It’s National Hot Dog Day, So Here’s 10 Franks We Love (Maybe Too Much)

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Whether you’re a fan of hot dogs or not, frankly, my dear, we don’t give a damn — because today is National Hot Dog Day. We’ve heard the arguments against the handheld lunch, chief among them their unhealthiness and questionable contents, but in this gluten-free, locally sourced, free-range world, there’s something to be said for eating something without checking the label. And who doesn’t remember their first hot dog at a baseball game with their dad? In honor of today’s solemn occasion, we present to you our totally unscientific, totally biased list of our 10 favorite hot dogs.

Hot Doug’s

Hot Doug’s in Chicago has walked the line between traditional franks, like the Chicago dog, and modern fare, including hot dogs made from exotic game and even fois gras — which it continued to serve after the Windy City banned the liver-derived provision in 2006. While the joint is Zagat rated and Bon Appetit named it one of the Top 50 Restaurants on the Planet, owner Doug Sohn announced in May that Hot Doug’s will close for good on Oct. 3.


Starting in 1939 as a hot dog cart, Hollywood’s Pink’s touts itself as “the ultimate Mom and Pop hot dog stand.” Its swanky locale has made it a staple for A-listers ranging from Marlon Brando and Bill Cosby to Michael Jackson and Martha Stewart.  The menu boasts 30 hot dog varieties, but Pink’s isn’t pushing out-there La La Land varieties, with most of the selections being variations on traditional options, like chili dogs and regional favorites from around the country.

Coney Island

Particularly close to my heart because my grandparents had their first date there in the 1920s is Scranton, Pa.’s original Coney Island. For nearly a century, Coney Island has specialized in the Texas wiener, a split hot dog served on a hamburger bun or club roll and covered in chili. And Coney Island’s chili is as good as it gets, with just enough bite to enhance but not overpower the dog. Last year, the owners put Coney Island up for sale for $500,000, which includes the secret chili recipe. We’re thinking of starting a Kickstarter to snatch up this gem.

Ball Park Cracked Dijon Mustard

The venerable Ball Park recently introduced a line of premium beef dogs in specialty varieties. We were skeptical but quickly won over by the Cracked Dijon Mustard dog, which has a bit of a snap — such an important and unique quality for a hot dog — and bite, thanks to the mustard seeds. Ball Park also offers Signature Seasoned, Smokehouse Barbecue and Slow Smoked Hickory in its new kennel of dogs.

Hot Diggity

Philadelphia’s South Street dog spot is certainly on the hipper side of the spectrum, offering gourmet hot dogs served among frankfurter-inspired poster art. Like a great musician, Hot Diggity is inspired by classics, but does not copy them note for note.  From The Bronx Bomber to The Cincinnati Skyline, Hot Diggity has a knack for honoring the past with a modern twist, and it does a damn good job of it.

Papaya King

New York City is arguably the hot dog capital of the world, and Papaya King has been a fixture of Gotham’s wiener scene since it opened shop on the Upper East Side in 1932. Papaya King has become a part of pop culture, with a “Seinfeld” episode finding Kramer leaving a movie ticket line to grab one of their dogs, and the chain even opened a concept store in the East Village last year. In 1976, the dogs of war were unleashed when Nathan’s Famous set up shop next door, and in 1973, former Papaya King partner Paul Gray opened Gray’s Papaya.

Los Perros Locos

Frank traditionalists may balk at the stated goal of Los Perros Locos — the perfect Colombian hot dog — but the Lower East Side eatery, opened just last year, has found an audience for its bold takes on an old favorite. LPL’s dog toppers include apple chipotle slaw, various salsas, chorizo, and in the case of the Pablo Escobar, a dusting of perico, a Columbian concoction (and a slang word for cocaine).

Fiesta Franks

Another idea that might draw gasps from traditional dog lovers, Berks Fiesta Franks — which I discovered at a Penn State vs. Notre Dame game where I was scolded for taking too many free samples — offer a delightful zing thanks to embedded jalapeño peppers and cheese. These dogs don’t really need a topping (although some spicy mustard works wonderfully) and have become my favorite house dog.


Like many family restaurants, Abe’s Hot Dogs has a convoluted history, with rivalries, spinoffs and public confusion over which family owns which restaurant. Located in and around Wilkes-Barre, Pa., the no-frills joints are still going strong, with cheaply priced dogs in a delightful chili that is my person favorite. Artisans need not apply.

Weiner’s Circle

What’s better than chowing down on a Chicago dog — a Vienna beef dog in a poppy seed bun with a pickle spear, celery salt, mustard, sport peppers, chopped onions, mustard and neon-green relish? Why, that would be chowing down on a Chicago dog hammered out of your mind while sassy staffers shower you in obscenities. What’s more American than that? We’ve been frank with you about our favorite wieners, so be sure to share your picks in the comments below.

Michael Lello is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.

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