As American as hot dogs and apple pie is how the expression goes but here are some great hot dogs you have to leave the United States to get.
There was a joke among business flyers years ago about the South. “If you die in the South you cannot go to Heaven without first connecting through Atlanta”. A business associate from Atlanta had an add-on comment. “That’s because God wants you to have time for lunch at Varsity Hot Dogs for one last Earthly pleasure.”
“What’ll ya have? What’ll ya have?” For those in the know, it’s a sin to drive through Atlanta without stopping for lunch at the famous Varsity Hot Dog next to the campus of Georgia Tech. It isn’t hard to find as it takes up almost a whole block near the dense area around the university. The size of this hot dog place speaks a lot about the value and quality of this remarkable hot dogs. To grow to that size you know their hot dogs have to be really good.
As American as hot dogs and apple pie as the expression goes. The American approach to the hot dog has a number of regional variations like the Chicago Dog. Said to have originated with Portillo’s in Chicago, it is really the series of toppings that define it. The classic is an all-beef frankfurter on a poppy seed bun, topped with yellow mustard, chopped white onions, sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle slice, tomatoes, hot peppers and celery salt. A bit too much for my taste but still a great dog. If you want a taste of Chicago dogs and can’t get to Chicago, the second best is Hot Dog Heaven with locations around the country. There’s one in Ft. Lauderdale and another in Orlando. Since 1987, Hot Dog Heaven has been specializing in Authentic Chicago Hot Dogs prepared with Vienna Beef Products. Their quality ingredients are shipped from Chicago directly to their stores for a truly authentic taste. The hot dogs, buns, and the toppings are all from Chicago.
New York has Nathan’s Coney Island Hot Dog made famous at the beginning of the twentieth century when Nathan Handwerker, a Polish/Jewish immigrant sold them on the Coney Island boardwalk for a nickle. His wife Ida created the hot dog recipe and used her grandmother’s secret spice recipe. It is recognized as a classic all-beef hot dog today and served traditionally with mustard and sauerkraut.
Oddly enough Ft. Wayne Indiana is also famous for a Coney Island Wiener Stand. Opened in 1914 by Vasil Eschoff, a Macedonian immigrant who’s descendants have operated the restaurant ever since. The Coney Island in Fort Wayne is described as a small, pink hot dog with a “peppery-sweet” coney sauce on a soft bun and the coney sauce brings the flavor of a savory pork sausage to the dog.
A lot of purists will argue that the United States has the best hot dogs in the world. However, the origin of the hot dog goes back to Germany with the invention of the Frankfurter in the late 1600s by Johann Georghehner and Germany still has a tradition of selling similar hot dogs today.
Today it isn’t just America and Germany that are famous for hot dogs as there are variations in countries around the world from Austria to Iceland to Vietnam.
As we travel food is always part of the experience and oddly we have had people recommend local hot dog stands as something to try in a number of places. Often it’s the dressings that makes many of these dogs unique. In Vietnam they add pickled vegetables and in Hawaii, it’s a pineapple relish.
The Icelandic hot dog is sold at hot dog stands and convenience stores everywhere but in Reykjavik, the recommended hot dog stand is Bæjarins beztu pylsur (pylsur means hot dog), which has been open for over 60 years. Icelandic hot dogs rank near the top of the list of world’s best. Icelandic dogs are traditionally served with sweet mustard, a crispy onion relish and remolaði sauce. You can also order it Clinton style which is with just mustard the way Bill liked his.
When visiting Vienna our Austrian friends, who were out of the country when we visited Vienna recently, were very specific about trying a hot dog at Würstelstand, a hot dog and sausage stand behind the famous Vienna Opera House. The dog ranked way up on our list and judging by the lines Austrians agree. Their dogs are served in a long baked bun where they hollow it out with a counter mounted spike producing a “pig in a blanket” effect. Order yours Vienna style with a squirt of brown mustard.
Since first venturing into the wonderful world of hot dogs we’ve had a number of recommendations sent to us as belonging on a list of America’s bets hot dog:
- Schaller’s Drive-In, Rochester, N.Y.: Meat Sauce, Mustard, Onions
- Olneyville N.Y. System, North Providence, R.I.: NY System Dog
- Rawley’s Drive-In, Fairfield, Conn.: “The Works”
- Coney Island Wiener Stand, Ft. Wayne, Indiana, Coney Sauce
- Flo’s, Camp Neddick, Maine: Hot Dog with Mayo, Celery Salt, Relish
- Dew Drop Inn, Mobile, Ala.: Dew Drop Dog
- Varsity Hot Dog, Atlanta, Georgia, Chili, Slaw
- Lafayette Coney Island, Detroit: Coney
- Skyline Chili, Cincinnati, Ohio, Chili, Cheese (another favorite of ours)
- American Coney Island, Detroit: Coney
- Ben’s Chili Bowl, Washington, D.C.: The Half-Smoke
- J. S. Pulliam Barbecue, Winston-Salem, N.C.: Chili Slaw Dog
We’d love to hear about your favorite hot dog stand?
This just in from the UK – Dog the Bounty Hunter a hot dog from Burger in Edinburgh, Scotland needs to be added to the list of best hot dogs.