Originally posted by tiki
Oh Michael----i'm afraid no matter which ten you picked--your bound to leave out so many folks favorites!!But i'm sure we will all remember that you were limited by the restraints of others. This said--i would LOVE to see John Fox's list too!--and im looking forward to watching this forum!
Picking a top ten list is extremely difficult when there are so many choices. I wish they would have allowed a top ten list from each region. There are different types of dogs (German style beef and pork, all beef, deep fried, dirty water, Texas Weiner, etc.) and I can come up with a top ten for each type. Plus taste is very subjective. I have tasted dogs from many of the places in the eastern part of the U.S. I am familiar with the brands used by many of the places in the central and western U.S. Plus I have friends who have travelled all over including a few who have opened their own places. They know what I like, and have been able to describe the dogs from the parts of the country they have been to. For example, there is a place in Pittsburgh called the Original, or Dirty O. This restaurant was in the Stern's previous top ten a few years back. A friend of mine opened a place nearby. The O did a lot of business due to their proximity to a college, plus they are maybe more famous for their excellent fries than their dogs. My friend said that everyone raved about his dogs (Sabrett from N.Y./N.J. that weren't available anywhere else in Pittsburgh). The owners of the O even came by to check out the new kids in town. The general consensus of hot dog connoisseurs was that the dogs were far superior to the O's. Yet the Original is on many "best of" lists.
Forgive the long post that follows, but I'd like to make a few observations and share my opinions on hot dogs since eating, reading about, and enjoying them is probably my number 1 hobby. In my opinion, you have to start with a quality dog, otherwise it doesn't matter what you do to it. Most of the frankfurters in this country are ok, but average. I like cooking at home, and get my franks from a variety of sources. But I also like going to hot dog joints and seeking out new ones. Plus, half of the fun in my weird hobby is reading the opinions of others. Funny how what some rave about is disgusting to other people. I love Rutt's Hut, but my family thinks their dogs are disgusting. Other people travel far for a dog at Hot Dog Johnny's, but it is one of the few places that I really disliked a lot.
As I said, you have to start with a quality dog. Then you have to choose a cooking method. I like toppings occassionally, but am more of a bare bones guy. I like to try a dog for the first time with just mustard; preferably brown deli mustard. On occassion I'll have the unique relish from Rutt's Hut (which you can get to use at home) or the chili sauce at The Hot Grill. Other than that, it's mustard only. An exception would be an Italian Hot Dog which is 2 deep fried beef dogs put on circular pizza bread with peppers, onions, and thin sliced potatoes. This is more of a sandwich. I like the way the flavors blend together and complement each other without overwhelming the taste of the dog. The ingredients go together better in my opinion than the ingredients in a Chicago Hot Dog which I feel is overwhelmed by everything on it especially the spicy sports peppers.
I think that the best hot dog restaurants are in New Jersey and Conn. New York has some good dogs, but not the overall variety that you get in Jersey and Connecticut. Both of these states use all beef dogs in the kosher style as well as the German style beef and pork. And both also employ grilling, char broiling, deep frying, and combinations of these. While both states make good dogs locally, they are both willing to use franks from different areas. Many Jersey places use Conn. franks, while my top dog from Conn. uses a dog from Jersey.
Before I give my top ten, let me again reiterate that this list represents just one person's opinion. Granted, I've tried a lot of dogs, probably more than most people. But it's my favorites, and includes different types (Italian Hot Dog, grilled all beef, grilled German style, deep fried, Texas Weiner.) It's easy for me to list my favorites within each style. For example, comparing kosher style all beef to a milder German style dog is like comparing apples and oranges. I like both styles. On any given day, I prefer one to another. My 3rd favorite all beef dog may be preferable to my favorite beef and pork dog on that particular day. Plus my tastes and preferences change from time to time. So take that into consideration.
I'd also like to comment on some of the dogs that did not make my list. There are many that are popular, but to me are ordinary. People may like them because of the atmosphere of the particular restaurant (Hot Dog Johnny's comes to mind) or the particular house topping. For example, I've been to Flo's. Nothing special at all. A steamed beef and pork dog from Schultz's, which is a local meat producer. Mild tasting, but I don't like steaming a dog with pork in it. The appeal of this dog is mostly due to the onion relish. I'm not crazy about onions, so I didn't try it. Walter's is another place that I feel is overrated. A very mild tasting (bland even) dog that is 1/3 beef, 1/3 pork, 1/3 veal. A good snack, and they have a good mustard, but the dogs are ordinary. For me, the dog has to be able to stand on it's own.
My top ten, keeping in mind that the order can change from time to time according to my taste or mood.
1) Rosco's Big Dog, Hartford, Conn. A great German style dog that is slow cooked on a griddle and served on a split New England style bun. I promised the owner that I wouldn't divulge the brand used on a public forum, but it is from Jersey. I have access to it where I live, but nowhere near me does any hot dog joint use this particular dog. Rosco's dog is a nice big size, 4 or 5 to a lb. As good a dog as you will find anywhere. I know we're talking hot dogs, but this one is as close to deserving of the label "gourmet" as any frankfurter.
2) Syd's, Union, N.J. The best example of a kosher style all beef dog that I've had. A natural casing (as are all of the dogs except Charlies) 5 to a lb footlong with a perfect blend of spices. Just delicious. From Best Provisions in Newark, N.J. This is one of the dogs that I cook at home. I cook it like Syd's; simmerred in water, than charbroiled. The Star Ledger's pick as best in Jersey.
3) Charlies Italian Hot Dogs, Kenilworth, N.J. Probably my favorite thing in the world to eat. It is a meal in itself, but more of a sandwich than a hot dog. Invented in, and unique to Jersey. Deep fried beef dogs (Best's) placed in Pita like bread with peppers, onions, and potatoes. Also called a Newark style dog, after it's town of origin. Charlies makes the best example of this sandwich, better than Jimmy Buff's, Dickiee Dees, and the rest.
4) The Galloping Hill Inn, Union, N.J. A griddle cooked, German style dog. Also considered by many (N.J. Monthly) to be the best in Jersey. My favorite of this style in Jersey. (I like the dog at Rosco's better) They use a Grote & Weigle griddle frank from Conn. It has a different casing than the other Grote & Weigle franks that are used in Jersey and Conn. This results in a different amount of smoke getting through in the smoking process. The end product is slightly different and better than the dogs used by every other restaurant that uses the G&W griddle franks. Also a unique, harder football shaped bun.
5) Papaya King, New York, N.Y. A small (10 to a lb) all beef Sabrett dog slowly cooked on low heat (160 degrees). The quintessential New York dog. Cheap, spicy, and unique. For many people, Sabrett is the standard. Same dog used at Gray's and Katz's but it is fresher and cooked better at Papaya King..
6) Nathan's, Coney Island, N.Y. 8 to a lb all beef dog made for Nathan's by SMG Meats. There are many Nathan's, but none better than the original. Some use the same dog, cook it the same way (griddle) and are as good. Others use the cheaper, skinless version and cook it on the roller grill. Same style as Sabrett, but with a different spicing. Maybe the most venerable hot dog joint in America. Lives up to its reputation.
7) Super Duper Weenie, Fairfield, Conn. A quarter pound beef and pork dog from Miller's Provisions in Stratford. One dog that I will eat with toppings. I love the New Englander with mustard, sweet relish (homemade) and a strip of bacon right in the middle where the dog is split. Also cooked on the griddle, this dog has slightly less flavor than the Rosco's or Galloping Hill Inn dog in order to blend in well with the homemade toppings. But it's also flavorful enough to be enjoyed with just a little bit of mustard. A great dog.
8) Rutt's Hut, Clifton, N.J. This is the best deep fried dog in existence. Pork and beef, and made especially to withstand the high temperature of the heating oil, this dog plumps up and rips; hence the ripper. Great plain, which is how I had it for a few years until I tried their fantastic homemade relish. Sorry I waited. The single best hot dog condiment. This dog used to be my favorite, but now I think I prefer the taste that griddle frying imparts. This dog is one of the most unique in flavor and texture. There seems to be no middle ground here. You either love it or hate it. I, and most others love it.
9) The Hot Grill, Pink's, or Lafayette Coney Island. All three make chili dogs. In Jersey (Hot Grill) it's called a Texas Weiner. In Michigan (Lafayette Coney Island) it's called a Coney. In LA (Pink's) it's called a chili dog. I haven't tried the last 2, but feel that they should be included because of their regional popularity. The Hot Grill uses a mild tasting beef and pork dog made by Sabrett that complements their flavorfull chili sauce. This is the best example of North Jersey Texas Weiner sauce that I've sampled. Thin and spicy with cloves, coriander and other spices, this chili is shipped all over the country and even into other countries. The Hot Grill may sell more hot dogs than any other place in New Jersey.
10) Superdawg, Chicago, Ill. I included a Chicago style dog even though it's not one of my favorite types of hot dogs. I have had an authentic one (according to the Chicago Tribune) in New York at Danny Meyers stand in Madison Park. The Vienna frank was ok, but a little milder than what I like in an all beef dog. I had a Chicago dog and one with just the Vienna frank and mustard. I preferred the one with just mustard. It wasn't buried under all of the toppings. The other ingredients clashed with the dog and overpowered it, especially the sports peppers. But that's just my opinion. Chicagoans and others love this dog. And there's a lot to be said for a town that has more hot dog joints than Burger King, Wendy's, and McDonald's combined. I would go for the char dogs and spicier polish sausages. I picked Superdawg because I prefer the frank they use (Sinai 48) to the more common (and popular) Vienna Frank. Plus, I like the addition of a pickled green tomato (unique to Superdawg) if you're gonna have a lot of toppings.
Thanks for indulging me. I'd love to hear your opinions.