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The Best Hot Dogs in the Bay Area

Gitmo6 Apr 21, 2009 04:25 PM

Every year, a group of hot dog lovers rent a limo and visit five hot dog places to find the perfect dog. After two years, our results are as follows: We graded these places on the basis of 1 (horrible) to 10 (Superb) Here's where we are so far: Mark's Hot Dogs at 48 South Capitol Street, San Jose (8); The Happy Hound, 15899 Los Gatos Blvd, Los Gatos (9) Windy City Pizza and Barbeque, 35 Bovet Road, San Mateo. A genuine Chicago dog, Vienna beef, Vienna Poppy Seed roll, flourescent green relish, sport peppers all imported from Chicago. The ultimate expeience west of State Street (10); Famous Frankfurter, 293 El Camino Real, Millbrae (5); The Roundhouse at the Ballpark in San Mateo Park (7); The Mutt Hutt at 1904 Washington Avenue, San Leandro (9), Top Dog at 2534 Durant Avenue, Berkeley (10); Kaspar's, 4521 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland-Closed, post condolence letters on their wall of remembrance at the store on the triangular land mass; Oscar's at Hearst and Shattuck in Berkeley (8) and finally, so far, The Junket at El Cerrito Plaza in El Ceritto (3). We are planning our third Hot Dog Safari, concentrating in San Francisco, so far we are considering Red's at Pier 45, El Pelon at MIssion and Van Ness and one more try at Top Dog #6 at Center Street in Berkeley. Any suggestions, we plan on ending the tour at Gino and Carlo's Bar inNorth Baech after consuming the standard five dogs.

  1. Civil Bear Nov 20, 2011 03:38 PM

    Gotta' add Roy's Chicago Doggery to this outdated list!

    Roy's Chicago Doggery
    84 Corona, Petaluma, CA 94954

    1. m
      Malcolm Ruthven Nov 20, 2011 02:51 PM

      No one mentioned Jimbo's Hot Dogs in San Rafael. They take their dogs and sausages seriously, since that 's all they do. Soft steamed buns and lots of condiment choices. It's north of San Rafael on 101, on the frontage road just east of the freeway, south of Smith Ranch Road and north of the Northgate exit.

      Jimbo's Hot Dogs
      4288 Redwood Hwy, San Rafael, CA 94903

      1. Robert Lauriston Nov 20, 2011 01:37 PM

        Did an informal comparison of late-night hot dog options in the Berkeley area. All are cash only.

        Top Dog: the best. Large choice of sausages, the basic hot dog is top quality. Excellent sesame seed roll (quite different from last time I was there a year or two ago). Garnish bar with various mustards etc. Open until 2am daily, 3am weekends.

        Smokehouse: classic, good, no choice of sausage. Decent bun. Comes with mustard, pickle relish, chopped onions, and/or ketchup. Chili and/or cheese optional. Open until 1am except 9pm Sundays.

        Sumo Grub: choice of chicken apple, Polish, or hot link. Polish was very good. Lots of toppings available (cheese, chilicheese, wasabi mayo, kimchi, etc.), one comes free. Dog can be griddled or battered and deep-fried. Bun nothing special. Open until midnight Thurs.-Sat., 10 Mon.-Wed.

        Top Dog
        2534 Durant Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704

        3115 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705

        Sumo Grub
        2235 Milvia St, Berkeley, CA 94704

        1. mmerino May 14, 2009 02:49 PM


          O My Dawg- CLOSED
          463 2nd St, Oakland, CA

          1. mmerino May 14, 2009 02:09 PM

            Went to O My Dawg yesterday. Funny location, I think its next door to a Methadone Clinic or Drop in Treatment place so the people watching from their outside tables is a little depressing and semi-weird. The interior is tiny, maybe seats 8-10. Not inviting to sit inside unless you are 4 and take over the window. It looks uncomfortable with low seating & cubes with no back as I recall. You order at the counter and they either bring it to you or you pick up. Not unpleasant inside but not really a place to relax & hang out though they had a selection of "Oakland" & "Blender" magazines for perusing.
            I ordered the "Beer Combo"-Dawg, fries+dip & beer(4 types of bottled Spatens, I had the Fransiscaner) 10.25$
            The Dawg-YUM! Great taste and perfect snap. The woman cooking & countering said it as I said it "Its all about the snap!" She owed me a coke. Nice fatty flavor & smooth texture. Menu doesn't say where they come from. I will ask next time.

            The Bun-Ass. It was dry maybe stale too. Sad. I think maybe they want it to stand up to the toppings/sauciness? I didn't even bother eating 1 side but made an open face with the softer side.

            The Toppings-I just went for "everything." Sauteed very dark onions, sweet. Nice relish that seemed to be a mix of dill & sweet. I liked it which is unusual for me. Ketchy & Yellow mustard, basic. Definitely wasn't overdressed, just well dressed.

            The Fries-OK if you like the shoestring seasoned/almost breaded variety. I et them up just fine with the Chipotle Mayo which was great. The fries are minuscule but its a generous portion. Lots of dipping options-Lemony Snicket(they must have kids)=lemon/garlic/aioli, Road Runner=Chipotle mayo, Japanese Warrior=Wasabi mayo, Mellow Yellow=curry mayo, Indian Summer=Curry Chipotle, Curious George(they must have kids or love kids books)=Curry ketchup.

            They have a selection of sausages and specials. Basic Dawg price range 3.50-4.75. Brats, Knockwurst, Apple/Chix, Polish, Hots, Linguica w/vinegar & Paprika(Portugese?), Andouille and a veggie soy based dawg. They also do a Germanic Currywurst, chili dawg(next time I think this is the medicine for me), a bunless platter w/ 2 or 3 sausages 7.50/11.25 AND POUTINE!!!! whoa am I in Ottawa?! They do a gravy, onion, fries, chili addition for 4.00.

            Weds & Thurs they do a burger called "Flat Freddy" I want to try that its made of pork & beef.

            Sun-Thurs 1130-4
            Fri & Sat 1130-7 "or later..."
            2nd @ Broadway, oakland

            1 Reply
            1. re: mmerino
              rworange May 14, 2009 03:21 PM

              Gee ... Poutine and currywurst ... gotta get over there. Thanks for the report

            2. Jumbo_Jack May 4, 2009 10:51 PM

              Love the concept...

              But I have a question: I think a few of those places use the exact SAME dogs, but they aren't rated right next to each other... what made the stand out differences?

              3 Replies
              1. re: Jumbo_Jack
                rworange May 5, 2009 12:13 AM

                Isn't that like asking why aren't all burgers using, say, Niman Ranch beef the same? The variables are bun, condiments, prep.

                1. re: rworange
                  Jumbo_Jack May 5, 2009 03:54 PM

                  Um, sorta, but not really.

                  1. dogs are handled much less than burgers, and cooking/seasoning/storage is significantly less of a variable, unless you're talking about a Top Dog like treatment.

                  2. I was really looking at their specifics, for insight into their rating system and tastes. I think we're all aware of the variables.

                  I go through periods where I eat a lot of hot dogs... and I used to love going to the Mutt Hutt. I'm surprised anyone else really knows about it... it's a bit out of the way and doesn't keep long hours.

                  The service there is fantastic and friendly, the atmosphere is homey with the local newspapers all around. They used to use a Caspers dog but I think they changed for a while? Other than it being incredibly warm in there in the summer, it's a great place to go to.

                  1. re: Jumbo_Jack
                    rworange May 5, 2009 04:07 PM

                    Yes. I was stepping back to let the OP answer. It was just something to consider. Miller's seems to have the lock on East Bay hot dogs and is the most common served dog. That being said, that same basic dog is different at a lot of places due to being grilled, steamed, fried, etc and the additional items.

              2. rflevin May 3, 2009 12:35 PM

                I highly recommend you check out Underdog in the Inner Sunset. The atmosphere and friendly vibe can't be beat - not to mention the delicious (and healthy) dogs! Very SF.


                1. j
                  Jeni Bean May 3, 2009 11:17 AM

                  Since you are renting a limo, might be worth coming up this way for your dog: David's Hot Dog on the Green in Windsor. Chicago style, everything flown in from Chi-town.

                  Went there about a month ago and it was F-A-B! Hubby is from Madison, WI, and has spent many a weekend in Chicago, he believes it is the real deal. They were great.

                  David's Hot Dogs
                  716 McClelland Dr, Windsor, CA 95492

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Jeni Bean
                    Robert Lauriston May 6, 2009 08:29 AM

                    You don't have to go that far:

                    Flemings Chicago Style Deli
                    179 Elmira Rd Ste C, Vacaville, CA 95687

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                      wolfe May 6, 2009 08:35 AM

                      Even closer.
                      West Side Cafe, Vallejo

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

                  2. Xiao Yang May 1, 2009 12:05 PM

                    Let's Be Frank opens its Marina store in "two days" and has posted a pic of the menu. http://twitpic.com/4cmiz

                    1. Civil Bear Apr 22, 2009 04:58 PM

                      >>"...and one more try at Top Dog #6 at Center Street in Berkeley."

                      Just an FYI, but other than the room, the Top Dog on Center is exactly the same as the ones on Durant and Euclid. The calabrise with kraut, onions and brown mustard at TD is my favorite sausage anywhere.

                      1. rworange Apr 21, 2009 07:57 PM

                        Ok, let's clarify this. Did you rate the HOT DOG at top dog a 10 or one of their other sausages? Really ... the actual hot dog a 10? If it is other sausages for that rating, then Toronado might be worth looking into.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: rworange
                          chemchef Apr 21, 2009 09:17 PM

                          What about Hot Dog Depot?

                          Do you think its worth a stop for this group?

                          1. re: chemchef
                            rworange Apr 21, 2009 09:52 PM

                            It is pretty far out in Martinez. Otherwise I'd recommend that if they could get there on a Tuesday when the Martinez farmers market has Meyer's BBQ which has really great char-grilled dogs. I think someone mentioned that Meyers is at Jack London Square for the Sunday Farmers market, however that might not be in their time frame.

                          2. re: rworange
                            skwid Apr 22, 2009 01:56 PM

                            The Toronado does not serve food. I think you are thinking of Rosamunde Sausage Grill which is right next door.

                            1. re: skwid
                              rworange Apr 22, 2009 05:35 PM

                              yep. thanks

                          3. m
                            macadam Apr 21, 2009 05:58 PM

                            O My Dawg in Oakland near Jack London Square has a good reputation for their homemade dogs and fries. Call for hours as they were closed when we tried to go there late one afternoon. 463 2nd St Oakland, CA 94607
                            (510) 251-1531

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: macadam
                              Agent 510 Apr 22, 2009 01:43 PM

                              Anyone else out there try O My Dawg? I really like their extra-crispy shoestring fries with aioli, and their dogs aren't bad too. Apparently they offer currywurst and a bunch of German beers too.

                              1. re: Agent 510
                                ML8000 Apr 22, 2009 04:09 PM

                                I tried O My Dawg. I liked the dog and condiments (a very nice job) but didn't like the shoe strings but I'm not a shoe string fan and they were coated in seasoning.

                            2. n
                              Nancy Berry Apr 21, 2009 05:11 PM

                              How about Da Beef?


                              Da Beef
                              300 Seventh Street, San Francisco, CA

                              1. m
                                ML8000 Apr 21, 2009 04:53 PM

                                Let's Be Frank, a cart, has two location Pac Bell (game days) and Cristy Field (weekends?). The only thing you have to beware of is make sure the dogs are hot. A couple of the servers are only so-so and don't heat them up correctly and the dog suffers.

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

                                Let's Be Frank
                                983 Marine Dr, San Francisco, CA

                                14 Replies
                                1. re: ML8000
                                  farmersdaughter Apr 21, 2009 06:05 PM

                                  Unfortunately Let's Be Frank will not be at the ballpark this year, per Tablehopper (scroll down a bit for the story): http://www.tablehopper.com/2009/03/ch...

                                  1. re: farmersdaughter
                                    ML8000 Apr 21, 2009 10:32 PM

                                    You know, if I was an inside vendor, I'd have the same concern. It's a wonder they were there that long.

                                    I heard LBF was going to open a small store front in SF, but that's all I heard, no where, etc.

                                  2. re: ML8000
                                    bobpantzer Apr 22, 2009 02:41 PM

                                    Let's be Frank is supposed to open this week on Steiner between Lombard and Chestnut, in the space formerly occupied by Hahn's Hibachi.

                                    1. re: bobpantzer
                                      Xiao Yang Apr 22, 2009 07:12 PM

                                      According to @letsbefrank on twitter, "starting to plan our grand opening party for our new shop, 3318 Steiner St, opening first week of May."

                                      1. re: bobpantzer
                                        Xiao Yang Apr 23, 2009 05:21 PM

                                        According to the latest tweet from @letsbefrank, they "hope" to open on May 4.


                                        1. re: bobpantzer
                                          a_and_w Apr 24, 2009 08:23 AM

                                          This makes me very happy -- I've been very curious to try Let's Be Frank.

                                          1. re: a_and_w
                                            rworange Apr 24, 2009 08:31 AM

                                            If you want to make your own, Marina Meats on Chestnut sells Let's Be Frank dogs by the pound. I was extremely underwhelmed. If you try the new Steiner Shop, you can always wander over to the new Miette on Chestnut for dessert. It would be a perfect match in terms of product quality.

                                            1. re: a_and_w
                                              farmersdaughter Apr 24, 2009 10:39 AM

                                              Bi-Rite sells the dogs if you want to buy them and cook your own. They're good but I really like the Prather Ranch hot dogs better.

                                              1. re: a_and_w
                                                ML8000 May 14, 2009 02:38 PM

                                                I was in the Marina the other day and needed lunch so I stopped by LBF. The space is nicely done, small, looks like a hot dog place but modernized, comfortable, nice tables outside. The staff is pleasant. The dog was good (and hot like they should be). I had the Italian, tasty and you could tell the quality.

                                                The only minus -- $6 bucks for one dog (tax brings $5.50 to $6.02). I know they make their own dogs out of quality ingredients but psychologically that's a price barrier, for me.

                                                For quasi-street food, I think including the tax in the listed price helps sales. At $5 bucks flat I think they could do quite well and as a consumer I could rationalize things easily. However at $6 for the dog and edging towards $10 for a dog, chips and drink...that's a bit much. They did seem to pick the right 'hood for that price however.

                                                1. re: ML8000
                                                  wolfe May 14, 2009 02:58 PM

                                                  This was the new place at 3318 Steiner St. at Chestnut St? $5 for a hot dog from a fixed location in that neighborhood. Are you experiencing one of the Enterprise's spacetime continuum dislocations. Welcome to 2009 and bring money.

                                                  1. re: wolfe
                                                    ML8000 May 14, 2009 03:13 PM

                                                    Yeah Steiner and Chestnut. The space looks to be about 600 sf, although I didn't see the back. I know the rent in the area is high but $6 bucks for a hot dog?

                                                    It was tasty but I think that's a barrier, at least to me. I think at issue isn't the quality but the premise of that much of a humble dog....like a $6 taco. I could see a $7.50 combo for a dog, drink, chips but edging toward $10 you're pricing repeat/regulars out...although maybe the Marina is different.

                                                  2. re: ML8000
                                                    rworange May 14, 2009 03:16 PM

                                                    aaaaackkkk ... meltdown ... major meltdown warning

                                                    The problem I have always had with Top Dog is that people rave about the 'hot dog'. What they usually are. talking about is the other sausages

                                                    So LBF may be serving a nice Italian sausage but that is not a dog.

                                                    That being said, thanks for the report on the new place. I felt you might be nice enough not to mind my venting on the subject.

                                                    Let's Be Frank
                                                    3318 Steiner St, San Francisco, CA

                                                    1. re: rworange
                                                      ML8000 May 14, 2009 05:23 PM

                                                      Honestly, I don't like LBF's dog, not enough spice but the brat and Italian are both good. I like the Top Dog (hot dog) better then LBF's, but I also know it's full of junk...but that's a hot dog.

                                                      1. re: ML8000
                                                        rworange May 14, 2009 06:15 PM

                                                        I don't care abodt junk in a hot dog, but just thi nk TD is ordinary at best hotdog-wise. I get the impression that the actual hot dog is a quality dog.

                                            2. wolfe Apr 21, 2009 04:46 PM

                                              With this beautiful weather Melanie's find in Golden Gate park is worth a try, Happy Belly Dog.

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