Hot Dog Taste Test overflows with colorful oddities ... Her sense of humor resembles that of another wacky, wise New York cartoonist, Roz Chast. But Hanawalt is further off-kilter than Chast, and more disruptive. It's impossible to imagine Chast casting a series of real clay plant pots shaped like masturbating animals, for instance ... Hanawalt's perverse effervescence has its limits, though. About two-thirds of the way through the book, things slow down a lot. Her diaries of a visit to an animal preserve and a trip to Argentina are pretty standard travel stories. But her frisky watercolor brush and lavish hand with color make these sections almost as memorable, and certainly as diverting, as the mind-bending games of earlier pages.
[Hot Dog Taste Test is] a collection of disparate styles: lists, traditional comics, essays with spot illustrations, and beautiful weird landscapes featuring mysterious bird-headed people. Aside from Kate Beaton and Michael Kupperman, Hanawalt is one of the few cartoonists who can reliably make me laugh out loud ... Some of the best pieces in Hot Dog are outright journalism, particularly essays where Hanawalt spends the afternoon with deconstructionalist chef Wylie Dufresne and samples the different high-end all-you-can-eat buffets in Las Vegas. Other meditations on public bathrooms seem strangely apt in a book that is primarily interested in food ... urgent, compelling, energetic.
[Hanawalt] is appreciative of weird foods without coming off like a dilettante, and she expresses a love of junk without seeming like a glutton. She can even be directly autobiographical without being annoying ... her comics on food are no different from her comics on anything: the product of a mind with a marvelously weird perspective ... Some drawings are almost a series of comics symbols: small, simple, heavily outlined in black and colored in flat blocks. Others are lyrical, bright, wildly colored and emotive. It’s nice to see her exploring her range visually as well as just being amusing. The best comedy and maybe the best art, period, straddles the id and the superego—that’s the zone where Hanawalt exists in Hot Dog Taste Test.
[Hanawalt] records whimsical garnishes as if they were newly discovered flora. She’s unafraid to admit that she comes as an outsider and for it, she makes the highly coded, impossibly sophisticated arena of fine dining appear accessible ... Hanawalt has a unique ability to let conflicting ideas lie next to each other unresolved. She is both a horse-lover and a meat-lover — a contradiction the book visits. Hot Dog Taste Test itself is a takedown of foodie culture as well as a celebration of that same colourful universe. For Hanawalt, food represents a world of possibility. Of course she wants to have her cake and eat it too.
Hanawalt loads her page with visual and verbal jokes (many of which involve dicks or boobs). But Hanawalt expertly mixes things up?—?understanding that some punchlines need only elicit a smirk?—?in a way that makes sure the proceedings never feel overwhelming. The book can still feel all over the place, though, as Hanawalt zeroes in on something only to turn away as soon as something else catches her fancy ... The collection is at it’s best in the more sustained pieces...amalgam[s] of experiential journalism and autobiography that manage to avoid the more annoying traps of both.
...a fascinating exploration of Hanawalt’s various creative impulses and multidisciplinary artistic talent ... The shorter gags in Hot Dog Taste Test are the things most likely to appeal to BoJack Horseman fans, but it’s the longer pieces that show the depth of Hanawalt’s talent as a storyteller. She recounts her emotional reactions to events in evocative, hilarious detail, and her jovial irreverence makes it easy to get swept up in her writing, which doesn’t take itself or anything else too seriously.