The hot dog is one of those foods that’s nearly impossible to mess up. You heat it through, plop it on a bun, squirt on some mustard, and call it lunch. But there’s a big difference between not screwing something up and turning it into a paradigm-shifting, transcendental dining experience. There are lots of hot dog stands and restaurants out there that are turning the humble hot dog into a work of art, and we’re honoring the very best hot dog joint in each of the 50 states as well as Washington, D.C.
Jeffrey C. via Yelp
Gus’s is home to the Greek Dog — in fact, it’s "the lone surviving old-school Greek hot dog place in downtown Birmingham," according to Serious Eats. To make their Greek Dog, char-grilled Zeigler pink franks are topped with seasoned ground beef, sauerkraut, a few chopped onions, and a special sauce that was formulated by Gus Alexander himself when he opened the stand around 1940 — a cross between barbecue sauce and New York-style stewed onions. The atmosphere has an unassuming air; it's small and quaint, with a TV in the corner, making it clear that, in here, it’s all about the dogs.
Served from a trailer on the corner of Northern Lights Boulevard and Eagle Street, the offerings at International House of Hotdogs are about as outside-the-box as hot dogs can get. The sausages themselves (available in a handful of varieties, including reindeer Polish and buffalo bratwurst) are snappy and nicely charred, and the toppings pay homage to far-flung locales; some of the more popular styles include the Monte Cristo Dog (Swiss cheese, strawberry jam, sautéed and fresh diced onions), Texan (homemade chili, shredded cheese, and onions); and the ingeniously bizarre Frankenstein (bacon-wrapped, cream cheese, sautéed onions, ham, bacon, diced pineapple, and mustard).
Mark R. via Yelp
This hot dog is completely unlike any other in the country: the Sonoran Dog, a shining example of international cooperation. John T. Edge first brought this hot dog into the spotlight in 2009, and even though it’s been around for more than 40 years, the Sonoran is having quite a moment in the sun. Here’s how it works: A hot dog is wrapped in bacon (good place to start), griddled until crispy, stuffed into a split-top bun that you won’t find outside of the region, and topped with any of a slew of condiments that usually involve beans, diced tomatoes, mustard, ketchup, and mayonnaise. There are stands all over Tucson selling Sonorans, but the most shining example is sold in the humble, ragtag El Güero Canelo, which got its start as a tiny cart run by Daniel and Blanca Contreras in 1993 and now has a semi-outdoor seating area, a massive array of toppings, and an ever-present jovial vibe.
You’ll find this truck roaming Central Arkansas from its home base in Little Rock, serving all-beef hot dogs on fresh-baked buns, topped with a variety of fresh-made sauces and toppings, many of which include local ingredients. Specialty dogs include the Italian Stallion (meaty marinara sauce, provolone, pepperoni chips, Parmesan, and basil); Hot Cheese Injection (six-pepper relish, hot pepper cheese sauce, and homemade hot sauce); and the El Ranchero (homemade chili, sharp Cheddar, and Fritos).
Dave L. via Yelp
Is there anything to say about Pink’s that hasn’t been said? Hard to imagine. Even detractors define themselves by it. But you won’t find many of those — just check out the line at this family-owned hot dog stand that has been around since 1939. At our last count, owner Richard Pink said he offers 35 varieties of hot dogs and toppings and sells on average about 2,000 hot dogs a day. Credit much of Pink’s success to its chili — it once led then New York Times restaurant critic Ruth Reichl to go dumpster diving to figure out the recipe (true story). And while he wouldn’t divulge its ingredients, in an interview with The Daily Meal, Pink did note "that it needs to be relatively smooth, but still have enough texture to make it stand up to hot dogs and hamburgers." For all the bacon-, sour cream-, guacamole-, pastrami-, and nacho cheese-topped hot dogs, the Three Dog Night is the right move. This "dog" (shouldn’t it really be called a meal?) features three hot dogs wrapped in a giant tortilla with three slices of cheese, three slices of bacon, chili, and onions. It’s a best-seller that was born the Laker Three-Peat Dog, was then renamed after Matrix Reloaded, and after the movie had its run, finally settled into a permanent homage to the '70s rock band.
Once upon a time, Jim Pittenger repossessed cars. Now? He splits hot dogs right down the center, chars them on a gas grill, and tops them with Coca-Cola-soaked grilled onions and a "swizzle of cream cheese unloaded from the front end of a caulking gun." Some of the dogs on the menu at Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs include rattlesnake and pheasant, linguiça, duck cilantro, Southwest buffalo, pheasant, and Louisiana red hots, but the elk, wild boar, and reindeer have specifically been attested to by none other than everyone’s favorite gastrogrouch, Anthony Bourdain.
What started as a humble hot dog truck is now a full-blown Fairfield institution, with good reason: These are some insanely delicious hot dogs. “Super Doop” owner Gary Zemola makes all the chili and condiments from scratch, and they go atop a hot dog that’s split before it hits the griddle, allowing maximum flat-top exposure. Dogs are modeled after Zemola’s interpretations of regional styles, including the Chicagoan, the Californian, the Cincinnatian, and the New Yorker, but the true standout is the New Englander, an ode to the classic regional dog topped with sauerkraut, bacon, mustard, sweet relish, and raw onion. It’s indeed super duper.
“It’s the sauce” that keeps customers coming back to Deerhead Hot Dogs, which has been serving Delaware since 1935. Today there are locations in Wilmington and Newark (a third location in Bear shut down last year) and the sauce in question is a rich, thick meat sauce with a top-secret recipe that tops their “Everything” dog along with onions and mustard. It doesn’t stop there, though: Don’t miss the DiNardo (with Old Bay, ketchup, and fries), the pulled pork dog (with fried onions, barbecue sauce, and provolone), or the breakfast dog (with a fried egg and American cheese).
Authentic Chicago-style hot dogs in Orlando? Since 1987, that’s exactly what they’ve been turning out at Hot Dog Heaven: natural-casing Vienna beef hot dogs in a steamed poppy seed bun, topped with mustard, relish, onion, tomato, pickle, and sport peppers. It’s every bit as good as what you’ll find in Chicago, and you can even complement it with another classic Chicago food: a pizza puff from Chicago-based Iltaco Foods.
The Varsity is not included on this list because it claims to be the world’s largest drive-in, or because it’s one of the few restaurants in America that still employs carhops. Neither is it The Varsity’s staying power (founder Frank Gordy launched it with a $2,000 nest egg and "million dollar taste buds" in 1928) and its expansion to six locations in the greater Atlanta and Athens areas (with two in the airport). It’s because it sells some truly stellar hot dogs, delivered daily along with the ground beef used to make their legendary chili (which you can also buy by the can). Learn the lingob before ordering, but if in doubt, opt for the “Heavy Dog,” topped with chili and a thin stripe of mustard.
Randy F. via Yelp
Puka Dog, a Hawaii institution with locations throughout the state, sells hot dogs unlike any others you’ll encounter. Tucked into a toasted whole loaf of bread, a puka dog is a grilled Polish sausage that’s accompanied by a wide selection of tropical toppings that includes pineapple sauce, guava mustard, starfruit relish, and garlic lemon sauce. Don’t be shy; you’ll be amazed at how well some of these unexpected toppings pair with the dog.
Courtesy of Franko’s Dog House
Opened last year as a retirement project for the husband and wife duo of Bruce and Kathy Pagano, Franko’s has quickly become a must-visit for locals. Pagano steams all-beef dogs (and occasionally specialty wild game sausages from a nearby butcher) and serves them up Chicago style; with pesto, mozzarella, pepperoncini, and tomato; with chili, cheese, and onion; and in more than a dozen other varieties. Make sure you try the huckleberry milkshake.
Topped by what has to be some of America’s best signage — a flexing hot dog showing off his muscles to a winking wiener girl — Superdawg has been an institution on Milwaukee Avenue across from Caldwell Woods since Maurie Berman opened it in 1948. The recently returned G.I. designed the building, devised his own secret recipe, and set up a drive-in at what was then the end of the streetcar line. He planned to sell 32-cent Superdawg sandwiches to "swimming families and cruisin’ teens" for a few months during the summer to help put him through school at Northwestern. In 1950, Maurie passed the CPA exam, but he and wife Flaurie decided to keep operating Superdawg and to open year-round. The family-owned, working drive-in still serves superior pure beef dogs, "the loveliest, juiciest creation of pure beef hot dog (no pork, no veal, no cereal, no filler) formally dressed with all the trimmings: golden mustard, tangy piccalilli, kosher dill pickle, chopped Spanish onions, and a memorable hot pepper." Sadly, Maurie passed away in May 2015 at age 89 and Flaurie passed earlier this year, but the family-run operation is still going strong: Maurie’s 8-year-old great-granddaughter recently worked her first shift there.
Fort Wayne’s oldest operating restaurant has been going strong since 1914, has been run by the same family since 1916, hasn’t changed much since its early days, and serves more than a million hot dogs per year. It opens at 8 a.m. for shift workers on their way home, and regulars know to use the lingo: “Three and a bottle” means three dogs with everything and a Coke; “Three without” means three dogs with chili sauce, no onions. Order a few classic coneys (steamed bun, grilled hot dog, mustard, homemade chili, and hand-chopped onions), a side of house baked beans, and a slice of pie, and be a part of history.
Bob’s Drive Inn serves locally made Wimmer’s natural-casing brand hot dogs, best enjoyed when topped with the restaurant's signature "loosemeat." This chunky beef sauce is ladled on top along with pickles and cheese and piled into a fresh-baked bun from the local Casey’s Bakery. Each end of the frank — the offerings here are called Bob Dogs — comically resembles a human thumb. Bob’s Drive Inn, which has been around since 1949 as a family-owned and -operated business, is a must-stop for any hot dog lover who finds him- or herself in this part of Iowa.
Fritz’s is Kansas City’s oldest smokehouse (it opened in 1927), and is renowned for its smoked meats, especially its sausages. They supply many of the city’s best restaurants, but the best place to sample the merchandise is by visiting the shop for lunch. Several different hot dogs and sausages are available (including a fried bacon-wrapped dog with lettuce, tomato, and mayo), but make sure you save room for some barbecue beef or ribs.
Former Silicon Valley bigwig Rick and his son David decided to go into the hot dog cart business last year, and the duo have already become pretty legendary in the Lexington dining scene. Drop by their cart and you can expect to engage in some friendly banter (You can spot the 7-foot-1-inch David from a mile away), but the hot dogs themselves are the main draw: They’re sourced from Chicago’s Vienna Beef, and the Kentucky Dog – topped with bourbon-bacon coleslaw – is a must-order.
Gerald H. via Yelp
This hot dog joint with three New Orleans locations (and another inside Metairie’s Lakeside Mall) is quickly becoming a Crescent City institution, thanks to owner Constantine Georges' commitment to serving the highest-quality hot dogs and sausages possible — with a killer sense of humor. Menu standouts include a brilliant pairing of duck sausage with blackberry preserves as well as crawfish sausage, alligator sausage, and bratwurst, but make sure you save room to try their hot sausage, custom-ground by a local butcher and tucked into a bun that’s steamed then toasted, to make it both soft and crispy. The sky’s the limit when it comes to toppings, but you can’t go wrong with their addictive beef stock-based andouille sauce.
This is a vivid, dark red pork dog, on the small side, steamed, and served on a warmed bun (grilled dogs are available on request). Cheese, sauerkraut, and chili are available here, but the traditional condiments are relish, onion, and ketchup. One unusual touch: A shaker of celery salt is offered along with the salt and pepper. Simone's has been selling dogs and other simple fare since 1908, and judging from the photos on the wall, every politician in or from New England has been here at one point or another.
In business since 1918, Curtis’ is an old-school lunch counter with a handful of swinging stools, some old wooden booths, and plenty of old-time charm. It’s owned by Gino Giatras, whose grandfather George started the business, and he’s whipping up the coney sauce according to the old recipe and serving it atop griddled hot dogs with chopped onions and mustard, classic coney-style. Not only are these hot dogs edible history, they’re also delicious.
This modern, low-key burger joint has locations in Beacon Hill and on Boston Common, and the owners are committed to sourcing all their ingredients as locally as possible. This means that their hot dogs come from Lynn, Massachusetts’ Old Neighborhood Foods, and man are they good. Quarter-pound all-beef franks come with a slew of option toppings; free ones include pickles, relish, onion, tomato, sauerkraut, onion sauce, and chipotle aïoli. For 50 cents you can get cheese, sautéed mushrooms, kimchi, truffle aïoli, or tomato-jalapeño marmalade, and a buck will get you guacamole, chili, a fried egg, bacon, Cajun ham, or sausage. Wash it down with an ice cream float and you’ll be in hot dog heaven.
Michael S. via Yelp
One of the culinary world’s greatest rivalries is between two neighboring downtown Detroit hot dog stands: Lafayette Coney Island and American Coney Island. While the battle over which hot dog tastes better is on par with the fight between Pat’s and Geno’s cheesesteaks in Philadelphia, most locals will tell you that it’s Lafayette all the way, for several reasons. The hot dog has a juicy, salty, smoky snap, the coney sauce is spot-on, and the fries are crispy, but it’s the experience that puts it over the top in our book: While American is shiny and a little charmless, Lafayette is a divey, weathered, eccentric sort of place that hasn’t been renovated in many years, but the charm is palpable, especially in the staff, who’ll most likely bring you your order in less than 30 seconds. In short: the perfect hot dog stand.
Nathan Beck has become something of a local celebrity since launching his hot dog cart back in 2011, and can often be spotted slinging dogs while wearing all orange and singing. It’s not just the schtick that keeps fans coming back, however; hot dogs and bratwurst are all-natural and locally sourced, and he offers plenty of house-made toppings, including a honey spice mustard that he also sells by the bottle.
Phil Swan was a general manager with several major airlines before deciding to start a new life running a hot dog cart in 2007; today, he has several carts, and his son David is lending a hand as well. The Swan Dog (a 100 percent beef dog) is the one that started it all, but Swan’s signature offering is a custom-made Cajun sausage topped with sautéed onions and peppers.
This hip Missouri dog destination has 25 different hot dog varieties on its menu, each wilder than the last. There’s the Peanut Butter Jelly Bacon Dog, which is topped with a strip of beef bacon as well as a healthy dose of peanut butter, jelly, and caramelized onions; the Sweet and Spicy Dog, with spicy raspberry sauce, Cheddar, seared jalapeños, and sweet barbecue sauce; The Dude, bacon wrapped and topped with brown gravy, onion straws, and green onions; and the classic Chili Dog, with is kicked up with house-made chili, cheese, diced onions, sour cream, and Fritos.
A quaint takeout spot in the mountain village of Big Sky Resort, Yeti Dogs is a beloved place to refuel after a day on the slopes. The dogs are all-beef, the buns are steamed, and popular varieties include The Lifty (spicy mayo, bacon, and Cheddar); the Texito (Cheddar, chili, onions, and Fritos); and the Yeti Dog (mustard, zesty mayo, relish, sauerkraut, and onions). Make sure you wash it down with a pint of local microbrew for $3.25.
This family-owned Lincoln hot dog shop serves a wide variety of hot dogs — pork, all-beef, hot link, Cheddar hot link, beef hot link, jumbo, veggie, turkey, footlong, and all-natural grass-fed Piedmontese beef — and more than 20 toppings are available. You’re going to want to try their signature FlyDog, though: a jumbo hot dog topped with cream cheese, jalapeños, nacho cheese, tomato, lettuce, and onion, served on a burger bun.
The Steamie Weenie/Yelp
Located inside Henderson’s Pebble Marketplace, The Steamie Weenie is a local legend, serving nearly 20 hot dog varieties or letting you customize your own with a choice of seven sausages and 40 toppings. Styles range from classic (Vienna Beef dog, Chicago-style; German brat with sauerkraut and mustard); to absolutely bonkers (bacon-wrapped Nathan’s frank with peanut butter and jalapeño jelly; Vienna Beef frank with macaroni and cheese, chili, and shredded Cheddar; and a frank with house-made beer cheese, slaw, fried Spam, watermelon barbecue sauce, and crunchy fried onions. Their corn dog also uses the same batter recipe as the Iowa State Fair.
Also home to one of America’s best burgers, Gilley’s is an adorable little restaurant that’s been in business since 1940; it started life as a lunch cart that was towed by horse into Market Square every day and has been in its present (permanent) home since 1974. The menu is simple — burgers, hot dogs, fries, and sandwiches — but you can’t leave this oak and porcelain antique without trying the steamed hot dog. But learn the lingo first: “The works” means mustard, relish, and onions; “loaded” adds ketchup; and “everything” adds mayo and a pickle.
Even if Rutt’s Hut, located in blue-collar Clifton, served their trademark Ripper — a pork-and-beef Thumann’s link that’s deep-fried in beef fat until it rips apart — out of the back of a minivan, it would still be the country’s most delicious hot dog. The fact that this roadside shack has not only a counter to end all counters amid its stand-up dining room, but also an adjoining tap room where you can drink cheap beer and chat with old-timers and fellow pilgrims, propels Rutt’s Hut to legendary status. Whether you order an "In-And-Outer" (just a quick dunk in the oil), a Ripper, a well-done "Weller," or the crunchy, porky, almost-overcooked "Cremator," make sure you get it "all the way": topped with mustard and a spicy, sweet, onion- and cabbage-based relish.
The massive menu at this popular restaurant offers a hot dog for all tastes: sausage options include an all-beef dog, a turkey frank, grilled tofu, a Guinness-soaked bratwurst, spicy Italian sausage, Polish sausage, bacon- or potato-wrapped dog, and an organic dog from Niman Ranch; and toppings range from green chile to avocado salsa to goat cheese to chile con queso. Must-trys include the Havana (pork sausage split, grilled, and filled with Swiss cheese and ham, topped with raspberry jam and mustard); the Caprese (split bratwurst topped with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, balsamic reduction, olive oil, and fresh pepper); and Rising Sun (wasabi mayo, teriyaki sauce, shredded daikon and carrot, pickled ginger, and seaweed).
Katz’s Deli, on New York’s Lower East Side, is a New York institution. Their corned beef and pastrami, made on site and sliced to order, are legendary, and the simple act of taking your ticket, standing in line, bantering with the counterman while placing your order, and finding a table has become as New York an exercise as, well, eating a hot dog with a smear of mustard and a little sauerkraut. And it just so happens that the hot dogs here are very good. Made especially for the restaurant by Sabrett, these garlicky, natural-casing, jumbo-size, all-beef dogs spend such a long time on the flat-top grill that the outside gets a nice char and snaps when you bite into it. A smear of mustard is all that’s needed, but a little sauerkraut or stewed onions certainly won’t hurt. It’s a perfect hot dog, from a perfect deli.
Well, it's called a barbecue place, but what most people seem to rave about here isn't the 'que, it's the dogs — and any place that's able to advertise "Hot Dogs Since 1910" has got to be doing something right. These wieners are a fearsome dark red in color, nicely spiced, and bursting with juices. The buns are buttered and toasted, which adds a nice level of texture and flavor. Add chili and slaw (and mustard and onions, if you want it "all the way") and you've got what Reader's Digest once called "the best hot dogs in the South." To make them really good, throw on a dose of Big Ed's Extremely Hot BBQ Sauce.
This popular Grand Forks hot dog shop serves some very respectable Chicago-style dogs, but they’re doing a lot more to their quarter-pound beef franks than “dragging them through the garden”: the Green Party Dog is topped with guacamole, green chili, and salsa verde; the Hot Dang contains green chili, onion, cheese, and Brenarsky’s Sauce (a South Dakota specialty); and the 5th Bro is topped with mango, cream cheese, and pineapple sriracha. The Italian beef is nothing to sneeze at, either.
This dive-y hot dog joint in downtown Columbus is a late-night hotspot and the perfect fourth meal after a night out at the local bars. Even herbivores can stuff wieners in their faces here; they have both vegetarian and vegan options in addition to their Vienna beef frankfurters. They go all out with their dogs, with over 50 topping options, including onion rings, crushed potato chips, and a mango chutney. Their most popular offerings include the Cowgirl Carmen (Coney sauce, Cheddar, and crushed Fritos); Puff the Magic Popper (cream cheese, jalapeños, and bacon bits); and the Amy’s Big Boston (Boston baked beans, onions, and Cheddar). Don’t forget to order a side of tater tots; Dirty Frank’s tots are perfectly crispy on the outside and pillowy on the inside.
This beloved Tulsa mini-chain got its start back in 1926, when Greek immigrant Christ Economou opened a small stand on West Fourth Street between South Boulder and South Cheyenne Avenues. It quickly outgrew its space and moved up to Main Street, and now there are locations all throughout the city. The small hot dogs are cooked on a griddle over low heat, and regulars take them Coney-style: smear a little mustard on a steamed bun, add the dog, and top it with a spicy, cinnamon-heavy all-beef chili sauce, some shredded American cheese, chopped onions, and a dash of paprika.
Sebastian B. via Yelp
This family-run German deli has been a Portland staple for more than 80 years, and their hot dogs and other sausages are still made by hand the old-fashioned way: They’re smoked in-house, and ridiculously delicious. While it’s primarily a meat market inside, their outdoor grill serves many different varieties of sausages with all the fixings. Their “world famous old fashioned wieners” are definitely what you want to order, and keep it simple — a little mustard should be all you need. Let the link speak for itself.
Calling itself "downtown's oldest restaurant," Coney Island Lunch was founded (at a nearby location) in 1923. The name of the place might suggest a Coney Island-style dog, but the specialty here is the Texas wiener. That's a variety of dog supposedly invented by a Greek diner owner in Altoona, Pennsylvania, in 1918, and considered an authentic regional hot dog style in the Altoona-Scranton-Philadelphia triangle today. What makes it "Texas"? A slathering of chili. At Coney Island Lunch, the meat is a half-sliced Berks all-beef wiener from Reading, south of Scranton, grilled and served on a steamed non-traditional bun made by Scranton's own National Bakery. Düsseldorf mustard and onions diced on a 1928 Hobart chopper complete the package.
OlneyvilleNewYorkSystem B. via Yelp
Olneyville N.Y. System, with two locations in Providence, Rhode Island, claims to serve "Rhode Island’s Best Hot Wieners," and while that will always remain a point of contention, they’re certainly the most legendary. The New York System dog is a regional specialty: Small franks (in this case, from Little Rhody) are steamed, placed atop a steamed bun, and topped with a cumin-heavy meat sauce, yellow mustard, diced onions, and celery salt. You’re going to want to order a few of these, because they’re little and addictive (see how many of them the counterman can balance on his arm). The "wiener sauce" is so popular that people have been requesting the recipe for years; you can purchase a packet of seasoning online and make it yourself at home.
Founded in 1978 by Bud Sanderson, this Columbia institution serves custom-made Black Angus hot dogs in two sizes and makes all of their chili, coleslaw, and pimento cheese in-house, from scratch. Put it all together and wash it down with some Cheerwine and you’ve got a recipe for a seriously good hot dog.
Serving residents of Sioux Falls since 2014, Boxcar is a hot dog truck that’s run by three Chicago-born brothers, and they’re bringing honest-to-goodness Chicago-style hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches to South Dakota. Served with the traditional mustard, relish, onions, tomato, pickle, and sport peppers on a poppy seed bun, the Chicago dog is a must-try, and they’re also char-grilling Italian sausages and topping them with sweet or hot peppers.
Kenneth D. via Yelp
This Nashville gem is the definition of funky: It’s a decked-out VW bus with a front porch and a walk-up window, and it’s unlike anything else that’s out there, to say the least. But it’s not just a sight gag: The hot dogs here are spectacular, and insanely unique. All-beef, charcoal-grilled, and served on half of a soft Italian roll, you never know what kinds of crazy toppings will be on offer. Caramelized Vidalia onion marmalade with goat cheese? Sure. Fresh grilled corn salsa? Sounds delicious. Ginger hoisin sauce, Asian slaw, and crunchy chow mein noodles? Nothing wrong with that! How about mashed potatoes and gravy on an English banger, red beans and rice on andouille, or chorizo topped with tomatillo slaw, avocado, and sour cream? The possibilities at I Dream of Weenie really are endless.
Lindsy H. via Yelp
This sausage-centric restaurant is an Austin gem, serving sausages made in-house or by a local sausage-maker with brilliantly creative toppings. While they also serve regional dogs, like Chicago dogs and Sonoran dogs that are faithful to their forebears, it’s the custom creations where they really shine. Take the “Carolina Pork It,” for example: a 100 percent Vienna beef hot dog, stuffed with cheese and wrapped in bacon, deep-fried and topped with grilled horseradish coleslaw and house-made pimento cheese. It’s cheesy, smoky, crunchy perfection, and you can have it wrapped up in a corn pancake instead of a bun if you prefer.
The hot dogs served at this casual, off-the-beaten-path hot dog joint are all custom-made by a local purveyor, and only include grass-fed, hormone- and antibiotic-free meat. They’re tucked into soft house-made split-top buns and topped with everything from chili, cheese, and mustard to pastrami, Swiss, sauerkraut, pickles, and special sauce.
Al’s is a South Burlington Institution, founded in the 1940s as an open-air stand by Al and Genevieve Rusterholtz and expanded over the years into the retro joint it is today. The burgers and hand-cut fries (or “frys”) are legendary, and the hot dogs are griddled until lightly charred and served in a top-notch bun with all the usual toppings available. And thankfully, they’re small (and cheap) enough that you can (and should) sample the burgers, dogs, and frys in one visit.
If you thought that a hot dog served at a racetrack had no shot at making this list, think again. Eating a chili dog at the Martinsville Speedway is a rite of passage for racecar drivers and fans alike, and this iconic hot dog also happens to be really tasty. Over one weekend, more than 50,000 of the hot dogs are sold, and at just two bucks a pop, they’re a steal. These dogs have been served for more than 60 years in the same way: a soft bun, slaw, cheese, hand-chopped onions, and a secret-recipe chili, wrapped in waxed paper. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has claimed to eat three or four a day on race weekends. When the speedway switched hot dog suppliers (for the first time in nearly 70 years) from Jesse Jones to Smithfield-owned Valleydale Foods a couple years ago, there was a major uproar, but even die-hards say they can’t tell the difference.
Shorty’s really has it all: a bar, a full pinball arcade, a bizarre circus atmosphere, and insanely delicious hot dogs. They start simply enough, with wieners from Vienna Beef — special sausages include a German-style sausage and a delicious veggie dog. Offerings include Chicago-style, with chili and cheese, and even a dog with tomatoes, cream cheese, and peppers. But you’d be hard-pressed to find something to wash down with your beer that’s better than their classic Shorty Dog, simply topped with onions, relish, and sauerkraut. One of these, a couple beers, and some pinball? That’s what we call a good time.
Howard L. via Yelp
It might irk some Washingtonians to hear, but as bagels and pizza are to New York, so the half-smoke is to the capital — it stands as one of the District’s most iconic foods along with the jumbo slice. The celebrity (and presidential) photos on the wall are clear indications of Ben's Chili Bowl's city landmark status, but the continuous lines out the door are evidence that the restaurant's chili cheese dogs are some of the best in the country. But those in the know don’t just order "dogs," they get the half-smokes, a half-pork, half-beef smoked sausage, which is a native D.C. specialty supposedly invented by Ben Ali, the original proprietor, whose sons took over the restaurant after his death. As the U Street Corridor/Shaw neighborhood around it has gentrified, Ben’s remains a more-than-50-year-old bastion of down-home D.C. where college kids, old-timers, and celebrities are all welcome, as long as they're willing to stand in line like everybody else — though the president eats for free.
Melissa B. via Yelp
If you’re looking for a true West Virginia-style hot dog, look no further than Skeenies, which serves what very well might be a perfect variation. A steamed bun encasing a skinny frank, topped with chili, snow-white creamy slaw, and yellow mustard is the classic West Virginia style, but order yours with “everything” at Skeenies and you’ll also get chopped onions and ketchup. Ask any West Virginia expats what they’re homesick for, and Skeenies will inevitably come up.
This popular Milwaukee sausage shop has several regional-styled dogs on their menu (the Buffalo, for example, is topped with Red Hot gravy, blue cheese, and celery salt), and they’ve really gone overboard in inventing the “Milwaukee-style” dog: It’s a hot dog (or one of the several other types of sausage available) topped with not one, not two, but three different cheeses: shredded Cheddar, Cheez Whiz, and deep-fried cheese curds. Only in Wisconsin!
Seven different sausages are available (including bratwurst, jalapeño Cheddar brat, and two different vegan options), and they’re served on a warm, freshly-baked roll and topped with your choice of onions, kraut, spicy kraut, hot giardiniera, relish, or short peppers. But if you want to go upscale, you can also choose from 15 different “styled sausages,” including the popular Bunkhouse: a bacon-wrapped cheddarwurst topped with fried jalapeños, Cheddar, barbecue sauce, and guacamole.
A little cart in a Cheyenne Home Depot parking lot, serving one of the best hot dogs in the West? Yeah, you heard that right. That’s because it’s run by a former fine-dining chef who’s committed not only to serving top-notch hot dogs and sausages with some seriously creative toppings, but also to serving some of the best wild game sausages around: think elk jalapeño Cheddar brats, bison brats, and “jackalope” sausage. The specials change daily, but don’t miss the opportunity to have your dog topped with pulled pork, bacon, and barbecue sauce. The sloppy joes are also seriously on-point. All-in, these are some of the best hot dogs in America.
More From The Daily Meal: