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Mar 4, 2002 09:46 PM

The Quintessential (Florida) Hot Dog

  • r

The New York City version of Chowhounds has recently run a question asking what is the "quintessential hot dog" and where can somebody find one? Since it may be a while before I am back in New York to sample the suggestions on that website, I thought I'd ask the same question closer to home (From NY, Florida has been home for just about thirty years!) I personally am still partial to Sabretts, which are the street food of New York City. Thankfully, they are available in grocery stores down here, for grilling. But in Florida, there is the brand name, "Belly Buster", a pork/beef bigboy packed by The New Best Packers in Palatka. Accept no substitutes! We used to be able to buy Belly Busters at Gannon's Meat Market in Crystal River, FL, but they changed hands and discontinued Belly Busters. We have found sources for them, again in Ocala and Leesburg- meat markets only. We know of no resturant or hot dog stand that does Belly Busters. Just outside of Leesburg, the little Spillway Tavern, Hwy 44, Lisbon, FL serves up a "West Virginia Hot Dog," which is known for its toppings: chili, cole slaw, and optional onion. Some parts of West Virginia don't use cole slaw for their authentic 'dog, I have recently learned.
O.K., I got us started! What is your "Quintessential (Florida) Hot Dog?" Where do we get one?

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  1. The deep-fried half-smoke sausage topped with coleslaw
    and Crystal pepper sauce at the Rio Bar and Grill in
    Rio, Florida was my all-time favorite. Alas, the Rio
    Grill is no more...and, this may seem unoriginal, but
    I like the grilled Nathan's they serve along the turnpike at the rest areas. Two with kraut and mustard, please!

    1. Alas Ric, methinks you are on a quest similar to the one Ponce DeLeon was on in his search for the Fountain of Youth in Florida.The only "quintessential" Florida foods I can think of off-hand are stone crabs, key lime pie, hearts of palm salad, turtle soup (as served in the Keys), and some various gator dishes. (Florida chowhounds feel free to add to this list)Getting back to the "DOGS"; here in Ft. Lauderdale we have more than a few options, BUT none are native to Florida. For instance, we have: Vienna Dogs, served Chicago style Skyline Dogs, served Cincinnati style Sabrett's, served New York style Nathan's, served New York style A new place in town serving Rochester, N.Y. style dogs and another new place serving New Jersey style dogs (have yet to try either one out).As you can see --- all imports! In my 35 plus years in the Sunshine State I have yet to see a sign advertising "Florida Style Hot Dogs".

      7 Replies
      1. re: FrankT

        Here's an addition to your list that I recall with great fondness. Perhaps you can tell me if this ritual is still practiced:

        Do you know of donat broth? Or perhaps conquina broth? They're the same tiny bivalve that much of the concrete in Florida used to be made with. I don't recall all of the particulars but they were gathered on a certain tide and a particular phase of the moon, when the donats were plentiful. You'd shovel the clam-laden sand into a sort of strainer device and let the waves wash the sand through the strainer leaving just the tiny clams. Take home a bucket of the morsels, put 'em in a pot on the stove and steam until they gave up their ambrosial broth. It took a lot of them to make a cup or so of broth. Once tasted, one would never, ever forget the delicate flavor.

        1. re: FrankT

          Come to think of it, the best "dog" I've had in Florida
          is the Grouper Dog served at the Thursday night arts
          and crafts show by the Sailfish Marina on Singer Island. A big chunk of fresh-fried grouper on a hotdog
          bun w/cocktail sauce. The lines are long and they sell out early. If ever there was a quintessential Florida
          'dog, this has to be it!

          1. re: flavrmeistr

            Flavor Dude - You've said it all about Florida's pathetic hot dog situation. But, seriously, do yourself a favor and go to Publix, get the Boar's Head natural casing dogs (I like pork and beef but many like the all beef, too), a bottle of Sabrette brown mustard in the refrigerator section, some fresh hot dog rolls, and perhaps some green relish and grill those babies up in a medium hot pan with a bit of salad oil. If you like a good hot dog, Go There!

            1. re: Chuck

              Flavor Dude,

              Since Boar's Head is based in Sarasota, doesn't that make Boar's Head natural casing hot dog the quintessential hot dog of Florida? I've never had it, but I will try it. Presumably, they would be available at Publix, since Publix carries a full line of their products.

              But seriously, Florida has a lot of good hot dogs (probably Boar's Head, too--their other products are excellent), but there is no Florida-centric hotdog. Mostly, we get our hot dogs--and the style in which they are dressed--from other states.

              1. re: gfr1111

                I was wrong, wrong, wrong. Sorry. I lived in Sarasota for 13 years and took it as an article of faith that Boar's Head was headquartered in Sarasota, Florida. Apparently, this is a regional headquarters, not the Brunckhorst Company's main headquarters.

                1. re: gfr1111

                  they built that headquarters (at least according to rumor) because of its proximity to Lakeland -- homebase for Publix, who carry a huge variety of Boars Head in their instore delis.

                  1. re: gfr1111

                    No, you are correct Brunkhorst Provisions, a privately held corporation, makers of the Boars Head brand of deli meats, cheese, etc. has been based in Florida since 2001. Most production remains in the New York City area

          2. The Sabrett hot dog sold in Florida is not a real hot dog! Its a skinless hot dog. The only one presently in Florida that is a real dog can be found at Publix - Boar's Head All Beef or Boar's Head Beef and Pork Hot Dog. End of story. Now, do you want to pay $4.99 a pound for hot dogs? That's what a real one costs here. And, there in lies the problem. Most don't want to pay the price.

            As a former owner of a hot dog restaurant, I can tell you hounds that there is a substantial difference in pricing between a true natural casing dog and the garbage they are selling you in most supermarkets and restaurants. "Ball Park" "Nathan's Skinless" forget it.

            Its just like a real bagel vs the garbage Einsteins is trying to pass off on the public. Sadly, most people don't have a clue until they are presented with the real thing to compare.

            The hot dog captial of the world is not New York, but rather New Jersey! There, Hounds have two choices - A unique product, The Texas Weiner, which is a deep fried pork dog made with a special natural casing dog -Its produced by Thuumans and found at some famous hot dog places - Rutt's Hut, Callahan's, Hirum's, Nu-Way, etc. They top it with a light chili sauce and either chopped onions or push cart onions which have a tomato sauce base. They also have grilled beef dogs - the true Sabrett "6 to 1's" with the natural casing, all beef dog that we used at our restaurant - its the absolute best beef hot dog although you will get an argument from a very famous all natural casing dog made in Wisconsin.

            The real deal Sabrett is made by Marathon and it is served with their own special light brown mustard that is made with horshradish and must be kept refrigerated. That mustard is available in Publix here in Florida, but sadly not their natural casing hot dog. Publix use to carry it but people did not want to pay the price so now they sell their skinless dog, which is terrible.

            So, get the Boar's Head natural casing dog and the Sabrett mustard. Grill the dog and enjoy a real one ...Go there!

            1 Reply
            1. re: Chuck

              Great stuff. I am from North Jersey and I know he speaks the truth. I now live in Washington and I am searching for New Jersey style Hot Dog Sauce. Maybe the writer can tell me his recipe that he used or tell me were I could buy some. I used to get Teddy's Sauce from Paterson, N.J. but ,alas, they are no more. THANKS.

            2. I can't vouch for the New Jersey-style hot dogs that others were asking about, but in our hot dog place in Bayonne, NJ, Petridis', the No. 1 beverage to enjoy with your Sabrett dog was Yoo-Hoo in a can. When you walked into the place, they had a small soda fountain behind the counter, and a full-size glass-door fridge filled with only Yoo-Hoo cans. It sounds kinda weird at first, but I can't have it any other way now! :-)

              1 Reply
              1. re: Covert Ops

                Right on Hound - To order a Texas Wiener, Italian dog or Griddle Dog in NJ without a ice cold Yoo Hoo (I like the bottled variety) is a sin! Its the only way to go -Umm - Florida Hounds - Go there!

              2. I've never been to Florida, so I can't speak about their dogs; but I agree with Chuck that New Jersey is the Hot Dog Capitol of the world. I am a letter carrier in N.J. and have tried many places here and in N.Y. I've also tried mail order and can tell you that you won't get better dogs than in N.Y. or N.J. Unless of course, there are former Jersey guys in your state that open a hot dog joint using Jersey Dogs. The famous Sabrett brand is associated with N.Y. because all the street cart vendors use them, but they are made by Marathon in E.Rutherford, N.J.
                I have many people on my mail route who live in N.J. and move to Florida for the winter months, and they all say that nothing in Florida compares with what you get in N.J. We have Sabrett and Best's which make the best all beef franks available. The only thing that comes close is Usinger's Angus Franks from Wisconsin. A quality dog, but too fat, and they tend to overdue it with spices. Marathon (makers of Sabrett) also make hot dogs for Papaya King, Gray's Papaya, and Katz's deli in New York City. These are similar to the Sabretts and excellent. These places grill their dogs which imparts a better flavor than boiling. Best Provision makes a quality beef dog and supplies such famous Jersey dog houses as Syd's, Jerry's and all the Italian Hot Dog joints (more on this later)
                In addition to the spicy, kosher style all beef dog; you can get quality pork/beef dogs. Thumann's in Carlstadt, N.J. is famous for this type. Don't confuse a pork based dog with an inferior product. While not spicy (garlicky, paprika) like an all beef, the Thumann's dog has a great flavor. The dogs that have poultry are inferior. There are many German butchers in N.J. that make a quality dog. Union Pork Store, Fritz's, and Gaisers are 3 in Union alone. I would say that Thumann's and Kohler's make the highest quality pork/beef franks in the world. I'm not sure of the percentage, but these dogs are between 60 and 75% pork. Great on a grill. Thumann's makes a special dog for deep frying that is available mainly in North Jersey at the places mentioned by Chuck. There was a hot dog tasting recently in Cooperstown N.Y. I read an article about it somewhere online and the author, who comes from Wisconsin and is familiar with the Usinger brand, said the Thumann's was the best dog she ever ate.
                Another style of dog that is available nowhere else but Jersey is the Italian Hot Dog. This consists of an all beef dog (2 for a double) deep fried and put on a circular piece of pizza bread and topped with potatoes, peppers, and onions. Nothing like it in the world! Charlies Famous makes the best example of this style, while Jimmy Buff's is the original. They have a website (Buffs). I'm not sure of the web address, but do a search and you can find it. They ship if you don't mind paying for it.
                If you Floridians really want an authentic Jersey dog, go to They have an 800 number and they ship Sabrett Hot Dogs with the natural casing! See what you are missing out on.

                4 Replies
                1. re: John Fox

                  A hoist of the mug and a tip o' the tile to you for a
                  most edifying post, my friend. You can always count on
                  a mailman, cabdriver or under-employed musician for the
                  straight skinny on life's more sublime pleasures. And,
                  while I can certainly appreciate a quality 'dog (or two
                  or three), I am flat amazed at the depth of your knowledge and devotion. I salute you.

                  1. re: flavrmeistr

                    I thought I knew a lot about hot dogs, but this dude should write a book about them! He's the man!

                  2. re: John Fox
                    Michele Cindy

                    Is the Charlie's that you mention the one in Kenilworth? They had the best, are they still around? My dad would take me there a few times a month. If it's still around, it's worth the trip, even if you are a bit far away.

                    1. re: Michele Cindy

                      Yes; Charlies Famous is alive and well! I went there so many times I wound up getting my daughter a job there. Nice to get a double Italian Hot Dog whenever she is working. This place is better than Jimmy Buff's and Dickie Dees. Bigger sandwich, special homemade mustard, thin sliced potatoes, and great fries. They also make a killer cheesesteak and put it in that large circular bread.