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Best hot dog?

I think there are two types of foodies. People who live to experience the highest forms of cuisine. And people who live to experience every form of cuisine. The former will spare no expense in the world to enjoy flavors. The latter will explore any food cart in the world. The former is Charlie Trotter. The latter Anthony Bourdain. You get the idea. We probably all have a foot in both camps but skew towards one. I'm more the latter.

So, where's the best hot dog?

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  1. This gets discussed often, so I'm curious about your pick at the current time since your profile says

    Underrated by Chowhounds:
    A really high-quality, grilled or charbroiled hot dog.

    Are you talking restaurant, cart or raw ingrediant to bring home?

    I love chargrilled. There are not enough of them in the Bay Area. This is sort of stupid, but my most memorable hot dog in the Bay Area is at Oscar's in Berkeley. There is not a thing that is special about it ... boiled Miller dog on a plain bun with supermarket-quality tomatoes ... yet, for some reason, if I have a hot dog craving and there's no place new to try, I go to Oscar's.

    4 Replies
    1. re: rworange

      I'll check Oscar's thanks. I'm still getting to know CH, so haven't seen that thread before. I lived in Chicago and got to know good chargrilled dogs at places like Hot Doug's and Super Dawg. Looking for equivilant around here. Sometimes that craving needs to be fed!

      1. re: sgwood415

        yup, hot doug's, we definitely need one around here. there's something about a mom n pop joint with a theme song AND a remix, and duck fat fries for the proles. sf could learn a thing or two. i think hot doug's is what rosamunde in sf aspires to (haven't been in after reported change). let's be frank is a really top cart, but i've had an off day from them.

      2. re: rworange

        Happy Dog, in Sonoma on Hwy.12 near the intersection with Verano Ave. (near McDonalds) does a chargrilled dog. I just had one yesterday, and it was very well done & crispy, with lightly grilled chopped onions and tomatoes(raw). $2.85. They also serve a cheese dog and a chili dog.
        For steamed dogs and sausages in sonoma, the permanent hot dog hut outside Friedman's hardware is a good bet. I've even gone there when I didn't need any hardware.

        1. re: rworange

          Link to oscars

          1890 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709

        2. Ok ... Oscar's is the California dog that many places make ... steamed dog topped with onions, tomato, mustard, relish. One thing to ask is who makes the dog ... usually the answer is Miller's.

          You should try Kaspars with a K and Caspars with a C just for getting the Cal dog vibe.

          Even though it it grilled and a different type of Miller's dog ... long and skinny ... Smokehouse in Berkely has one of the worst, most dog-awful hot dogs I have had in the area.

          Top Dog has its fans and ships their dogs somewhere from the East, but for some reason, they don't do it for me.

          If you need a classic Chicago dog, the best so far I've tried is at Gumbah's in Vallejo ... where you might get other Chicago fixes.

          Those are mainly East Bay Places. There are a few dog places in downtown SF I haven't tried yet and I'm sure people will chime in.

          It has been a loooong time since I've had one, and the memory is not clear, but I believe Bullshead has hot dogs and they char-broil ... my favorite burger in the city.

          There's a new place called Gestalt Haus that I haven't tried yet with sausages and dogs ... this is CA, so they have a vegan dog too.

          In the South Bay I like Kirk's and Clarks which char-broil ... so shoot me ... not popular Chowhound spots.

          I've really been getting into Shwartz's sausages and I want to try a hot dog from the stand at the Friday Oakland Farmers market. That would probably be steamed.

          Depending on the supplier, those hot dogs outside of Home Depot can be good ... since you are a cart type of person.

          3 Replies
            1. re: sgwood415

              Gumbah's has a new owner with the same menu. It will be called West Side Cafe

              Gumbah's Italian Beef (see West Side Cafe)
              138 Tennessee St, Vallejo, CA 94590

            2. re: rworange

              There is a CHicago Dog place in Santa Rosa, Melanie Wong knows the name ( I never remember), also there is an ice cream place in Mendocino that has Vienna Beef dogs Chicago Style. The dogs at Clark's/Kirks/Jeffrey's look decent, but they are the big fat grilled dogs- different from say a long skinny New York frank or a medium sized midwestern dog. Best char-grilled dog I'ver ever had was a Sahlen's (Buffalo company) at a chicago place (Franks for the Memories) done Chicago style. rw- what is the place in Petaluma? oh, Lombardi's- that dog is amazing

            3. Any places out here do "rippers"? You NJ transplants should know what I talkin' about.

              1 Reply
              1. If you don't need/want/desire a grilled dog, the ones at the food counter at Costco are awesome (and cheap).

                6 Replies
                1. re: tobze

                  The Costco $1.50 hot dog and drink is one of the best deals around. I don't think I know of a better deal.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Yes Mr. Lauriston but is the hot dog a 1/4 pound Hebrew National?

                      1. re: wolverine61

                        Costco does Sinai, not Hebrew National, but they are good. The polish are slightly disappointing, but only because I definitely prefer a chargrilled Polish, but can handle the straight kosher beef dog steamed.

                        1. re: P. Punko

                          I notice Costco in the bay area does Sinai, but in Southern California Costco's its Hebrew National.

                      2. re: Robert Lauriston

                        .50 cents is cheap, really cheap...but no drink. I'd say it's pretty close. 2 Ikea dogs and a drink probably costs $1.50...but indeed, no 1/4 lb dog.

                  1. You might try Moshie's Pippic on Hayes street in SF. It's a "Chicago Style Deli" that has a bunch of dogs on the menu.

                    I haven't their dogs, I was doing a quick sammie grab during jury duty.
                    Actually, I have an aversion to hotdogs since I worked at a stand at Fisherman's Warf in highschool.

                    Also, not hot dogs, but sausages is Rosamunde's in the lower Haight. There has been talk on the board that the buns have gone downhill, but they do grill them with onions and peppers.

                    1. A dog for each end of the spectrum, Let's Be Frank in SF and the house hot dog from Bodega Casino in Bodega town. Both are grilled. And, gotta give some love to the chili dog from Hot Dog City in Santa Rosa, not grilled. Here are the trails of some other hot dogs samples over the years -

                      1. What's Up Dog now has about 6 locations here in The City. I first tried their standard dogs a while back and they were tolerable although nothing great. They were getting all of their product from Schwartz Sausage. Went back couple of weeks ago and starting talking to one of the owners. Apparently they are manufacturing their own hot dogs now which I thought were quite good. Hot dog was bun long, not real thick, with that excellent "pop" when biting through the skin.

                        I'm not sure if its the best, but definitely solid. I just know that a bad hot dog can ruin your day.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: poulet_roti

                          Thanks for the update. One of their locations at 685 Harrison @ 3rd is late hours only 10 pm - 3am on Thurs, Fri & Sat. Here's the website.

                          1. re: rworange

                            Finally tried What's Up Dog in their Oakland location in front of Grocery Outlet and they are one of the better hot dogs I've tried.

                            Hot Dog City
                            631 4th St Ste 1, Santa Rosa, CA 95404

                            Hot Dog City - CLOSED, moved
                            804 Coddingtown Center, Santa Rosa, CA 95401

                            What's Up Dog
                            2900 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94611

                            Let's Be Frank
                            24 Willie Mays Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94107

                            What's Up Dog
                            1600 Mission St, San Francisco, CA

                            What's Up Dog
                            2211 Filbert St, San Francisco, CA 94123

                            What's Up Dog
                            195 Beale St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                            What's Up Dog
                            685 Harrison St, San Francisco, CA 94107

                            1. re: rworange

                              I had no idea there's a What's Up Dog in Cow Hollow. I'll be in the area for Christmas and have been pining for a Top Dogesque experience. Thanks for the info, rworange!

                              1. re: a_and_w

                                Tried What's Up Dog and was very pleased! The buns are a bit too long -- I had to tear off a chunk from each end to make it manageable. I also would have preferred more mustard choices. But the sausages (I had a brat and a lemon chicken) were top (dog) notch. I will definitely be returning.

                        2. I "invented" a Hebrew National frank cooked and folded into a corn tortilla, coated with oil and crisped in the oven and served with chopped tomatoes, sharp cheddar, green onions, lettuce, and cilantro, topped with a bit of salsa.

                          Have I truly invented this or is there a place in the BayArea where one could buy such a thing?

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: oakjoan

                            Sorry..that's a standard "Sephardic" Hebrew Taco'Dog!!!
                            Just kidding....interesting Fusion Cuisine though!

                          2. Well, there's the bacon wrapped Sonoma-style hot dogs that people have talked about, but I guess you got to look for a cart or something.

                            My personal fave would be a simple New York-style dog like Gray's Papaya OR an orthodox Chicago Dog (steamed, Vienna Beef) or Reformed Chicago Dog (char-grilled with a Buffalo, NY brand- Sahlen's). Of course the Bay Area's one deficit is Chicago style dogs and Italian Beef (Gumbah's is supposed to be great, but Vallejo is a little to far for me).

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: P. Punko

                              Here's my post on a good facsimile of a Chicago dog
                              and I just posted on the Calif. board about the Mexican-style hot dog I had on Thursday

                            2. The Royal Frankfurter in San Rafael (on 4th st) has some good dogs. I don't know if it's the dogs that are so good or the buns!

                              I still wish I lived back in Chicago or NY though...

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: otterkap

                                Royal Frankfurter is scheduled to close on Dec. 22 according to an article I just read.
                                they couldn't find someone to take it over and continue the dog biz.....a few prospective buyers were scared off by the amount they'd have to spend to bring the place up to code. the current operators were "grandfathered" in on several code fronts.

                              2. In the world? Rutts Hutt, Clifton, NJ.

                                In the Bay Area? I dunno, maybe Kaspers?

                                1. You can get a grilled hot dog at the Royal Exchange in the Financial District (across from Embarcadero 1). I don't know what brand it is, but it is very tasty, and has some guts to it!

                                  1. I like Fatt Dog's all beef New York Kosher-style hot dog a lot. They have 3 locations in SF (Post & Market, Rincon Center, and Pine & Battery) and one at Tanforan (second floor of the food court.) My daughter likes their Kielbasa and my husband likes the hot link, but I think that the all beef Fatt Dog topped with sauerkraut and spicy brown mustard is their best hot dog.


                                    1. Try the dive called The Great Frankfurter 239 El Camino Millbrae. It's the last outpost of the'70's dog shops called The Noble Frankfurter. old timers would recall the place on Sutter and Powell in S.F.
                                      Anyway, this place is a neighborhood hangout run by a nice elderly Chinese couple. They grill the best Kielbasas, Bockwurst, Bratwurst and franks. I believe the dog supplier is Schwarz sausages. BTW, try their banana milkshakes.

                                      6 Replies
                                      1. re: gourmetwannabe

                                        Super! Is that Famous Frankfurter in Millbrae?

                                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                                          Yup, I got the name mixed up. It's next door to a hair salon and a Chinese restaurant.

                                        2. re: gourmetwannabe

                                          Wow, that is great! I recall as a child coming to San Francisco and my folks would take me to the Noble Frankfurter way back when. I would gladly drive down to Millbrae to better understand what is why i used to eat.

                                          1. re: poulet_roti

                                            I too have fond memories of the Noble Frankfurter on Powell in the early 70's. Great dogs _and_ burgers. Can't wait to check out Famous Frankfurter. Do they also have burgers?

                                            1. re: Steve Green

                                              Haha, my grandma lived near Noble and my uncle use to take to me there...but for burgers it was a few blocks up to Hippo.

                                          2. re: gourmetwannabe

                                            BUT, they don't have fresh chopped onions. Their onions are frozen or something. The owner said she doesn't want to chop fresh onions so I only went there once.

                                          3. maybe it's just because i'm usually drunk when i find them, but the best is outside of the STUD on 9th and harrison, tuesday nights after trannyshack. there is a cart serving the bacon-wrapped hotdog of deliciousness, grilled and topped with freshly grilled onions and mustard. YUM!!!

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: loghia

                                              update: i saw another of these carts outside of delirium on 16th street on saturday night. and, even sober, it was amazing! only 3 dollars.

                                              1. re: loghia

                                                Thanks for the great rec. Sounds like Mexican hot dogs.

                                                Did you notice if this is the same guy? About how late have you seen the carts? Do you know of they sell anything else besides hot dogs?

                                                1. re: rworange

                                                  different guys. i think they're mexican hot dogs but with less stuff than in the mexican hot dogs description somewhere else on this board. i always see the carts between 11 and 2, prime bar-hopping time. mission is your best bet to find one, around 16th street and mission/valencia. good luck and let me know what you think!!

                                            2. Royal Frankfurter is not just a “good dog” It is the very best in the Bay Area! I have been a customer of this mom-n-pop place since it opened about 1970. His dogs, which are flown in twice a week from back east, are grilled on the same stove from day one. All the dogs are great, but my favorite is the cheese dog. This dog is one of the most flavorful dogs you could ever have, with cheese inside the dog. His buns are always soft and great. One time, he was unable to buy the buns and the customers went crazy! I moved from San Rafael to Solano County 6 years ago and will drive back just for the dogs, my friends come in a distant second.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: phil57

                                                Agree, Royal Frankfurter is the best I've had in the Bay Area. I especially recommend the kosher dog (I had one yesterday). It's a great, friendly local spot.

                                              2. that sounds great. And, sounds like its not a Schwartz Sausage either. I was tempted to get down there but when I read it was a Schwartz, I realized I've had it before.

                                                1. I love Top Dog in the East Bay. Their Kielbasa is amazing and I pile it high with spicy Russian mustard and sauerkraut mmmm so good. I've also had good dogs at Rosamunde Sausage Grill. They are right next door to the Toranado on Haight Street. You can take your dog next door and wash it down with a lovely pint. Stand outs were the duck with figs a little on the sweet side for me but still very tasty for a gourmet dog.


                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: PateBriseej

                                                    I'll stick up for Top Dog, even though they're not the "best", I think they're good.

                                                    I only go to the TD on Durant, and late - 11pm or so. The atmosphere is very Berkeley, with the anti-tax screeds on the wall now 40 years old. The guy at the grill is always the perfection of efficient hot-doggery, with brusk perfection, knowing nods, no chit-chat, all cash, no receipts. There's a large selection of dogs - about 10 - and I go for the Hot Link and a Kielbasa, just being that kind of guy. The rolls have a nice heft to them, possibly too much on the roll side for a purist, but nicely steamed.

                                                    The condo mints are normal/broad, mustard all Beaver brand which I adore and stock at home, but do include diced tomatoes, which I dig. I always bury the dog in kraut and onions, which perhaps leaves me blind to the finer points of the meat taste. The roll holds a lot of kraut.

                                                    There's no char, and I can imagine the dogs being better. It's not chicago style or whatever, but if you like your dogs, and are near the berkeley campus, especially if it's late at night, it's worth a stop. It's either that or a fresh King Pin or the rather pointless Bondies vs Fat Slice choice. The only other late-night around there is I had a plate of noodles at the joint slightly upstairs (was Wall Berlin), all jammed full of asian guys eating noodle plates and young women sipping tapioca pearl. If you're in the mood for sit down.

                                                    So --- Top Dog is a "thing" in my book. Nothing's quite like TD. The non-Durant TDs are not quite TD, either.

                                                    1. re: bbulkow

                                                      That is one of the best write-ups about what makes people fans of Top Dog I've read anywhere. My only caveat is that when people sing the praises of Top Dog, they usually never make it clear that it is not the hot dog they are ordering, but the other sausages.

                                                      Top Dog
                                                      2534 Durant Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704

                                                      1. re: rworange

                                                        The thing is, their standard frankfurter is actually very good, but i just can't bring myself to spend $3 on a standard TD. so I always go for the Hot Link and Linguica.

                                                      2. re: bbulkow

                                                        Top Dog's standard dog (the top dog) is a Vienna. I usually order a top dog and a brat. I like the rolls, they hold up better then a soft roll.

                                                        re: the counter guys on Durant. Some have been there for quite a while. I was there with a buddy and he whispered to me "when the guy yells at you ask for a New York and smoky" (both no longer served). I did just to see. The guy blinked for a split second then asked, "Okay what will the old timers have?" We talked to the guy after it slowed down a bit. Interesting take on how the student body have changed.

                                                    2. One of the main problems concerning SF hot dogs is that you can't seem to get one ina hot dog bun--everyone seems to think they taste better in some kind of roll. SF seem to get mixed up with hot dogs and submarine sandwiches and it's really annoying. I'm from the city of Chicago as well and it's not easy to find a place that seves a char chedder cheese dog!

                                                      4 Replies
                                                      1. re: DStone5553

                                                        Those are the regional breaks. Some people find tomatoes on a hot dog weird. It's all relative.

                                                        1. re: DStone5553

                                                          I like big buns and I cannot lie!

                                                          I can only compare to NY, but I vastly prefer the big bun you get at a place like Top Dog to the puny buns you see back east. The large bun allows for better topping distribution...

                                                          1. re: a_and_w

                                                            The toast roll from Top Dog holds up very well to condiments. It also compliments a grilled red hot much better (compliments the snap of a natural casing) then a soft bun. For boiled/steamed dogs, a soft roll is okay but it all gets mushy fast.

                                                            1. re: a_and_w

                                                              it's been awhile since I've had a Top Dog but I remember finding the bun to dog ratio really off on some of their offerings. IIRC the new york is a skinny long dog that gets lost in the big bun....whereas the big sausages work just fine. but as you say, they hold a lot of condiments and that's a good thing especially if you're a student / or on a budget and you want to load up on the sauerkraut! :~ )

                                                          2. Someone in another post said Smokehouse in Berkeley has good hotdog..

                                                            I miss the wonder bread bun hotdogs at Yankee stadium or Grays papya in NY

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: alexdesignz

                                                              What is it about those buns you miss? Is it just nostalgia or is there some functional value? Help me understand because the appeal of those wonder bread buns have always been a mystery to me...

                                                              1. re: a_and_w

                                                                A nice soft bun- especially steamed just goes with the taste of the dog- either a chicago dog or a very assertive beefy new york dog. It is just kind of a taste- the slight sweetness of the bread played off against the dog and the mustard and the rest of the toppings- basically just allows you to hold onto the dog and focus on that.

                                                            2. OK Since My original post was deleted..... Maybe because I named a place with Product served......... I'm Looking in The Bay area for a hot dog served in a flour tortilla 2 to be exact rolled like a burrito with chili, cheese, & pastrami. Is there anyplace that serves this besides LA?

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: Skunk2Racer

                                                                i have never seen an Oki-Dog type creation up here in the 17 years since I moved from Southern California. Not sure is that's a bad thing or not.....

                                                              2. give me a good polish over just about any meal!

                                                                1. No one has added Top Dog yet? An East Bay institution!

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: finickygal

                                                                    See this thread,pate briseej 12/5,ML8000 12/17,gordon wing 12/17.

                                                                  2. I'll chime in for the East Bay. In Walnut Creek is George's Giant Burger on Newell across from Kaiser. Awesome long thin dog on standard bun. The treat here is the Double Dog (two dogs in one bun). Top Dog in City Centre downtown Oakland is awesome for the fresh roll. Another great dog can be found in Danville on the North End of town... name of place escapes me. For Chicago style try the Stadium Pub in downtown Walnut Creek.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: eastbaydog


                                                                      George's Giant Hamburger
                                                                      1491 Newell Ave, Walnut Creek, CA 94596

                                                                      Stadium Pub
                                                                      1420 Lincoln Ave, Walnut Creek, CA 94596