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Top Dog

I’ve never been to Chicago but a few years ago, I had a Chicago-style hot dog.  It may have not been completely authentic but it was unlike anything I’d ever had before—hellacious an wunnerful. 


Of course, I grew up loving the Sabrett dirty water dogs that you get on the streets of New York–mustard, occasionally onions, and that nasty green relish when it was available.

When I was growing up, the old man would take my brother, sister and me out to Nathan’s in Brooklyn every so often to get what he claimed to be the best dog in New York. 

I don’t eat hot dogs too tough anymore–an unfortunate incident at Shea Stadium a few years ago saw to that–but every so often, I’ll get a craving.  So, here’s my question to you:  what’s the best hot dog you’ve ever had?  And where.


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1 Diane Firstman   ~  Feb 12, 2009 11:44 am

I only eat hot dogs at baseball games ...

Yep, I'm quirky.

2 TheGreenMan   ~  Feb 12, 2009 11:51 am

I had a Chicago Dog for the first time at a hot dog stand here on Long Island in Syosset. Incredible and I loved it.

But my favorite dogs will always be from Gray's Papaya. Gimme 2 with mustard and kraut and I will be ready to tackle the day.

(PS - I had hot dogs for lunch just yesterday at an incredible food stand called Francesco's of New York in Huntington Station. They make great sausage and pepper heros, Philly cheese steaks and all kinds of great street food. But I was simply in the mood for dogs yesterday. And they were fantastic)

3 Shaun P.   ~  Feb 12, 2009 11:58 am

As a kid, the plain hot dog at Voss' near where I grew up in upstate (pics and a review here). I'm pretty sure they used Hofmann's hot dogs, though don't quote me on that (and it might have changed over the years).

In any case, Hofmann's cooked at home on the grill remain the best hot dogs I have ever eaten as an adult. The real trick is to butter and toast the bun - and always use a New England style bun.

Now I want a hot dog for lunch! Too bad Voss is about 200 miles away . . .

4 RagingTartabull   ~  Feb 12, 2009 12:01 pm

oooph this is tough

- Dickie Dee's, Newark NJ (http://tinyurl.com/avf6tp)
- Libby's, Paterson NJ (http://www.hollyeats.com/LibbysLunch.htm)
- Brooklyn Diner, 57th and 7th (http://tinyurl.com/bcpsqe)

5 Alex Belth   ~  Feb 12, 2009 12:06 pm

Lou Reed once called Grey's Papaya the best restaurant in the city. I remember when you could get a drink and two dogs for $1.50.

6 handtius   ~  Feb 12, 2009 12:06 pm

Easy...Gray's Papaya on 72nd and Broadway. First had a dog there in 1986, when i was a wee little lad. Obviously the price hasn't stayed as good, but the dogs have. Used to be 2 dogs and a soda for a buck.

7 bronxborn   ~  Feb 12, 2009 12:13 pm

Hey Alex, I have eaten hotdogs all over the U.S. and Europe. My favorite always is Papaya King no doubt about it. The Nathans in Coney Island for some reason they taste different and better than the other Nathans. Pinks in L.A. rocks and is right up there. One of my favorites are the sausage carts in Prague. They take a small baguette and push a rod through it and slide in the sausage which have been charcoal broiled. Now that is mega yum!

8 Diane Firstman   ~  Feb 12, 2009 12:25 pm

Speaking of Nathan's .... maybe Alex would like to bid on this?

9 bags   ~  Feb 12, 2009 12:28 pm

There are a bunch of loosely affiliated restaurants in Detroit call Coney Island. (Nothing to do with the real Coney here.)

They make this amazing dog with a steamed bun, bean-less chili, mustard, and onions. Called a Coney with Everything.


Without a doubt the only thing i miss about detroit.

10 Chyll Will   ~  Feb 12, 2009 12:30 pm

[7] I think the ones on Coney Island are made right there. That's the original one, I think...

I never eat em anymore. When I was a kid, if we went to the city I always got the dirty dogs off the cart. Occasionally we'd have a Nathan's; we went to the one on Central Ave in Yonkers if at all. Other than that we grilled them ourselves. As I got a little older, I started burning them to a crisp because they tasted spicier that way (to me, anyway). I might as well as eaten a cigar for what it was worth. Now I can't stand the sight of them.

I do hear from a lot of people that Papaya King and Grey's Papaya have the best dogs, I wonder why... but not that much >;)

11 joejoejoe   ~  Feb 12, 2009 12:35 pm

Gray's Papaya is probably my favorite NYC dog, the one a few blocks north of the Port Authority.

I'm in Chicago and have a hot dog a few times a week (I'm within a block of two Vienna Beef Hall of Fame hot dog joints, Jake's and Byron's) but Chicago dogs aren't really much more than a Sabrett with tiny salad on top and celery salt.

More on Vienna, the Chicago equivalent of Sabrett, below.


Let me also give a shout out to my hometown Bart's hot dogs in Windsor, CT as well as the Ranch House on the Windsor/Hartford border. Grilled long dogs on a grilled bun, the kinds that look like bread on the side. Those dogs are awesome but I'm not sure how common they are outside of that part of CT. It's like I grew up in a microclimate of hot dog style. The dog culture changes even as close as New Britain!

12 tommyl   ~  Feb 12, 2009 12:37 pm

Gray's on 8th and 6th. Recession special with mustard, kraut and coconut champagne.

My dad would say any Nathan's. As a kid, I'd have said the Nathan's in Westchester because they also had a giant arcade.

13 FreddySez   ~  Feb 12, 2009 12:38 pm

You'll laugh, but my vote is for the Yankee Stadium foot-long. It isn't (wasn't?) just a bigger frank; it was different from the others, with a decent snap and a meatier flavor. No doubt the surroundings helped me appreciate it.

For years, "get the foot-long" was my first piece of advice to newbies who were planning their first stadium visits (including, by e-mail, Rob Neyer, though I don't know if he took it). Telling them to arrive in time for Monument Park was a close second, only because I could never guarantee someone would get in. You know, the old "45 minutes before first pitch" joke. More like "whenever we feel like it."

Anyhow, I also have to second [7] Bronxborn on the European experience. On a train from Paris to LaRochelle in 1985, I was handed a slim baguette with a weiner pushed into it in just the way he/she describes. With insanely hot mustard that was tempered perfectly by the extra volume of crusty bread.

Never a thing wrong with a Nathan's, though. Or three.

14 unmoderated   ~  Feb 12, 2009 12:45 pm

Hebrew Nationals are the best home dog, by far.

Ballpark dogs? The best I've had - no joke - was at the Scranton-WIlkes Barre Yankees game I went to last summer with the LoHud crew.

It was big, came out of the bun (a MUST! I don't want no bread-only bites)
Mustard, chili. No ketchup, ever. That's my dog.

Yankee Stadium dogs have always disappointed. I last went to Shea in '94, so I barely remember.

The dogs at Civic Stadium in Portland, OR (AAA team) were good, but strange. Salsa and onion rings and whatever else was hanging out in the snack bar.

By the way, if you are worried about nitrates in this day and age, Oscar's makes a pretty good "all natural" dog that is nitrate and nitrite free.

15 bronxborn   ~  Feb 12, 2009 12:48 pm

By the way its the snap and the flavor that make a dog rock! Snap is so very important!

16 knuckles   ~  Feb 12, 2009 12:49 pm

Best dog ever is the half smoke at Ben's Chili Bowl in DC. One of the few local foods that outpaces what I miss from home.

There's also Ben's outlets at the new Nats park that measure up pretty well, albeit in a more saccharine, corporate environment.

17 williamnyy23   ~  Feb 12, 2009 1:13 pm

What was the Shea stadium incident?

I have a story from the streets of NY (courtesy of my father) that turned me off hot dogs for years:

While waiting for the vendor to prepare his hot dog with mustard and onions, he heard a sizzling sound emerge and then fade away. The hot dog went in the bun, and again, sizzzz. My father looked around the cart, but couldn't detect the origin of the sound. The mustard went on the hot dog, and again, sizzzz. Confused, my father again looked around, but to no avail. Finally, the onions went on, and again, sizzzz. Just then, the vendor handed the hot dog to my father, who looked up just in time to notice the gentleman's running nose drip onto the grill below. Talk about secret sauce! Not wanting to offend or embarass the vendor, my dad bought the hot dog and walked away. I don't think I ate a hot dog for years after the story, and to this day have never bought one off of cart.

18 festus   ~  Feb 12, 2009 1:14 pm

I love hot dogs and have eaten them everywhere, but BY FAR my favorite place, and maybe one of my favorite restaurants in the world, is Hot Doug's in Chicago. http://www.hotdougs.com/

It was actually just featured on Anthony Bourdain's show. You can get any of the variety of basic Chicago dogs and brats, but he also has homemade ones with sometimes fancy ingredients (foie gras or creme fraiche) that make for mind blowing concoctions. All of them are under $10. And on weekends, the fries are made with duck fat and are the most amazing things I've ever tasted. The only major drawback is that it usually has an hour (at least) wait on the weekend.

19 Alex Belth   ~  Feb 12, 2009 1:28 pm

Ah, the Shea Stadium incident. It's just too embarassing to get into. But it was...a mess.

Happened on the first night that Dontrelle Willis ever pitched at Shea, so at least I'll always remember that.

20 williamnyy23   ~  Feb 12, 2009 1:29 pm

[19] Now you have to share it...the more embarassing the better!

21 Alex Belth   ~  Feb 12, 2009 1:32 pm

I'm saving it for my "memoirs"


22 Jim in Binghamton   ~  Feb 12, 2009 1:34 pm

As a longtime (until recently) resident of Chicago (though Brooklyn-raised) I second the praise for Hot Doug's.

However, if you're looking for old school Chicago, head up to the NWside, in the city but not too far from O'Hare, to Milwaukee Avenue and Devon, where you'll find the mecca of dogdom -- Superdawg!


They still have carhops.

23 PJ   ~  Feb 12, 2009 2:50 pm

This is the real deal and it's as easy as can be to make! My family has made this for generations and there are no street vendors to worry about! (LOL) Here is my improved and updated version:

Hot Dog Soup

One onion cleaned peeled and diced into half-inch cubes (Vadalias or similar work best.)
One can of Tomato Soup (I use Campbell's.)
Two cups beef stock
One package of Sabretts, Nathan's, or Hebrew Nationals drained and cut into one inch slices
Two potatoes cleaned peeled and diced into one inch cubes
Pepper to taste

Put two tablespoons of crisco or bacon fat into a stock pot and melt. Saute the onions and hot dog slices with about a half teaspoon of pepper until the onions just begin to brown on the edges and the hot dog slices get some color on them and shrink. Add the stock and tomato soup stirring to combine and bring to a boil. Add lightly salted and peppered diced potatoes, reduce to a simmer and watch, stirring every couple of minutes, until potatoes are fork tender.

This is great with any or all of these garnishes: tobasco sauce, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, freshly chopped scallions, saltine crackers, crusty bread, homemade croutons.



24 PJ   ~  Feb 12, 2009 2:55 pm

Yes, Hot Dog Soup!

25 Yankee Mama   ~  Feb 12, 2009 3:04 pm

I grew up with the daughter of the owner of Gray's Papaya, so that's my pick. A great place to go in the wee hours in my partying days.

As a kid, I loved the hot dogs at Gitlits, a long gone authentic deli that used to be on Broadway and 78th street. I'll be surprised if many people remember that place.

26 Alex Belth   ~  Feb 12, 2009 3:40 pm

Hey 25, do you remember a Jewish Deli on the west side of Broadway on maybe 92-93 or 93-94th street?

27 bp1   ~  Feb 12, 2009 3:54 pm

Well geez - what a great thread.

I remember when I first came to work here when I was in college and I took a trip to NYC with some friends, the first thing I wanted to do was to get a hot dog from a street vendor. I remember the cart smelled like burning cardboard, kind of an acrid pungent odor. Unique to those carts in the city. It had a tough, almost crunchy skin, and a nice soft steamed bun.

My favorite dogs ever are the store made dogs from Hapanowicz in New York Mills - a real old style "make our own sausages" kinds of polish butcher shop. Bring home a bag and cook 'em on the grill. Really really good. My favoites by far.

Next up is a dog at a vendor at the NYS Fair. No particular vendor - but they are usually darn good. I freakin love going to the fair to wander around and eat that nasty food you wouldn't normally ever eat. They have some great sausage and peppers. Ox roasts. Baker's Chicken Coop. Man, there's some good food to be had there.

Here in Kingston there's a great dog place Dallas Hot Weiners. Most locals get 'em with the works, but I like just the sauce, no onions. No complaints there, either.

Hot dogs. Love 'em.

28 bp1   ~  Feb 12, 2009 3:55 pm

[3] Voss's!! Man - we're like neighbors or something. Whoo hoo!! I've been eating their dogs since I was a kid.

29 Yankee Mama   ~  Feb 12, 2009 4:25 pm

Hey 26 (Alex), I don't remember a deli there. I asked my brother since we lived on 96th street for a whle when I was really young.. Then, we moved to 81st. Also we went to Columbia Prep, so I knew the hood well. My mom doesn't remember either. I have one more person who might know. He lived on 91st and Riverside.

Gitlits was on the west side of Broadway, near Carvel. Now, it's some mobile phone place. Sad, no?

30 Chyll Will   ~  Feb 12, 2009 4:37 pm

[27] Kingston! Love the waterfront. I worked in Kingston at the tax processing center when it was still operated by Fleet. Do they still have the old trolley ride under the bridge?

31 Yankee Mama   ~  Feb 12, 2009 4:47 pm

Kingston is making a resurgence, as is Beacon. They redid the waterfront. Apparently, it's a haven for creatives. If the economy continues this way, I can foresee a minor exodus to Orange County.

32 Shaun P.   ~  Feb 12, 2009 4:48 pm

[28] I was about to post the same, but in reference to Hapanowicz in your [27]! My folks still go there to buy sausage links, cheese, bologna, etc. Oddly enough, I don't remember ever trying their hot dogs. I do remember the wonderful smell of that place, though. Haven't been in there in years. If I'm in upstate in the summer time, I always try to stop at Voss's once.

33 boslaw   ~  Feb 12, 2009 4:55 pm

Pappy's hot dogs in Totowa, NJ. Best hot dog in history, bar none, ever. All the way baby!

Libby’s and Fall's View in Paterson NJ (http://www.hollyeats.com/LibbysLunch.htm) are tied for a close second.

I've been living in Mass for half my life and whenever I visit Jersey (which is probably once every few months) my first stop is Pappy's for 2 all the way, no mustard with a side of fries & gravy.

34 lordbyron   ~  Feb 12, 2009 5:11 pm

I love hot dogs and have tried them all over the country and rate the 'dogs at Heid's in Liverpool, NY as the best!

35 Chyll Will   ~  Feb 12, 2009 5:47 pm

[31] I always liked Orange & Ulster County, but there was never enough work there to make it worth moving to. I might do that when I get to a point in my film career to be self-sustaining. Beacon was a wreck for years until the mid-late nineties. It was getting to be nice when I left the area. I was part of the Hudson Valley Film & Video Office when they helped bring a few films to the area, most notably "Nobody's Fool"... also used to go to the community center in the Salvation Army building on Main Street. Having the Hudson Valley Renegades nearby didn't hurt Beacon either, nor turning the old Nabisco box factory into an art museum.

36 Yankee Mama   ~  Feb 12, 2009 7:33 pm

My family has a life long relationship with Orange County. My grandparents bought a house up there in 1948 (in Highland Mills). In the '60s, as a small child I was farmed up there in the summers while my parents worked in the city. My grands moved there permanently from the Bronx in the mid to late '70s. My parents have a house in Monroe/Chester, which they've had since 1973.

In the '70s, Beacon was scary while I watched places like Newburgh and Monticello slowly waste away. I'm glad that Beacon has been revitalized.

I alway think about moving up there, but I'm scarily urban.

37 66 again   ~  Feb 12, 2009 9:23 pm

Nathans!! I once left an engagement party in Somers, NY and drove 2.5 hours to Coney Island for a Nathan's dog. That one tasted better than any other. Nathans!!!

38 regnad kcin   ~  Feb 13, 2009 6:20 am

I'm surprised that no one's mentioned my favorite dog; well, maybe I'm not, since, on reflection, it was probably a pretty entry. That and the fact that some here aren't old enough to remember the scourge of the NYC subway system, Nedick's. (I might add that I was never a fan of their signature underflavored orange "beverage."

39 regnad kcin   ~  Feb 13, 2009 6:24 am

A quick scouring of the intertubes informs me that someone has bought the Nedick's name and has opened three shops: 8th Ave at 31st, Bway between 33rd and 34th, Penn Station (LIRR level near 7th Ave.)

Were I not 300 miles due north, I might just give them a try. Sounds like the drink is the same and the bun treatment hasn't changed (buttered and toasted.) I'd be interested to learn if the dog is the same.

40 joejoejoe   ~  Feb 13, 2009 8:08 am

[38] Nick Danger!

My brother used to play those records for me as a kid. As much fun as a hot dog thread is, remembering 'regnad kcin' (on the back side of the glass) was even better.

41 Jason from The Heartland   ~  Feb 13, 2009 9:36 pm

I love hot dogs, and have had enough to have created an extra intestinal tract or two in me. Without question, the best hot dogs I've ever had are from Ted's Char-broiled Hot Dogs in Buffalo, NY. The toppings are great--basics of ketchup, mustard, relish, and onion with extras such as hot sauce and a dill pickle. Reasonably priced, they also have foot-long dogs and killer, home-made onion rings.

Boiled hot dogs pale embarrassingly in comparison.

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