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The Best Hot Dogs in the Bay Area

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.

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  1. With this beautiful weather Melanie's find in Golden Gate park is worth a try, Happy Belly Dog.
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5536...

    1. 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.

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      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

        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

          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

          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

            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

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

              http://twitter.com/letsbefrank

              1. re: bobpantzer

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

                1. re: a_and_w

                  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

                    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

                      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

                        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

                          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

                          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.

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

                          1. re: rworange

                            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

                              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. How about Da Beef?

                    http://www.dabeef.com/

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                    Da Beef
                    300 Seventh Street, San Francisco, CA

                    1. 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

                        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

                          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. 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

                          What about Hot Dog Depot?
                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5945...

                          Do you think its worth a stop for this group?

                          1. re: chemchef

                            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

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

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

                              1. 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.

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

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Jeni Bean

                                  You don't have to go that far:

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

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    Even closer.
                                    West Side Cafe, Vallejo

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

                                2. 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.

                                  http://www.myspace.com/underdogorganic

                                  1. 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

                                      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

                                        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

                                          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. 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

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

                                      2. address

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

                                        1. 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.

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                                          Top Dog
                                          2534 Durant Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704

                                          Smokehouse
                                          3115 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705

                                          Sumo Grub
                                          2235 Milvia St, Berkeley, CA 94704

                                          1. 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.

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

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

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