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Good Hot Dogs in GTA

This new thread about supermarket, butcher shop, or deli hot dogs seems to be necessary, because the players change from year to year, and it is difficult to get U.S. dogs in GTA.

I've been concentrating on all beef hot dogs, mostly because embee will eventually have to approve of anything I (we) might find. I would be happy with Deli-Cart Hot 'n Spicy pork dogs, but instead I'm on a search for a good all beef dog. It should have strong spicing, smoke and garlic background, juiciness, and a burst of beef flavor from a crisp skin.

The only Canadian hot dog that met these standards was Moishe's, sold here briefly two years ago.

This season, I have purchased Lester's all beef (Highland Farms), Deli-Cart all beef Angus (Costco), Schneider's hot Juicy Jumbo all beef, and PC Angus all beef. I haven't cooked the PC Angus yet. These are all about $4/lb, a premium over Red Hots, Maple Leaf, or Shopsy's.

They are all on the bland side, low on flavor, and skinless. The Deli-Cart is by far the juiciest, with good beef flavor, but I won't get it again because the fat was dominant, almost cloying.

The Schneider was the best tasting so far, and I think it was due to the pepper flakes in the mix. At least they are on the right track.

Next to try is PC Angus, but I'm not expecting much.

Are there any other good all beef, or even pork or chicken dogs out there?

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  1. since i'm someone that's never tried these U.S. products, I am curious about this as well!
    i want to know what all the fuss is about :)

    1. You make a good case for embee to start-up his own blog.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Googs

        Hot Dog Blog is a pretty good name.

      2. I have nothing to contribute at the moment. I've more or less given up. Even the Nathan's and HN dogs I brought back from Wegman's last summer are pale imitations of their former selves.

        I suspect there are now several generations that don't realize a common hotdog could have a really good flavour and texture.

        I was told that Baldwin St changed their recipe, and was given a couple of packages to try. Try I shall, but I'm not optimistic.

        33 Replies
        1. re: embee

          I'm curious to know what you thought of the Buddha dog thing, while it lasted?

          1. re: grandgourmand

            Not much. Just a ripoff. I also tried the short-lived place on Yonge across from Ryerson (Frankz?). While better than anything at the supermarket, it wasn't worth going back.

            1. re: embee

              that place was also a ripoff. I remember paying $10 for a hot dog and a pop. the hot dog was loaded, but still.

              I just wish we had good steamed hot dogs somewhere served on steamed buns.

              1. re: grandgourmand

                Try New York fries. They have nice hotdogs on steamed buns.

                1. re: Crispy skin

                  New York Fries also sells their Hot Dogs in Supermarkets...Unfortunately they are not easy to find......
                  NYF hotdogs are a regular whenever I have a Barbeque......very flavourful and everyone seems to love them....

                2. re: grandgourmand

                  A place called either Montreal Fries, or Steamies, in downtown Oshawa has a good reputation for steamed Lester's, and Quebec poutine. I haven't tried them yet (hard to get past Buster's on Friday!), but Buster and many others recommend the place, apparently owned by a West Indian who learned the trade.

                  -----
                  Steame's
                  36 Simcoe St N, Oshawa, ON L1G4S1, CA

                  1. re: jayt90

                    jayt90, I've been to Montreal Fries a few times. What you've heard is correct, Wes is from Saint Vincent and told me he learned his technique from ex-Montrealers.

                    Saying that, he uses Lesters dogs, on steamed Wonder buns. They've got a few different variations. I choose the all dressed (topped with slaw, onions, ball park mustard and relish). They're pretty close to steamies I had at the Bell Centre in Montreal a while back.

                    Would I recommend a special trip from a distance? No.

                    It is rather unique as I've never had something like it the GTA. The actual ingredients are commonplace and fairly easy to replicate at home.

                    Their poutine is generous, and made with a poutine style sauce. It's not the best I've tried but very capable.

                    Steamies:

                    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v30...

                    Poutine (I hesitate posting this pic because it had sat for 20 minutes during the car ride home):

                    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v30...

                    1. re: Dr Butcher

                      Hey Doc.

                      My favourite way to eat poutine is when the curd is all melted. The squeek thing was never an attraction for me.

                      DT

                      1. re: Dr Butcher

                        I went to Montreal Steame's today for the first time. I had a special, two Lester dogs on bun, poutine, and a drink, for $8.50.
                        This was very filling. The hot dogs were just right with cabbage , mustard, and a soft steamed bun. (A steamie by itself is just $1.35, dressed; a price that Buddha Dog could take note of.)
                        Poutine, while authentic, was too large for me and soggy as the three ingredients melted together. A delicious gloopy mess, beyond squeakiness! (Mine looked just like Dr. Butcher's picture, but after three minutes under the lid!)

                        I'll definitely go back, maybe for smoked meat on rye, next time. Wes is very chatty, and will give you lots of tips about the downtown area.

                        The address on our link maybe slightly off: the place is on Bond St. close to Simcoe.

              2. re: embee

                I am disappointed at your assessment of Nathan's. I only had a Nathan's hot dog once, about 5 years ago, and never having heard of it, I thought I was about to eat a standard food court hot dog. When I bit into it, I realized I had never really eaten a hot dog until that moment. I have been longing to repeat that experience, and now it sounds like maybe I never will...

                1. re: SNACKeR

                  My understanding (unconfirmed) is that Nathan's in Coney Island still serves the real thing, as do some of the franchise locations. I have been addicted to these since childhood and have always stocked up when I'm in the US.

                  The skinless Nathan's dogs sold at the supermarkets in the Buffalo/Niagara area had more or less the same flavour profile as the original natural casing franks, but the flavour intensity was much lower.

                  It could just be my advancing age, but I found the flavours in this year's packages to be even weaker than before. Then, again, Wegman's seems to have delisted the product since last summer.

                  They are still better than anything available here.

                  1. re: embee

                    Em

                    They sure are better than anything we can get up here. By far.
                    I haven't noticed the intensity in flavour difference but I'll try to pay attention the next time I have some. The last pack I bought was from the Costco (32/pack) in Huntsville, Al. at Christmas. I have a couple of my packs (I make smaller packs of 4 and freeze) left and it's grilling season.

                    Perhaps it's a cost cutting measure.

                    DT

                    1. re: Davwud

                      Agreed, even the ones I have currently are better than anything sold in Toronto. However, they are no longer good enough to justify a special trip or a multi-store search around suburban Buffalo, both of which I have done (to my wife's sarcastic amusement) in the past.

                  2. re: SNACKeR

                    I had my first Nathan's in Pittsburgh on Friday night. In my opinion I hadn't had a hot dog until that moment too. So delicious. We bought them for our tailgate because of the hype on this board, and even the people from Pittsburgh loved them.

                    1. re: Davedigger

                      I just went on to Nathan's website and the following appeared:

                      "3-Pack Original Recipe World Famous Beef Franks with Natural Casings - $14.99." They can be shipped by UPS to anywhere in the US.

                      They also list:

                      "2-Pack Nathan's 6" 1/4lb World Famous Beef Skinless Hot Dog (16 count) - $21.99."

                      Embee previously wrote:

                      "The skinless Nathan's dogs sold at the supermarkets in the Buffalo/Niagara area had more or less the same flavour profile as the original natural casing franks, but the flavour intensity was much lower."

                      Embee, perhaps the former are the dogs you're looking for? Maybe I'll ship some to my sister in Detroit and have her bring them in next time she comes to TO.

                      1. re: acd123

                        Maybe I should start smuggling Nathan's, Hebrew Nationals and Sabretts whenever I go up there.

                        1. re: acd123

                          Get moving guy...it would be nice to have a bunch of these for the weekend :-)

                          1. re: embee

                            saw this
                            http://www.davidrosengarten.com/conte...

                            a good rundown of various dogs
                            Man i'm totally salivating right now!
                            damn you chowhound!

                            1. re: CoffeeAddict416

                              That is a nice article, well written.
                              I would like to find some similar old school Euro-wieners in GTA.
                              I've given up on the New York -Chicago style, and I don't mind pork. But all-beef, with a hit of garlic, a casing snap, and subtle spicing would be good, too, it's just elusive here.

                              1. re: jayt90

                                has anyone tried the hot dogs from SLM?

                                On a different topic is swear i've seen bison/boar or some other game meat hot dog (in addition to sausage) at the brickworks this year. I could be remembering incorrectly though.

                                I've tried the hot dogs from the healthy butcher and they were WAY too salty for me. It was like they were pickled! I don't add much salt to any cooking though (SO's blood pressure and all) so my palate could be off but man it was salty!

                            2. re: embee

                              That'd be a real NY thing to do. Buy/sell meat out of the trunk of a car.

                      2. re: embee

                        How did the Baldwin St. dogs turn out??

                        1. re: acd123

                          Franks on Mother's Day? Thou jest sir :-) I'll be getting to them soon, and will post my experience.

                          1. re: embee

                            Wednesday looks to be a perfect day to bbq, embee. (hint, hint)

                          2. re: acd123

                            Okay folks, I tried the Baldwin St Spicy Beef Sausage with Roasted Red Pepper today. Given my past experience with this brand, I wasn't expecting much. I was pleasantly surprised.

                            These dogs are very salty - possibly too salty when tasted plain. On a bun with spicy Dijon, they were much better. In short, plump, beefy, and juicy with adequate fat and some muted, but discernible, flavours (though not of roasted pepper) in addition to the salt.

                            While something of a flop as a "spicy beef sausage", they come off quite well as an ordinary hotdog. These are now my pick for best supermarket beef frank in Toronto.

                            1. re: embee

                              Good news!

                              Now can someone tell me if they are available east of Leslie St.? I don't think even Longo's had them last year.

                              1. re: jayt90

                                Loblaw's has them at Gerrard and VP.

                              2. re: embee

                                Thanks for the info. I wonder how do these compare with the regular Baldwin Street beef hot dogs?

                                1. re: acd123

                                  I wasn't given these to sample. Since the type I tried just met my standards, I'm not planning to sample the others. Some hounds have liked them all along, though I didn't. Please try them and report.

                                  -- edit... --

                                  To expand on my comments above, these are NOT great franks. They are too salty and insufficiently beefy, but (at least to my palate) they are the best available in the GTA at the moment.

                                  We still need volunteers for the Schneider's Angus dogs.

                                  1. re: embee

                                    Like me. But my standards aren't nearly as high as yours for hot dogs. Kosher just about does it for me. Any idea if Sobey's carries them?

                                    1. re: embee

                                      If you follow my posts, I'm sure you know my feelings on Angus Beef products.

                                      DT

                            2. A few months ago I ran down the street after a Hebrew National truck that I saw on Avenue Road, but couldnt catch up to it on foot. Anyhow, I think that it was only delivering hebrew national mustard, as I have NEVER seen those US dogs here in toronto.

                              In Toronto, my favorite, by far, is the Olympic brand Hot dogs sold at Costco. these are the ones they use at their snack bar. They are not super organic no filler, etc. etc., but they are all beef and very flavourful. I would highly recommend them, and if you like them, make sure to stock up, as they tend to run out often and dont get them back for a while...

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: Teffub

                                Olympic is good, and well priced, but they are skinless, and somewhat bland although juicy. They do have fillers.I buy them when the fridge is bare and I don't want Shopsy , Maple Leaf, etc. Piller's knockwurst is also a good thing to stock up, and they have a collagen skin.

                                A bit more outside the realm is Freybe's franks. Highland Farms has them. A well smoked pork product in the German style, long and thin, in lamb casings.
                                There is too much organ taste for me, but just right for traditionalists.

                                1. re: Teffub

                                  The "Hebrew National truck" was a Nortown truck. Nortown distributed these (at least the skinless supermarket version) in Toronto for quite a few years. They were even available at Loblaws.

                                  Beef product imports were banned for political reasons during the mad cow fiasco. HN has never returned, but Nortown didn't repaint their trucks.

                                  Olympic is just another of the many labels put on Maple Leaf franks.

                                  1. re: embee

                                    Thanks for the interesting info embee!

                                  2. re: Teffub

                                    I love Olympic dogs from Costco. embee, is there any chance you know *which* Maple Leaf dogs they are? I love the idea of being able to get these at grocery store instead of having to wait until we trek out to Costco.

                                    1. re: mainja

                                      I don't buy these, but are you sure they are a Costco exclusive? They used to be called Mitchell's.

                                  3. Best of a bad lot:

                                    1. Cumbrae's. Yes, it is too salty (much). Yes, it has no casing. But, given the other options, at least it has good flavour.

                                    The dog seems to benefit greatly from a touch of browning on the skin. I stick mine on my carving fork and hold it above my gas stove's element moving it back and forth to brown and warm it through.

                                    2. As already mentioned, Piller's knockwurst. Yes, has pork in it, Yes, it isn't really a hot dog. But, given the options, at least it has a good snappy casing. Good with lots of mustard.

                                    Lastly, do let the board know if Baldwin has changed the recipe. They were almost decent last time I tried them. I could see a few changes going a long way there.

                                    1. A hot dog or frankfurter is a useful - and hopefully tasty - way to use the meat that might otherwise be difficult to sell. Personally, I don't care if it is beef, pork, chicken, etc.

                                      The best I've experienced in Toronto would be Kwinter's, and although they have not lived up to the standards of their predecessor's, Big Franks is probably the best currently. Soloway's used to be good until they changed hands 15-20 years ago.

                                      Outside Toronto, but still in the GTA, I would say Dennigers have the best hotdogs and sausages.

                                      1. I tried the PC Angus today, over two meals. Verdict: too greasy to consider seriously..
                                        I am tired of getting most local all beef hot dogs with too much fat incorporated. It should be amalgamated into the mix, not breaking like over-churned mayo.
                                        To date, the fatty ones are PC Angus, Deli-cart Angus, and Lester's all beef Angus.
                                        Does this say something about the breed?
                                        I know that a high fat content is necessary in a hot dog, but all these are oozing fat, and it stays on my palate long after the meat is swallowed. I expected better.

                                        Next will be Kwinter's, available in Loblaw's. I can't get Baldwin anywhere near the Scarboro Rouge area.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: jayt90

                                          When the fat leaks out, it's a sign of poor processing. Even franks with no binders can hold their fat when made properly. It's about things like processing temperature and proper emulsification. This isn't something I can do at home, but there's no excuse for this to happen in a modern processing facility.

                                          The Nathan's and Hebrew National franks of my childhood both oozed some fat when grilled, but neither one was unpalatably fatty,

                                          OTOH, when I first moved to Montreal, a Levitt's dog (considered Montreal's top-of-the-line) lost about half its size when grilled and left a deep layer of fat in the pan. They were disgusting. By contrast, that era's Shopsy's dogs didn't leak. I don't know what percentage of either one was fat, but I'd bet they were similar, and high, in fat content.

                                        2. If I buy hot dogs up here, I buy Juicy Jumbos All Beef. I think it's a fine hot dog. It's not a great dog but very serviceable IMHO.

                                          I try to make sure I stock up on Nathan's whenever I'm down yonder.

                                          DT

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: Davwud

                                            So far in my spring survey the Schneider Juicy Jumbo all beef Hot 'n Spicy has been good,and I will buy them again. Second place would be Deli-Cart All Beef, but scored before grilling to remove some fat. Olympic all beef would be third, also scored.
                                            I really liked the hot pepper flakes in the Schneider dog.
                                            Deli-Cart pork dogs are also good, but I haven't tried them this year. They are sold at Costco and Highland Farms in season.

                                            I'm looking forward to your report, and embee's encounter with Baldwin Street.

                                            1. re: jayt90

                                              The fat content of PC Angus is in the mid twenties. While high, this is appropriate for a frank. I don't buy into the concept of a dry, low fat sausage. The fat is the flavour carrier. I don't eat sausages for my health.

                                              The Schneider's Angus is over 30% fat. Are you planning to try these? It would be interesting to see whether this (Maple Leaf by another name) product is competently made.

                                              SNACKeR's post got me thinking. The mainstream franks around these parts were really designed to please the palate of a child.

                                              With assimilation over time, kosher franks were reformulated to match this bland mainstream flavour profile more closely.

                                              If you've never had an "adult" frank, you have no particular expectations of anything other than a bland tube steak. Thus the emphasis on hotdog cart condiment selections.

                                              Until some time in the late sixties, Nathan's "condiment selection" was spicy brown mustard. Then they added sauerkraut, which was the only other condiment served at New York delis.

                                              I've mentioned in other threads that Jack Kwinter had been in the spice business before starting his deli operation. He told me in so many words that he could make a frank that tasted just like Nathan's, but his research showed that it wouldn't sell.

                                              I'll bet these could sell today. However, as Moishe's seemed to discover, we also expect our hotdogs to be cheap, cheap, cheap.

                                              Shortly after Perl's burned down (almost two years ago), they posted a question on their website. They asked what customers would like to see at the "new" Perl's.

                                              Perl's deli products always had an extremely industrial flavour and texture. Since they would be expanding, and had a high quality image among kosher consumers, I suggested that they consider producing a new high end deli line with great, old fashioned flavours. They did not reply and, after a few days, they deleted my post. They reopen later this year, with an expanded plant and everything brand spanking new. I'm not holding my breath.

                                              1. re: embee

                                                A word about Moishe's: the price was $9/kg for jumbo size dogs, and distributed only through Costco who also sell their cole slaw, potato salad and full sour dills.
                                                That was for one season, two years ago. They did not participate in product promotion, whereby up to 20% of profits can be diverted into tastings or better product location
                                                Deli-Cart, Shopsy's, and Olympic are frequently demo'd, and get better space.
                                                Perhaps Moishe's should have had their product demonstrated, or placed in Longo's and Highland Farms, or even Loblaws. But that's water under the bridge, and there was no promotion when they needed it.

                                                Moishe's dry aged steaks are available at Costco.ca, but are expensive compared to The Perfect Steak, an online competitor.

                                          2. Here is a newspaper story on the current popularity of the lowly hot dog

                                            http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/f...

                                            I see that the Healthy Butcher has tapped into this trend, with a nitrate free, organic beef-chicken dog.

                                            Any information on taste, appearance and pricing would be appreciated,

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: jayt90

                                              Curiosity got the better of me, and I went to the Healthy Butcher on Eglinton, to purchase some hot dogs.

                                              They are small, chunky, packed in lamb gut, and spiced like Merguez.

                                              $20/kg makes them top price in the city. Spicy, but no curing agent is used, other than salt. No smoke.

                                              I grilled two, but could only eat one.
                                              There is absolutely no hot dog or frankfurter flavor. I would treat them like an all beef, non cured Moroccan or Sicilian finger sausage.

                                              Pass.

                                               
                                               
                                              1. re: jayt90

                                                Does HB really call that a hot dog? The raw version picture, they don't look emulsified, which is a pre-requisite to be called a hot dog, I think.

                                                1. re: grandgourmand

                                                  That's most assuredly not a hot dog.

                                                  1. re: grandgourmand

                                                    In the globe article, they claim to emulsify in mustard rather than milk.

                                                    1. re: jayt90

                                                      That's BS!

                                                      If that was all it required, you and I would be able to make frankfurters at home. The texture of a good frankfurter has nothing to do with milk or with mustard.

                                                      The texture of a frankfurter comes from the manufacturing process. The protein, water, and fat are emulsified by vigorous machine mixing. Copious amounts of ice are added to very finely ground meat to keep the mixture cold.

                                                      While you can add milk powder, soy protein, gluten, and all kinds of other fillers to a hot dog mixture, good ones don't contain more than trace amounts of these ingredients and usually don't contain any of them.

                                                      The sausages you tried didn't taste like frankfurters for the exact reason you indicated - they aren't! I can make a merguez sausage. I can't make a hot dog - even a poor one. Some things just aren't meant to be "healthy".