Though sausages might have originated in Germany, Americans have certainly claimed hot dogs as a beloved mainstay of our society.
The hot dog is rumored to have made its first appearance in New York in the 1860s when a German immigrant sold “dachshund sausages” in his food cart on a street corner. In 1870, Charles Feltman opened the first hot dog stand on Coney Island—and the rest, as they say, is history.
Americans consume an estimated 20 billion hot dogs annually—more than twice the retail sales. That averages approximately 70 hot dogs per person each year.
That means we know a thing or two about hot dogs.
But what makes a good hot dog?
A good hot dog should have a “snap” to it when you take a bite and kind of burst in your mouth. It definitely shouldn’t be too soft. Grilled hot dogs typically have a much richer flavor profile than a boiled dog.
So, if you want to take a road trip across America to find the best hot dog joints in the country, we’ve got the top ten that’ll make you want to pack your bags and hop in the car.
Let’s put some pins on the map!
Best East Coast Hot Dogs
Crif Dogs is located in the East Village in New York City, and it’s a favorite for the locals. New Yorkers are pretty particular when it comes to their hot dogs, and Crif Dogs never disappoints.
They offer the traditional tube steaks with all the toppings, but if you’re in the mood for something special, you should try the Chihuahua—a hot dog wrapped in bacon, smothered with avocado and sour cream.
If you want to take it up a notch, try one of their specialty dogs like the Spicy Redneck, topped with jalapenos and chili. It’s definitely a taste you’re not likely to forget.
Papaya King in New York City, New York, is an institution. Its founder, Gus Poulos, immigrated from Greece in 1923 with no money. In 1932, he started a tropical juice stand but couldn’t make enough money, so he added franks to the menu, and it’s been a hit ever since.
Some say that it’s the truest taste of New York you can get. Their hot dog offerings are legendary. It’s an all-beef hot dog in a natural casing that’s cooked over a flat top grill until it’s seared to perfection.
It has just the right snap when you bite into it, and they load it up with mustard, ketchup, onions, and sauerkraut—taking it over the edge.
Rutt’s Hut in Clifton, New Jersey, is home to The Ripper—a deep-fried hot dog sitting in a soft, steamed bun that’s guaranteed to knock your socks off.
The deep fry process causes the casing to split open and comes in varying colors of caramelization. Once you’ve had a Ripper, you might never eat another boiled or grilled hot dog again.
The relish is just as legendary. Their special recipe includes a secret blend of mustard and spices. Rutt’s has been around since 1928 and has also been listed in the book “1,000 Places to See in the USA and Canada Before You Die.”
Best Midwest Hot Dog
Wolfy’s in Chicago, Illinois, is a hot dog stand that should be a state treasure. It’s retro sign is a nostalgic throwback to a more innocent time. They’ve been serving hot dogs since 1967.
The Red Hot comes in a steamed poppy seed bun and is finished with crunchy toppings. You’ll want to make sure to try their chili dog covered with cheese. Don’t miss out on their crispy fried potatoes topped off with cheese.
But if you have to choose just one dog at Wolfy’s, you’ve got to make it the Chicago Dog. Their all-beef frank topped with pickle spears, tomato wedges, relish, sport peppers, and celery salt will taste like a vacation in your mouth.
Best Hot Dogs in the South
Jack’s Cosmic Dog in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, offers us the Cosmic Dogs that have a taste all of their own. Their franks are nestled in a crispy bun and topped with blue cheese slaw and sweet potato mustard, which they’re famous for.
Jack’s offers every kind of hot dog or frankfurter you can imagine. The house chili is a must-try along with the corn dog. You’ll also find kielbasa sausage and crispy fries on the menu.
What’s really fun about a trip to Jack’s is the really cool atmosphere. They have space-themed decor that reminds you of “The Jetsons” cartoon, which is a throwback to our childhood.
Jack’s even offers a tofu sausage for vegetarians named The Vegenoid—something for everybody.
Dat Dog in New Orleans, Louisiana, offers simple German wieners and various sausages such as bratwurst, kielbasa, alligator, and crawfish.
Their sweet sourdough buns are steamed first and then lightly toasted for the perfect texture. One of their most popular menu items is the milkshake. It’s to die for. They also have an impressive beer selection to go with their succulent dogs.
Best Southwest Hot Dog
El Guero Canelo in Tucson, Arizona, is home to the fusion of hot dogs and Mexican tacos. The southwest flair makes for a unique flavor experience. Wrapped in bacon and topped with mayonnaise, beans, mustard, onions, and jalapeno sauce, the frank is seated deep in a Mexican roll.
The Sonoran-style hot dog is a hit with the locals. For those with a larger appetite, you’ll want to try the Sammy. It’s the same hot dog but with two franks. They don’t just serve hot dogs here. You can also try other Mexican fare and end your visit with a sweet dessert.
Best West Coast Hot Dogs
Pink’s in Los Angeles, California, is a hot dog joint you’ve probably heard about if you’ve ever been to the West Coast. Many tourists make the pilgrimage each year to sample the famous chili dogs and chili cheese dogs they offer.
Paul and Betty Pink started this hot dog establishment with just a cart in 1939 before turning it into the freestanding building in 1946 that it is today. Many of the items on their menu are named after celebrities.
Their chili sauce is homemade, and patrons will wait in line for hours to get their hands on these hot dogs. They’re really that good.
Rosamunde Sausage Grill in San Francisco, California, is a very upscale hot dog proposition. The sausages are blended with pork and gourmet additions such as duck, brandy, chicken, cherries, and Moroccan spices to thrill the palate.
They also offer a weisswurst made with veal, onions, and leeks. All of their sausages are served in warm rolls and topped with grilled onions and sweet peppers, chili, and kraut. Simple sides such as potato salad or chips round off the menu nicely.
The Red Hot in Tacoma, Washington, also showcases its fine selection of craft beers in addition to their extensive and eclectic selection of hot dogs and sausages. They even offer vegan options.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you might consider The Hound Dog—a frank topped with creamy peanut butter and two bacon slices. They offer coleslaw, macaroni and cheese, baked beans, nachos, and Frito pie.
For hot dog lovers, it’s one of the more interesting restaurants to visit when you’re looking for something special.
While we’ve given you some fantastic ideas to feed your hot dogging across America fantasies, don’t stop there. Some of the best hot dogs you’ll ever find are hidden gems in family restaurants across the country.
Load up your family and hit the road. Maybe you’ll find fun adventures on the iconic Route 66 or off-the-beaten-path. The best part will be continuing to search for great hot dogs in America.