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.