THE TOASTED BUN is slathered with cream cheese, and the hot dog is split in half and covered with sauteed onions.

“That’s the Seattle Dog,” says Betty Aklilu, the friendly food vendor at Deez Dogz on Fifth and Pike.

At a time when life downtown is eerily quiet due to the pandemic, Aklilu’s stand reminds us what makes Seattle unique, and represents a sense of normalcy.

Tuesday through Saturday, you’ll find Aklilu working the flat-top grill under a bright red and yellow umbrella and chatting up regular customers by name. Sometimes, she’ll even set up on a chilly Monday like today. “It’s a pop-up day,” as she announced on her Instagram account. “I like to surprise my customers by being out here.”

While trucks dominate Seattle’s street-food scene, Aklilu prefers the good old-fashioned hot dog cart because she can make a stronger connection with customers. “I’m on the ground with you. I’m standing here with you,” she says.

I admit I have never had a Seattle Dog, but Aklilu, a born-and-raised Seattleite, doesn’t give me a hard time.

“Who puts cream cheese on a hot dog, right? I was confused just as much as the next person,” she says. “But as soon as you taste it, it’s amazing.”