From the ballpark to the backyard, hot dogs–or franks, or wieners, or frankfurters, or footlongs, or weenies–are as American as apple pie. No, more American. They’re as American as baseball. No, more! Hot dogs are as American as hot dogs. Nothing beats them, but an awful lot tops them, such as ketchup, mustard, kraut, chili … you name it. And how you take your hot dog can be as divisive as where you’ve purchased it. Though this exercise has brought the Southern Living offices to the brink of a Game of Thrones-esque war, we’ve parceled out our editors’ favorites. Given the results, I expect to see a surprising amount of sauerkraut at this year’s Secret Santa.
Melody Kitchens a.k.a. MelBellzz
Style: Plain. Always.
Joint: Tip Top Grill here in Birmingham, Alabama.
Why: It has a good, simple hot dog, and the view of the city is the best!
Jessica Thuston a.k.a. Jess the Mess
Style: Ketchup, mustard, and TONS of relish!
Joint: Five Guys in EVERYWHERE.
Why: The Kosher Style Hot Dog isn’t a fancy hot dog, but the simplicity is what makes it so good. Add a fountain Coke and it’s a great lunch.
Susan Alison a.k.a. The Copy Editing Queen
Style: Chili and slaw.
Joint: The Varsity in Atlanta, Georgia.
Why: On the way to most anywhere, by car or by plane, you gotta go through Atlanta. Might as well stop at The Varsity and get a chili slaw dog, accompanied by a leaning tower of onion rings and big squirt of ketchup all washed down with a PC (plain chocolate milk) on shaved ice. This is a deliciously indulgent, across-the-generations family tradition. Second only to my daughter, it’s my favorite Georgia dawg.
Hunter Lewis a.k.a. THE CHEF
Style: I’m a Chicago guy, all the way.
Joint: Trolly Stop in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina.
Why: It’s at the beach. You walk right up in line with all of the surfers, college kids, fishermen, and old-timers, and order your dog. My order: an original trolly (beef and pork) in the North Carolina style (mustard, slaw, chili).
Travis M. Andrews a.k.a Mr. Mandrews
Style: Ketchup. Chopped up onions. Jalapeños. You know, because I like stomachaches.
Joint: Dat Dog in New Orleans.
Why: A far cry from the Lucky Dogs Ignatius J. Reilly used to rep. Because you get a crawfish hot dog covered in crawfish étouffée. Or an alligator hot dog covered in crawfish étouffée. Or a duck hot dog covered in crawfish étouffée. Or a beef hot dog covered …
Robby Melvin a.k.a Lord of the Test Kitchen
Style: Mustard, kraut, and house sauce, whatever variation that is of the classic deep red hot dog sauce that’s usually the staple of the joint.
Joint: Sam’s Super Sandwiches in Homewood, Alabama. [Note: Robby added “Simply the best!!!” Note the triple exclaim. The boy’s not joking around.]
Why: Sam’s is unbelievably consistent. It tastes the same as it did when I began going there 20-plus years ago. Sam Graphos is a third-generation Greek Hot Dog man. His grandfather was a street vendor in Birmingham, and his father, Pete Graphos, tended a small hot dog stand for 30 years called Sneaky Pete’s. Some years ago he sold, and now there are multiples. But Sammy has held true to the old-school tradition and his food is fantastic.
Nina Iorg a.k.a. Sovereign of the Diamond
Style: Ketchup only.
Joint: Whataburger Field in Corpus Christi, Texas (AA field for Houston Astros).
Why: Serves an amazing hot dog with an unbelievable VIEW. Giant ships pass under the bridge and behind the stadium during games, and at night the lights of the sky against the ocean and bridge are breathtaking.
Hannah Hayes a.k.a Rockin’ Bangs
Style: Slaw. For the win.
Joint: Gus’s Hot Dogs in Birmingham, Alabama.
Why: Two hot dogs, in the words of a truly great band Toto, “… all the way.” Which means all of the toppings. So, why not?
Kate Robertson a.k.a. Kate the Great
Style: Slaw and mustard.
Joint: Sneaky Pete’s in Birmingham, Alabama.
Why: It’s local and all about the nostalgia for me.
Erin Shaw Street a.k.a. Gold Shoe Gladiator
Style: In general, I take my hot dog with ketchup and mustard. My husband says only Yankees put ketchup on hot dogs, but I disagree.
Joint: Good Dogs in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Why: I order the pimiento cheese dog. You can get it with bacon if you are feeling crazy, though I usually skip that and savor the house made topping.
Kevin McGough a.k.a. Nellah’s Husband
Style: Mustard, Kraut, Onions and Sauce. Sometimes I go big and get the chili slaw dogs.
Joint: Tony’s Hot Dogs in Hoover, Alabama.
Why: Family owned, friendly atmosphere and fast. Not unusual for line to be to the door but it keeps moving.