Worth a Try: Hot Dogs

Gus's Hot Dogs in Birmingham, Alabama

Hot dogs have always been a standard at cookouts, sports events, and tailgates, but these 10 places have taken the hot dog beyond a ball-game treat.

The Varsity, Atlanta, Georgia

The Varsity, Atlanta, GA hot dogs

The Varsity opened in 1928 in downtown Atlanta and quickly became the world’s largest drive-in restaurant. Founded by Frank Gordy, a Georgia Tech dropout, the restaurant is still run by the Gordy family using the original secret family recipes. All hot dogs and chili are 100-percent beef and made in house, the buns are top cut and baked specifically for The Varsity, and popular topping options such as the slaw and pimiento cheese are also homemade. Make sure to get a side of the huge, crispy fried onion rings, and wash it all down with a Frosted Orange. 61 North Avenue.

Mason’s, Nashville, Tennessee

Mason’s is a modern Southern restaurant where Chef Brandon Frohne is always looking for creative ways to put a fun and inventive spin on classic dishes, and the hot dog is no exception. He has three variations of what he calls “haute hot dogs,” and our favorite is The Kentuckorean with braised short ribs, Korean barbecue sauce, kimchi collards, and KY Gouda Cheese Wiz. The hot dogs are beef short-rib dogs from a local butcher, and all ingredients used for the toppings are locally and regionally sourced. 2100 West End Ave.

Frank, Austin, Texas

hot dogs from Frank in Austin, TexasFrank came about six years ago when two friends decided Austin needed a good dog joint where people could come eat, drink, and hang out. Today, Frank offers a variety of traditional chili-cheese dogs, Chicago dogs, artisan sausage dogs, and cocktails. You’ll find options such as the Fico Anatra with a smoked duck sausage topped with fig mostarda, goat cheese, and crispy shallots and The Notorious P.I.G. with a smoked pork, bacon, sage, and jalapeño sausage topped with mac and cheese and barbecue sauce. 407 Colorado St.

Original Jimmy’s Red Hots, Chicago, Illinois

Jimmy’s is the longest-standing hot dog stand in Chicago still operating in its original spot. Family-owned and operated since 1954, Jimmy’s strives to serve the community while offering great hot dogs at an affordable price (about $2.50 for a dog). The stand serves traditional Chicago-style dogs—a Vienna pure-beef hot dog topped with mustard, chopped onion, sweet pickle relish, and sport peppers. But don’t ask for ketchup; traditional dogs never had it, and Jimmy’s absolutely will not allow it. 4000 W. Grand Ave.

Botsky’s, Lake Charles, Louisiana

hot dogs from Botsky's in Lake Charles, Louisiana

Botsky’s is a gourmet hot dog place opened by Mike Krajicek, a Lake Charles native who moved home after time spent as a traveling musician. He wanted the restaurant to be based on an old American tradition and liked the nostalgia of the hot dog. You can see the influence of Louisiana in his creations, such as the Dixie Dog—a bayou brat with Cajun-Kraut and Creole mustard—and the topping options such as shrimp étouffée, red beans, and chili. And don’t forget to try the King Cake Fries! 104 W. Pujo St.

Skeenies Hot Dogs, Charleston, West Virginia

Skeenies has been in operation for 62 years, run by Mary Skeen,who opened the restaurant with her husband in 1953. The hot dogs are typical West Virginia-style hot dogs: a skinny frank in a steamed bun topped with a special-recipe chili sauce, creamy white slaw, onion, and mustard. Mary’s husband created the chili sauce, and the recipe hasn’t changed since. The slaw is also homemade, and it’s Skeenies commitment to tradition that keeps this place going. 2399 Sissonville Dr.

Pink’s Hot Dogs, Los Angeles, California

Probably one of the most widely known hot dog stands, Pink’s has been serving L.A. for more than 75 years. Using the same recipes for their dogs and chili since the beginning, the seasonings in the natural-casing hot dogs is what makes them stand out. There are 35 hot dog variations on the menu, and you also have the option to create your own. Pink’s has been a hit with celebrities, and you’ll find themed dogs from famous chefs, movie stars, and TV stars, as well as dogs like the Lord of the Rings dog with barbecue sauce and onion rings. 709 N La Brea Ave.

Ben’s Chili Bowl, Washington, D.C.

Ben's Chili Bowl in Washington, D.C.

Ben’s Chili Bowl has been a DC standard for 57 years. Opened in August 1958 by Ben and Virginia Ali, the restaurant still stands in its original spot on U Street. With black-and-white floors, laminate countertops, and pictures of presidents who have been there, Ben’s has a nostalgic feel. The restaurant is famous for its original Chili Half-Smoke: a half-beef half-pork sausage on a steamed hot dog bun topped with mustard, onion, and their homemade spicy chili sauce. 1213 U Street NW.

Gray’s Papaya, New York, New York

Gray’s Papaya has been serving The Big Apple for more than 40 years with their unique combination of hot dogs washed down with tropical fruit juices. All-beef Sabrett hot dogs made just for Gray’s are grilled and topped with options such as sauerkraut, onion, relish, mustard, chili, and cheese. You can order the Recession Special, and for less than $5 you’ll get two hot dogs and a drink, which includes fruit juices in flavors of Papaya, Mango, Banana Daiquiri, Piña Colada, and Coconut Champagne. 2090 Broadway.

Gus’s Hot Dogs, Birmingham, Alabama

Gus's Hot Dogs in Birmingham, Alabama

Gus’s Hot Dogs in Crestline Village was opened more than 45 years ago by Greek immigrants. Specializing in the traditional Birmingham hot dog—onion, mustard, kraut, and a special hot dog sauce—Gus’s is one of the city’s many hot dog stands that has stood the test of time and held true to their roots. All their recipes have remained the same since the beginning, including those for the chili, sauce, and the seasoned beef that tops the Special Dog. 71 Church St.

Photos courtesy of Jim Bathie, William Dickey, The Varsity, Inc., Ben’s Chili Bowl, and Gabriel Reyna

This content was originally published in the Sept/Oct 2015 issue of Cooking with Paula Deen magazine. © 2015 Hoffman Media

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