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Where can I find the Best Hot Dog?

I am having a party and will grill up hot dogs. I want to use the best hot dog out there, I really like the red hots. Does anyone out there have any leads on a company? Doesn't have to be the Bay Area, I will ship the dogs here if I have to. I am only interested in Flavor! Thanks

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  1. Five Dot Ranch at the Oxbow Market in Napa

    For suggestions on hot dogs ouside the Bay Area, it is best to post on the General Board.

    1. I really like the dinner franks from 5 Dot Ranch. Its has a spot in the Oxbow Market Napa. They also have a hot version. Their site says they send meat to Avendanos, Bi Rite and Baron's. Nice snap, good taste.

      1 Reply
      1. re: wolfe

        The 5 Dot franks are 1/4 pounders. Marin Sun Farms make a delicious thinner, longer ~7/Pound.

      2. If you've got local suggestions for bestbyfarr, please post them here. For mail order sources, please post on General Topics here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5801...

        1. For me the gourmet dogs either aren't spiced right and/or texture isn't right (too fine, not enough fat). Subjective of course but hot dogs are the original junk food...all the parts that get just ground up.

          I like Vienna or Miller with Vienna making a better red hot and Miller a little more subtle. You can get Vienna (un-grilled) from Top Dog. You can get Millers at Smart and Final. You can also mail order Viennas from Chicago or find a local distributor.

          4 Replies
          1. re: ML8000

            In that category, I think Schwarz is the best. I don't know what stores to buy them since I've only had Schwarz when eating at hot dog stands. The ones at the stands have a casing and lots of snap. I think there might be a skinless version in the supermarkets just as Miller's sells a skinless dog. Miller's dogs with casing can also be found at Raley's / Nob Hill.

            Yeah, I had not found a good gourmet dog until 5 Dot. Not one of the meat counters in the Bay Area makes a decent dog. Whole Foods is just pathetic (though the make excellent chorizio and Italian sausage)

            1. re: rworange

              I believe Berkeley Bowl might carry Schwarz but I'm 100% on it. Also there's a wholesaler/retailer on Mission near 14th St (SE corner, near the bus stop) that sells them pretty cheap, if I recall. There was a thread here with about the place, but I can't find it. I think Melanie Wong mentioned it. My mechanic use to be around the corner. They have a Schwarz sign on their non-descript building.

              1. re: ML8000

                I have seen a selection of Schwarz hot dogs & sausages in the packed meat counter at Mollie Stones (California@Fillmore, SF).

            2. re: ML8000

              Also in that category, Saag's makes an excellent beef frank with a snappy natural casing and a hint of heat. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3065...

            3. Prather Ranch in the SF Ferry Building has good ones.

              1. Top Dog in Berkeley sells their sausages, buns and condiments to people to cook at home. They have quite a variety of dogs, including some poultry and vegetarian, that should appeal to any of your guests preferences. Here is the page on their web site that gives quantities, descriptions and prices.


                1. I, too, have had great success buying hotdogs and sausages from Top Dog. Make sure to pick up some buns and condiments, as well.

                  17 Replies
                  1. re: a_and_w

                    Another vote for Top Dog. It's an instituton in the Bay Area, so it will add some novelty and their dogs really are some of the best. As others mention, there are a ton of varieites to chose from so you can please everyone. I highly recomend their chicken apple sausage...yummm time for a trip to East Bay!

                    1. re: jdinsf

                      A sausage is not a "hot dog" and the original poster specified "hot dog"!

                      Top Dog is indeed an institution, although the last couple of times I tried them it was hard to understand why. The sausages were dried out and the bun as waaaay to big. It was great in its day, but there are so many wonderful sausages out there now, I don't think Top Dog is anything special anymore.

                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                        My point exactly. When I was first lured to Top Dog, I posted how disappointed I was. Lots of people responded (who formerly pushed the 'hot dogs' there) that what they really ordered most of the time was xxx sausage. I will say they do have a nice selection of toppings including hot saurkraut ... few places have saurkraut period and it is often cold.

                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                          Correct, the OP did specify hot dogs... but then mentioned red hots which to me takes it into "sausage" territory. I guess I'm confused as to what the difference is ~ I think all hot dogs are sausages but not all sausages are hot dogs. To me, a forcement, usually but not always shaped into a tube and usually, but not always contained in a casing, synthetic or otherwise, is a sausage. Mortadella, braunschweiger, hot dogs ~ all predominantly fine ground pork (and other meats) fat and seasonings are all sausages in my mind. I guess I interpreted the question wrong.

                          As for the quality at Top Dog, since I doubt they have changed their simple business model, any dried out weenies are likely employee laxness. And while the bun is too big for skinny pups like the Top, it works well for a plump Calabrese. As a one size fits all it works and any excess can usually be left off as pup bones. I am curious about where you get these wonderful sausages you mention ~ could you recommend a place, preferably East Bay, with the selection, prices, dress your own casualness of Top Dog? While I like Top Dog, I could always trade up!

                          1. re: tomatoaday

                            Sorry, I meant that there are sausages available for cooking at home -- to me, sausage is the ultimate convenience food: heat and serve on its own or cut it up and add it to something. I made some tasty Thai-inspired soup last week with some homemade turkey stock, sliced Thai-curry sausage, bean-thread noodles, cilantro and a splash of lime: elapsed time, 10 minutes.

                            You're right, I don't know of any place that has a better selection of prepared sausages than Top Dog, although there are some Top Dog knock-offs that have essentially the same menu. Oh wait, Rosamunde, although I've never been there personally.

                            Rosamunde Sausage Grill
                            545 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117

                            1. re: tomatoaday

                              It can get really confusing if one considers all the names used around the country. In Rochester, NY, a red hot is essentially whatever you first thought of as a hot dog. White hots are made from unsmoked, uncured meats often with some dairy (milk) added to make them lighter looking and lighter tasting.

                              To make it even more fun, grey hots describes bratwurst and other hot dog variants. These names never describe, pardon me, non-hot-dog types of sausages.

                              1. re: tomatoaday

                                >>"And while the bun is too big for skinny pups like the Top, it works well for a plump Calabrese."

                                Oh man-o-man-o-man, I don' think I have ever had a better sausage, hotdog or otherwise, than a Calabrese with hot mustard, onions and kraut at Top Dog!

                                1. re: Civil Bear

                                  Ditto, and I thought I was the only one who thought saurkraut went well with the Calabrese. I always ask for the outside crunchy to get a little extra texture. I could go for one now for breakfast!

                                  1. re: Civil Bear

                                    Civil Bear, we may have different prefs re burritos, but we are in complete agreement re the calabrese, which is my favorite sausage at Top Dog. This is actually my main beef with the inferior "What's Up Dog" clones in SF -- they never, ever seem to have the calabrese.

                                    1. re: a_and_w

                                      LOL, but the question is: do you add sauerkraut?

                                2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                  We can agree to disagree re the taste, Ruth, but I don't get your comment about the OP requesting "hot dogs." Top Dog has two different "hot dogs" (the Top Dog and the German frankfurter) available on their menu.

                              2. re: a_and_w

                                Frankly ... if I were the OP I'd try the actual hot dog. I was unimpressed. When people start talking Top Dog, often what they are talking about is the other sausages which are very good. Buy a hot dog from one of the stores to determine what you think.

                                1. re: rworange

                                  Point well taken re most people referring to the other sausages at Top Dog. I also really like the buns and self-serve toppings (a rarity outside the Bay Area for some odd reason). Who does better hot dogs specifically?

                                  1. re: a_and_w

                                    For the OP's question, I like 5 Dot.

                                    For ready made ... whatever I try next. It depends on where you are looking and if it is an established business.

                                    If we are talking settling because Top Dog has a good condiment selection and a business that is readily available ... no, given all that I would still not buy another hot dog there unless nothing else was open ... even then, I'd try one of the other sausages on the list.

                                    I still mourn the closed Kaspar's on Telegraph. That was my favorite hot dog.

                                    Some of the better hotdogs I've had were
                                    - Meyers BBQ sold at various Farmers markets http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/544409
                                    - Hot Dog Depot (Martinez ... also described in above link. They use Swartz)
                                    - Lombardi's (Petaluma) Vienna beef and insane toppings http://chowhound.chow.comly /topics/387352
                                    - Oscar's (Berkeley) This is stupid because there's not one special thing about it, but it is the only local hot dog I've ordered repeatedly .. actually go to when I have a hot dog craving. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/37579
                                    - Desi Dog (Berkeley) I prefer their Miller dogs over TD (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/406992
                                    - The Mexican hot dog lady (Richmond) griddled in bacon fat, pedigree unknown, probably FUD ... bacon fat will cover many sins frankly http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/513659

                                    I need to see what's going on at Royal Franks in Santa Rosa. The owner was supposed to retire and hung around a while. Don't know if it was finally sold or not.

                                    That reminds me I want to try the French hot dog at Cafe Saint Honore

                                    1. re: rworange

                                      Thanks for the great list, rworange! I remember Kaspar's (not to be confused with Casper's) fondly myself. Do you have any suggestions for prepared dogs in San Francisco?

                                      1. re: a_and_w

                                        I haven't done too much hot dog sluething in SF. The one place I liked closed.

                                        1. re: a_and_w

                                          Speaking of defunct hot dogs, there use to be Noble Dog on Polk way, way back in the day.

                                2. If you wanna order online and be different, go for Czech style pencil links. They are like a BBQ hot link but skinner and longer to fit perfect in a bun. I grew up in South Texas and this was the only weiner served in hot dogs. I never had a frankfurter until I went to college.

                                  You can buy them here:

                                  1. Melanie Wong liked the Happy Belly dog at the stand in Golden Gate Park. (Kimchi! Kewpie!) The bite I tried had nothing but ketchup and seemed pretty ordinary. I enjoyed the lemon chicken sausage, though. As hot dog stands go, it's pretty nice. Hot peppers, relish, onions -- and even a place to wash your hands.

                                    1. I can't believe no one has mentioned Let's Be Frank dogs, a truly delicious dog that is local and sustainable...made from grass-fed beef, lamb casing that keeps it juicy and snappy, and organic spices. A dog that even hot dog haters love. You can buy them in retail at Andronico's, Bi-Rite Market, and other selected locations in SF and around the area.. At their cart at the Warming Hut, they use Acme buns which are made from pain de mie and really excellent, you can buy them from the shop in the Ferry plaza.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: wlweiden

                                        Let's Be Frank has gone downhill a bit, both reports of the store bought dogs. While I thought their hot dog was good, it lacked the spice and fat of a decent hot dog. I had a dog and Italian at LBF (in LA) and it was great and the server was great as well. Ironically I had the dog and brat at AT&T a week later and it was totally lacking...both served luke warm-ish. The server was a bit of a dolt.

                                      2. I really like Nathan's hot dogs with real casings. They are available at most Safeways in San Francisco and at Nob Hill and Raley's Markets on the Peninsula and in the South Bay. Make sure that you get the ones with real casings, not the flabby skinless ones that they sell in the same section of the supermarket.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Nancy Berry

                                          A second rec for Nathan's... it's important to get the one's with natural casings. They are wonderful, they grill up nice and have a slightly different spice than some of the other Nathan's varieties.

                                          1. re: virtualguthrie

                                            I've never been particularly impressed with Nathan's, whether store-bought or otherwise. The natural casings have a nice snap but something is off about the flavor.

                                        2. I dont know if they will cater to your needs. But Top Dog in Berkeley has amazing hot dogs, as well as chicken links! But it won't hurt to call and see if they will. Great food there!

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: liltamby5

                                            I don't understand why no one mentioned Top Dog before.

                                            1. re: wolfe

                                              There''s a whole long discussion about Top Dog at the top of this thread. I'm not a fan

                                              1. re: rworange

                                                Hmmm...I'm getting the feeling rworange doesn't like Top Dog LOL!

                                            2. FYI: Top Dog's hot dogs are Vienna.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: ML8000

                                                I don't think they are, but I'm too lazy to search. It seemed it was some brand that wasn't common in the Bay Area, but not one of the obvious big Chicago brands.

                                                1. re: rworange

                                                  I stand corrected. I happened by Top Dog today and got a lemon chicken. I asked where they got their regular hot dogs and they said Chicago Red Hots, or Red Hot Chicago. A special blend for top dog that includes steer meat...according to the guys there.


                                              2. What?! Can't believe that nobody here has eaten a $1.50 hot dog at a Costco. You even get a soda with it. Onion, relish, deli and regular mustard, catsup, and if you ask sauerkraut.

                                                5 Replies
                                                1. re: toitoi

                                                  Many but it's flabby, with tax it's $1.62 and they are frequently out of sauerkraut. BTW what is the ketchup for? OP asked for the best not the cheapest.

                                                  1. re: wolfe

                                                    You have to ask for the sauerkraut at Costco -- ask for two because the tiny container they give you isn't enough to cover the hot dog.

                                                    1. re: Nancy Berry

                                                      You are probably the reason they have run out when I ask. ;-)

                                                    2. re: wolfe

                                                      I'd say the cheapest and worst hot dogs around here are the ones at Golden Gate Fields. Bleh! (p.s. most people I know who grew up in California like ketchup on their dogs.)

                                                      1. re: Glencora

                                                        The GG Field dogs are bad but I only get them on $1 day. I think they're Oscar Myer or worst.

                                                        P.S. I don't think the ketchup on the dog is an exclusively California thing. I think it's more a kid thing, or grown up kid thing.

                                                  2. Being from NYC and growing up with Hebrew National and Nathan's- I have found that neiman-ranch Fearless franks,which were available at Trader Joes-untill recently for $2.99 - are the best I have ever tasted- You can purchase them(for $6.99 @ Andonico's
                                                    All other dog's are second rate to NR