Lesage, West VirginiaThe atmosphere at Hillbilly Hot Dogs is as unique as the menu: You can eat in a rambling shack with license plates and graffiti all over the walls, or down your meal in an old school bus. You can even hold a “Weenie Weddin’ ” at the chapel. As for the weenies themselves, they range from classic to crazy and include plenty of chili sauce and deep-fried options. The king of the menu is the 15-inch, 1-pound Homewrecker, with jalapeños, peppers, onions, nacho cheese, habanero, chili sauce, mustard, lettuce, slaw, tomato, and shredded cheese. Godspeed.
Columbus, OhioIt’s almost worth a trip to Dirty Frank’s just for the “Ask Me About My Wiener” shirts. But this joint is popular for way more than its sense of humor. There are hand-cut fries, “tot-chos” (a mashup of tater tots and nachos), mac and cheese bites, and specialty hot dogs for days. Some of the more offbeat options include the Classy Lady, with cheese sauce and crushed potato chip or Cowgirl Carmen, with swaps in crushed Fritos; the Dog From Hell, with “satanically spicy Giardiniera, red pepper flakes, and soothing cream cheese”; and the Archie’s Big Boston, with baked beans, onion, and cheddar.
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Medford, OregonDedicated carnivores will want to take a detour off Interstate 5 in southern Oregon and seek out this downtown hot dog stand. At Victory Dogs, the specialty is hot dogs topped with other kinds of meat, which means stomach-busting creations such as the Meat Apocalypse, which is two hot dogs topped with salami, pepperoni, pulled pork, pastrami, ham, roast beef, capicola, meatballs, bacon, cheddar, swiss, and mozzarella. Not enough meat? The Crack’in is two hot dogs topped with German sausage, a Louisiana hot link, salami, pastrami, pepperoni, capicola, pulled pork, roast beef, sausage, meatballs, ham, bacon, cheddar, swiss, and mozzarella.
Los AngelesThis Hollywood institution has been slinging hot dogs since 1939, when it started as a pushcart selling dogs for a dime and sodas for a nickel. Today, it’s still going strong, with a star-studded clientele, some 15 locations across the country, and lines out the door. You can opt for a chili dog given the nostalgia factor, but there are zanier options. They include the Pastrami Burrito Dog, a tortilla wrapped around two hot dogs with grilled pastrami, Swiss cheese, chili, and onions; and the El Mandril, a footlong dog with grilled onions, guacamole, lettuce, tomatoes, jalapeños, and bacon.
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Philadelphia and New Brunswick, New JerseyThe menu at Destination Dogs is all about international flair, and if you’re a frequent traveler who knows your airport codes, you can place your order even faster. The One Bite in Bangkok (BKK) features Cantonese sausage, cucumber salad, pepper jelly, crushed peanuts and cilantro; the Charles Dog Gaulle (CDG) includes duck sausage, duck confit, shaved foie gras, cornichons, red onions, Dijon mustard, and scallions.
Charlotte, North CarolinaVic the Chili Man isn’t shy about self-promotion. The cart’s website proclaims it has “single-handedly transformed the entire world of street meat,” and many Yelpers agree, raving despite the waits to sample the goods. Try the Heroin Dog, made with grilled cheddar, chili, taco juice, barbecue sauce, and onions, or opt for the popular Frito Pie Dog, which swaps out the barbecue sauce in favor of garlic and onion sour cream, and adds jalapeños and crushed chili and cheese Fritos.
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New OrleansThese wacky gourmet dogs have inspired a devoted following, and the menu at this chain with three locations even has plenty of vegan options — not exactly common for a hot dog joint. Go all in on N’awlins flavor with the Crawfish Dog, made with crawfish sausage or the Vaucresson hot sausage. We wouldn’t exactly mind if Dat Dog popped up on our home turf.
New York CityFor close to 20 years, Crif Dogs has been satisfying patrons’ late-night munchies at its dives in Brooklyn and the East Village. The latter location even boasts a secret entry to a speakeasy where you used to be able to enjoy a hot dog with your cocktail. Signature dogs include the Chihuahua, a bacon-wrapped dog with sour cream and avocado and the Good Morning, a bacon-wrapped dog with a fried egg and American cheese.
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ClevelandHappy Dog bills itself as “a neighborhood corner bar,” but it’s also made a national name for itself with its build-your-own hot dogs, limited only by patrons’ creativity. There are 50 toppings that include sloppy joe meat, beer-cheese fondue, fried eggs, Spaghetti-Os, Froot Loops, Cheetos, coleslaw, black truffle honey mustard, and much, much more.
Louisville, KentuckyAt Red Top, hot dogs are all about high-quality meats, with options including grass-fed beef, wild boar sausage, and bison. The Black & Blue includes blue cheese spread, bourbon grilled onions, smoked bacon, and blackberry jam. The Tatanka is a vegetarian treat with cheddar beer cheese, French-fried onions, pepper veggie relish, and horseradish cream on a pretzel bun.