to try this cocktail, as it is a crowd pleaser. And yes, I hope that you will try other fruits, depending on season. Try peaches, apricots, or even some blueberries that you blend and strain. Nectars can save you a lot of time and give you amazing results as well.

  5. One thing I would share about grilling is something my family has done for grilling ribs since as far back as I can remember – brushing lightly with mayonnaise.

    It sounds strange, but a light brushing down before loosely wrapping in tin foil and tossing them on the grill just changes the whole game. The ribs come out juicy and tender, and the extra fat from the mayonnaise helps seal in more flavor and preserves the integrity of your spices. I might be looking too far into my own method, but everyone I’ve ever served them too loves the recipe, even if they don’t use it themselves.

    • Who would have thought that good old mayo. had so many uses? It truly does and thank you for sharing your family secret with us.

  6. Well, Marla, I think we should just all come over to your house for Memorial Weekend, because this all looks so good.

    My husband would love those watermelon drinks. Sadly, I’m allergic, or I’d want one as well.

    The corn sounds amazing, and I”m loving all the extra tips and tricks to put nice, finishing touches on everything. Great job!

    • It’s so nice to hear from you! I surely hope that you have had a chance to experiment with grilling corn. Don’t forget that compound butter is easy to make, great to keep on hand, and can be used for a multitude of vegetable or meat dishes.

      • I had to come back to this to get the butter recipe. I can see myself using it for a variety of things. It sounds delicious. I’ll share this with someone else I know who loves this particular condiment.

        It’s fun to host a party and make all the food taste great of course, but also look so pretty. I like festive touches for everything, and when you can do it without blowing the budget, that’s even better.

  7. This weekend is our neighborhood barbecue at the beach, and I’m going to make the grilled corn. I’ve never grilled the cobs in the husks or used smoked paprika, but I’ll try that this year, and I have a feeling they’re going to be a big hit. I like the idea of having feta cheese and sriracha sauce, too, so I think I’ll bring them along, as well.

    • How great that you have neighborhood barbecues at the beach. Food and fun should always be shared. Grilling corn on the cob brings out so much texture and flavor. I encourage your creative ideas and adventurous spirit. Thanks!

  8. I wish I had seen this article before the long weekend, those watermelon drinks look amazing!! I will be making those at the next BBQ get together I have.

    • Not to worry, there are plenty of long weekends coming up. I’m happy to hear about your plans to try out a new recipe at your next BBQ.

  9. Great information here but what really has my attention is the watermelon sparking cocktail like many others are discussing. It’s amazing how something so simple to put together can turn heads like that.

    I have a huge BBQ coming up in June that I’m going to and everyone’s gonna love this idea once I carry a bottle of it there. Might even splash in a tip of red wine to go with the sparkling wine to make it even more interesting. I’m sure it will taste as fabulous as it looks here.

    • Sounds like a great plan to me! A huge BBQ sounds like so much fun. Adding a splash of red wine may make it a bit more like a Sangria, and there’ nothing wrong with that. Here’s hoping you all have a memorable event.

  10. I think that you should never turn down anyone who wants to bring something because it is so easy to run out. I recently found this picture with different ways to make hotdogs or brawts around the world. The was one with sriracha sause and cream cheese on a brawt. I first tried it with a hotdog and it was great. I really didn’t like it with the brawt though.

    • You are so correct. One of the measures of a gracious host/hostess is showing appreciation. It’s great to hear that you have the curiosity that it takes to try new recipe ideas. Testing your palette always helps widen your own understanding about new foods.

  11. This was a very fun article to read, and I have to tell you that I love the simple watermelon cocktail recipe. I’ll definitely be using that one this year (maybe I’ll take pictures too)! I love grilled corn, and that butter sounds great, but I think I’m going to try some Mexican grilled corn this year myself. I haven’t had it yet but have been wanting to try it for a while, and I think it would be a nice kick to regular corn and butter for holidays.

    I have to thank you for telling people to leave their burgers alone and just let them cook. Every year my boyfriend’s father makes the burgers and, every year, he pokes and prods them, making them fall apart and take longer to cook. It always starts an argument and blah, blah, blah. We usually always have a big spread though, with many different meats: hot dogs, burgers, veggie burgers, and chicken.

  12. The food on this page looks amazing. I just ate and it is making me hungry all over again. I am looking forward to summer festivities down by the lake, or poolside and am hoping to be able to make delicious picnic lunches that will make my husband’s eyes bug out. My problem with creations such as in the article above, is that I don’t have the patience to tinker around with stuff for hours before the party begins. I think the idea of allowing others to bring a dessert or whatever, is awesome as it helps get the job done even faster.

  13. Thank you for including the grilled corn. I love the flavor, but I have had a hard time with getting them to cook in 10-15 minutes. I’m going to try to grill them according to these instructions the next time that I grill corn. I have tried a few other ways, but this is the first time that I have read instructions that have called for using the husks. It seems that you have provided an easy method here. I can’t wait to grill some corn using this recipe.

  14. I love the part that says the answer is YES to people bringing something. I’ve never been good about that, but I’ve started doing it. It’s just getting to be too much to try to do it all on my own.

    Another cute idea is to hollow out a red, green, and yellow, bell pepper. Slice the top off to make a “lid.” Put ketchup in the red, mustard in the yellow, and relish in the green. The kids even like eating the peppers later.

  15. I have always wanted one of those old fashioned popcorn machines. Way back when I was growing up I had a job with an entertainment like company that had a bunch of fair type events and they always had one of these and they were so popular with the kids, so that would be perfect for a little holiday gathering with kids. I like the cones too…give them a good craft activity and then reap the rewards afterwards. Thanks for sharing.

  16. While I am a bit late for Memorial Day I stumbled upon this blog while searching for compound butter. I personally love compound butters that are full of garlic and herbs and feel that it adds so much flavor and texture to any dish it is added to especially grilled corn. I feel that it fancies up a dish in a very simple and surprising way. I liked the addition of paprika in your recipe as I never would of thought about that. A hint of color and flavor.

  17. This menu looks pretty interesting, Grilled corn and burgers is what Americans are known for, I think it’s suitable to prepare them for Memorial Day, haha! Those watermelon cocktails look interesting as well, they would be kind of like jello shots.


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