Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Best Regional Hot Dog Styles

I generally avoid promoting beef products at EBL, for obvious reasons, but here are some of the best hot dogs available out there.  Here is at least one story on how these sausages in a bun got their name.

Unlike other best of lists, I will start with the absolute best and work my way down.  You can disagree if you wish, but you would be wrong.  Here is my criteria:  It has to taste good, it has to be consistently good, I have eaten there and I think about them years later, and it has to be a good value (over priced dogs are generally frowned upon).

Rachael Ray had a hot dog bracket.  It does not really work for me, but she does have some great hot dog places listed.

#1 Rutt's Hut Ripper:
A hot dog masterpiece.  Rutt's Hut Ripper, Clifton, New Jersey
"If this was in Brooklyn or even Philadelphia it would be packed to the gills with hipsters 24 hours a day. Thankfully it's in the middle of New Jersey."  
That is absolutely correct.  What I love about Rutt's Hut is it is actually hard to find.  It is in this waste land between highways.  It is an unassuming road house tavern that serves the best hot dogs in the world.  


The Rutt's Hut Ripper is a unique masterpiece.  It is that simple.  Fab Hot Dogs in Reseda, California does a simulation Ripper.

Maybe it is a Jersey Shore thing (I am willing to concede that is influencing me).  These dogs are more classics than unique masterpieces like the Rutt's Hut Ripper--but I have found them to be consistently great.  They are both a Jersey shore variant of Kosher griddle style (very similar to Nathan's Coney Island), except there is pork in these dogs (they are definitely not Kosher).

I have eaten at the original Nathan's and been disappointed (and the other Nathan's are worse).  Nathan's claim to fame is its founder worked for Charles Feltman who first started selling hot dogs at Coney Island around 1870.  Nathan's went into competition and undercut his own boss.

Katz' Deli in Manhattan makes a great Kosher style griddle dog too, but if you are going to Katz' you generally don't have a hot dog.  I have not been disappointed at Max's or the Windmill.  Bruce Springsteen has sung about both Max's and the Windmill.  Max's dogs are now a bit expensive, which could be a deal breaker.  But people pay for what they love.  
A Windmill Dog, Long Branch, New Jersey

The Windmill, Long Branch, New Jersey
Max's Dog, Long Branch, New Jersey
Max's Dog, simple, classic

86th and 3rd Avenue, Manhattan, NYC

A classic cheap dog with a tasty tropical drink
Papaya King is arguably not as great as some other dogs farther down this list, but a great value.  It is cheap, tasty, and consistently good.  Some of the other dogs farther down this list taste better.  But I will rank Papaya King #3 for a combination of value and location.  Julia Child claimed it was the best hog dog in New York.  Tony Bourdain loves it.  There was some updating of Papaya King in 2010 (they had a rodent problem) and I have not been back since. So I am not sure it will stay in this spot (I do not have a problem with the rodents, but too much upgrading can be bad).  But for past memories, I am putting it at #3.

#4 Pink's, Hollywood, California
A Los Angeles classic hot dog place that has been around since 1939.  As you would expect for a Hollywood joint, it has a wall of celebrity pictures and dogs named after celebrities (usually the type they actually order).  The line is long for a reason, the hot dogs are great.

Lot's of hot dog variety at Pinks

#5 Tail of the Pup
For classic roadside architecture alone, Tail of the Pup was worth a visit.  They also made great dogs.  Another Los Angeles classic.  It has had to move several times.  Unfortunately, it has not get found a new home (the building is in storage).  But I will rank it anyway, because I have eaten there in the past and just in hope it finally does reopen.

#6 (a tie) Chicago Style Dogs at Hot Doug's and Superdawg.  
Even though I am a Wisconsin cow, it pains me to admit Chicago has pretty good dogs.  But they are typically all beef and steamed which is generally not a favorite of mine.  I do, however, give high marks to the Chicago tradition of no ketchup.  Ketchup ruins a dog.  The poppy seed buns are also really good.
A traditional Chicago Style at Hot Doug's with the twist of caramelized onion
The duck sausage with foie gras was a Hot Doug's protest dog (it is really not a hot dog),
but apparently is popular enough to stay (I have not tried this one).  

Superdawg Chicago Style
#7 Ben's Chili Bowl, Washington, D.C.
A very good chili dog.  With their half smoke dogs.  Classically good.


A half smoke with chili and chips

#8 Newark Style Dog, Jimmy Buffs, West Orange, New Jersey 
An Italian pizza roll, with a deep fried hot dog, stuffed with grilled and
fried potatoes, onions and peppers.  

#9 Hot Dog Joe's Seattle Dogs
This is a very good regional style.  The dogs are very good, unpretentious, generally affordable, and they use cream cheese.  Ketchup is frowned upon, which is always a good sign. Traditionally its cream cheese and onion with a grilled Kosher dog on a decent bun.  They do focus on major sporting events.  And they also have portable stands and serve the bar crowd late night.

Looks like love...
#10 Slaw Dogs, West Virginia, North Carolina, Southeast USA
West Virginia is a state that takes its weenies seriously, although it is hard to take anyone seriously if they call a hot dog a weenie.   The slaw dog started in West Virginia but was quickly adopted in neighboring states.    It is definitely a recognized regional style.

I prefer kraut to slaw on a dog (because a lot of cole slaw is poorly made), but if the slaw is well made this is a really good combination.  Well made slaw is made with grated cabbage wilted with salt to remove moisture, and a minimum amount of dressing (the key to great slaw is it not being watery).  The slat method (you rinse most of it off before you do the mayonaise or other marinade) keeps the cabbage crunch too.  After a day of marination, slaw is at its peak and its half life is short.
West Virginia Slaw Map
The Home Wrecker is more than just slaw...
I have have had many slaw dogs, but have not had this one.
I am thinking a trip is in order.  I may be ranking
this dog much higher.  
North Carolina Slaw Dog


A simulated Slaw Dog at Fab Hot Dogs in Reseda, California
They may be the only west coast location
that also tries to do a simulated Ripper

#11 Hot Texas Wiener, Patterson, New Jersey
There is no Texas connection to this other than the name.  The Hot Texas Wiener was created in Paterson, New Jersey and has spread out to surrounding areas of North Jersey.  It is a deep fried dog,  served with chopped onion, mustard, and topped with a "chili" which was created by Greek immigrants.  With oregano flavoring, it is unlike a typical chili dog.  But it works fine.
Falls View Restaurant has a connection to the origins of the Hot Texas Wiener

2 comments:

  1. I would throw up if I ate any of those Weiners.

    tits.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I would throw up if I ate any of those Weiners.

    tits.

    ReplyDelete

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