Is there anything more American than a hot dog? Personally, I think not—but that may be my Chicago roots bias talking. Regardless, nothing beats a quality hot dog in the summertime.
Summer is quickly coming to an end, so there’s no better time to enjoy the most revered of encased meats. Here are 21 of the best and most outrageous dogs across the country.
1. Pink’s Hot Dogs (Los Angeles)
Pink’s, around since 1939, is the #1 hot dog stand in California (according to its own website). The menu is quite extensive, with many hot dogs named after celebrities. Their standouts include the Martha Stewart Dog, the Emeril Legasse Bam Dog and the Ryan Lochte Dog.
There’s also the Lord of the Rings—a hot dog topped with barbecue sauce and onion rings. LOL.
2. Swizzler Gourmet Hot Dogs (Washington DC)
This well-known DC food truck was started by two Wake Forest students simply looking for a way to make money to buy tickets to the 2014 World Cup in Rio, but instead found their life’s calling.
Get the Leonardo Dog Vinci, topped with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, homemade pesto and balsamic glaze all on a pretzel bun. Now that’s art.
3. Gene & Jude’s (Chicago)
Gene & Jude’s is an old-fashioned, no frills hot dog stand that operates pretty much the same way it did when it first opened in 1946. Their motto says it all; “No seats, no ketchup, no pretense, no nonsense.”
Order a hot dog with any toppings and fries, but fyi, the fries will be ON the hot dog. Just go with it.
4. Dat Dog (New Orleans)
I really identify with Dat Dog’s slogan, “Put a smile on your face,” because I can’t say I’ve ever been sad while eating a hot dog.
The format is simple: pick your sausage, then your toppings (you know you’re in NOLA when you can top a hot dog with crawfish étouffée). Meat options range from normal beef to bratwurst to local alligator, crawfish and duck sausage.
5. Gray’s Papaya (NYC)
Who said everything in New York City is overpriced? Gray’s Papaya offers “The Recession Special,” which is two hot dogs for $3.50. Now that’s a deal I can get behind.
#SpoonTip: Be sure to wash those down with one of their famous tropical drinks—either the Papaya Drink or the Coconut Champagne.
6. Lafayette Coney Island (Detroit)
Contrary to how it sounds, the Coney dog—topped with chili (all meat, no beans), diced onions and mustard—did not originate in Coney Island, but Michigan.
Lafayette Coney competes with American Coney, also in Detroit, for the title of best Coney dog, so try both and pick your team.
7. Ben’s Chili Bowl (Washington DC)
A favorite of Obama’s, Ben’s Chili Bowl is a classic and cheap DC diner famous for serving up their “half smokes” a half-pork, half-beef sausage smoked and topped with mustard, onions and homemade chili sauce.
Who knew a presidential meal could be so simple (and messy)?
8. Dirty Franks Hot Dog Palace (Columbus)
This Ohio hot dog stand serves up some pretty dirty combinations. It lists two of its top sellers as the Seoul Dog—with kimchi, mayo and Sriracha, and the Hot Bollywood—topped with a hot Indian mango chutney.
Another fun fact: they only play local music. Dope.
9. Portillo’s (Illinois)
If you know anyone from Chicago, you’ve undoubtedly heard them rave about Portillo’s. It’s an Illinois staple, with locations all over the state.
Order a classic Chicago-style dog with mustard, tomatoes, onions, relish, pickles, sport peppers and celery salt. Oh, and don’t forget a side of cheese fries.
10. Monster Dogs (Seattle)
If I’m being honest, I didn’t even know that a “Seattle-style” hot dog was a thing, but now that I know about it, it’s definitely on my list of things to try. Monster Dogs serves up classic Seattle hot dogs from its iconic cart, including cream cheese and grilled onions.
11. Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs (Denver)
Biker Jim’s serves up hot dogs with interesting toppings (roasted cactus is an option), but what’s more interesting is the type of meat that’s hiding underneath said toppings. Wild boar, elk, rattlesnake and pheasant are just some of the menu highlight. Also, they serve fried mac and cheese. Just sayin’.
12. Hot Dog Heaven (Fort Lauderdale)
Fancy and ridiculous hot dog toppings are great, but sometimes you just need a really good, regular hot dog. Hot Dog Heaven serves exactly that. The topping options are limited: choose to “run it through the garden” Chicago style, or go with chili, coleslaw or sauerkraut (or all of the above).
The real reason to visit this place is because Vienna Beef named it the first National Historic Vienna Hot Dog Stand in the country, which practically makes it a national monument.
13. Crif Dogs (NYC)
Three words: bacon-wrapped hot dogs. Or is that 4 words? Either way, in the wise words of Drizzy, what a time to be alive.
If bacon-wrapped beef is too much for you, try the Jon-Jon Deragon hot dog, which is topped with cream cheese, scallions and everything bagel seasoning. It’s the best of both the bagel and hot dog worlds.
14. Puka Dogs (Hawaii)
They’re exactly what you would expect of a hot dog in Hawaii. At Puka Dogs, the dog is placed inside a hollowed-out sweet Hawaiian bun, then topped with a spicy secret lemon-garlic sauce and a fruit relish of your choosing (mango, papaya, pineapple, etc). Mahalo—that’s Hawaiian for TYBG—to whoever thought of this.
15. The Wienery (Minneapolis)
Along with a great name, The Wienery serves up great food too. They have plenty of great flavor combos, but the one that stands out most is The Upsetter, which comes topped with bacon, cheese and an egg cooked any way.
Hot dogs for breakfast is pretty aggressive, but a BEC hot dog? I can dig it.
16. The Varsity (Atlanta)
This classic Atlanta spot has been serving up great hot dogs for 88 years, and also happens to be the world’s largest drive-in with parking for 600 cars (yeah, you read that correctly). Sounds like a party.
Order a chili dog with coleslaw, onion rings and one of their freshly made mini pies.
17. The Vanguard (Milwaukee)
Milwaukee is a town known for two things: sausages and beer. This place does both of them well. For a true Wisconsin experience, get the Milwaukee Style—a hot dog covered in cheddar cheese, cheese curds, and cheez whiz. Cheesehead hat not included.
18. Beez Neez Gourmet Sausages (Portland)
This may look like an average hot dog, but what you can’t see is that it’s actually made of Alaskan reindeer meat. Whoa.
If you’re a major Rudolph fan, don’t worry, they also have normal beef hot dogs. And because it’s the West Coast, they also have vegan sausages.
19. Senate (Cincinnati)
This Ohio restaurant takes the humble hot dog and fancies it up a bit. There’s the Croque Madame, a hot dog with béchamel sauce, ham, and poached egg served on a brioche bun, and the Lindsay Lohan with goat cheese, bacon, caramelized onions, arugula and balsamic. These hot dog have class even if you don’t.
20. El Güero Canelo (Tucson)
A hot dog in Arizona means a Sonoran dog, which is basically a hot dog burrito. It’s a hot dog wrapped in bacon, inside a steamed bolillo roll, and topped with beans, onion, tomatoes, avocado and some mayo for good measure. Chipotle better watch its back.
21. The Wiener’s Circle (Chicago)
Sorry not sorry for the multitude of Chicago locations. The Wiener’s Circle has great hot dogs, but this place is a popular destination because of the whole experience. Employees have a reputation of being extremely rude—prepare yourself for some verbal abuse. You don’t even wanna know what happens if you ask for ketchup.