The hot dog — AKA frankfurter, frank, weenie, wiener, dog, or red hot — is an American staple. The one food that's almost more American than hamburgers and French fries, a hot dog is a slim sausage made of beef and pork (or all beef) that's cooked up and topped off in so many different ways, there seems to be a signature dog for every city across the country — and a few other countries.
According to a handy Food Republic info chart, there are indeed plenty of dogs out there: around 40 different ways people around the world chow down, hot dog style. From the Philippines' bright-red dog served bunless with rice, a fried egg, and banana ketchup to Sweden, where they serve their dogs wrapped in a roll of mashed potatoes, shrimp salad, and fried onions. And while those dogs might seem a little extreme, a more Americanized variety can be found right here in South Florida.
Sure, July is National Hot Dog Month, but according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council Americans will continue to consume a record number of these infamous tubes of meat before summer comes to an end: about 7 billion between Memorial Day and the weeks that follow Labor Day.
That means there's no better time to go out there and try all that doggone goodness Broward and Palm Beach counties have to offer with these top ten favorites:
1. Gourmet Killer Dogs. When Kathryn Cohen's eatery opened off West Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach, it immediately became a hit with the locals. The place is exactly what it sounds like: a restaurant that serves up gourmet-style, killer hot dogs. The "gourmet" part is the fancy fare they serve, too, like lobster rolls. The "killer" part is how good everything tastes, no matter what you decide order. The menu offers 12 ways to do your dog, including a create-your-own option, made using jumbo beef hot dogs that make for a perfect classic Chicago- or New York-style take. Or get creative with options like the Number Five Chili Mac Attack (chili, mac and cheese, Canadian bacon, and raw onion) and the Number 11 Bajalicious (lettuce, pineapple, avocado, jalapeño, and salsa). 4057 W. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach; 917-656-3664; facebook.com/killerhotdogs.
2. HotDog-Opolis. A few years back, three friends — Harvey Loewenstein, Jay Wertheim, and Judy Zimmer — decided to open a place where hot dogs would be the main menu attraction. The frank-loving owners opened HotDog-Opolis in Boca Raton off Federal Highway, a small place that serves some of the most original hot dogs and sausages for a bargain (a second location opened in west Boca Raton in 2015). In a city already full of inexpensive eateries with plenty of diners, delis, and bagel shops, this is one restaurant where you can find some amazing fusion dogs and dishes for an equally amazing deal. Here, you'll get more than a basic, boring hot dog. The daily chalkboard specials cover a range of specialty dogs such as the Korean with kimchee, red onion, and Asian mustard, or the gyro, a lamb hot dog topped with tzatziki, feta cheese, onion, oregano, and garlic. There's also a well-stocked variety of specialty sausages, from duck and pheasant to wild boar, venison, elk, and buffalo. Of course, we can't say no to the classic Chi-town dog, a Vienna footlong that's been "dragged through the garden." 6020 N. Federal Hwy., Boca Rato; 561-988-5959; hotdogopolis.com.
3. Coney Island Joe's. Coney Island Joe's is owned and operated by a man named Elliot Garber who makes some of the best New York-style Coney Island hot dogs on this side of the country. The place is named after the original Coney Island Joe's that opened in Brooklyn in 1952. Today, Garber is quick to point out that his dogs aren't just New York-style hot dogs. They're authentic New York-style hot dogs that "pop" when you take a bite. Garber has been making and serving each and every dog himself since he opened the place 15 years ago. The menu offers a number of versions, from a plain grilled dog with ketchup and mustard to a true New York pushcart water dog topped with yellow mustard, sauerkraut, and chopped onions. Sure, the giant yellow-and-blue tent isn't really a restaurant — it's more of a giant hot dog stand exposed to the elements and looking a little ragged. But that's a real New York City pushcart in there, and those are real Sabrett hot dogs he's cooking, shipped straight from New York. What this place lacks in ambiance, it makes up for with plenty of New York pride; customers come as far as Riviera Beach and Homestead for a taste of nostalgic New York. When you get there, say thank you to Garber: He saved you a 1,400-mile trip. 6401 Sheridan St., Hollywood; 954-966-8800.
4. Perrada Del Gordo. No one makes a hot dog quite like Colombians. Luckily, there are a number of places scattered across South Florida to help you discover their decadent take on this classic meal. In Palm Beach County, the best spot to stray outside your hot dog comfort zone is Perrada Del Gordo, a local chain with locations in West Palm Beach and Boca Raton. A steamed wiener begins its journey to your stomach with a solid coating of melted mozzarella, followed up by a rainbow-like slathering of house garlic mayo, the restaurant's own fancy "pink" sauce, mustard, and ketchup. From there it's diced bacon, crushed potato chips, and pineapple relish. But wait, it doesn't stop there: the final (and optional) touch is a hard-boiled quail egg garnish. It's a decadent feast and a downright obscenity. And that's just the start — the menu is laced with burgers, arepas, and many drunken late-night specials. Multiple locations; laperradadelgordo.com.
5. Hot Diggity Dogs & More. As the name suggests, this spot out west on Griffin Road offers more than just hot dogs. You can also order up a damn fine sausage and pepper or Italian beef sandwich, Philly cheesesteak, chicken wings — even a fried fish sandwich. As far as hot dogs go, the short list of options is still what they do best, however. A Chicago dog arrives with all fresh fixings, and the chili cheese and onion is smothered in just the right amount of ingredients so every bite is just as good as the last. If you really want something special, a not-so-doggy option here is the house favorite: a Polish beef sausage served "Maxwell Street Style" — a perfectly cooked, plump sausage topped with grilled onions, whole pickled peppers, and a slick of yellow mustard served on a steamed poppy seed bun. 2641 Griffin Rd., Dania Beach; 954-981-7827.
6. Hot Dog Heaven. For over 30 years, this hot dog stand has offered some of the most satiating Chicago-style dogs and sausages in the area. Founded by former Chicagoan Barry Star, Hot Dog Heaven serves a classic Windy City-style dog complete with all the fixings, from the all-beef dog seasoned with a secret blend of spices and hickory smoked for extra flavor to the steamed poppy seed bun with yellow mustard, bright-green relish, freshly chopped onion, juicy red tomato wedges, half-sour pickle spears, a dash of celery salt, and a couple of spicy sport peppers for a little extra zing. This unique hot dog is a work of art, made with a "salad on top" — a memorable interplay of hot and cold, crisp and soft, sharp and smooth. Since 1987, Hot Dog Heaven has been dishing out its all-natural Vienna Beef dogs, poppy seed buns, and specialty toppings shipped straight from Chicago, so you can be sure it has that authentic Chicago taste. 101 E. Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale; 954-523-7100; hotdogheaven.com.
7. D.O. Double G. When Garrett Memphis opened Growlers and Howlers in Fort Lauderdale the plaza that's home to his first fast-casual concept, Poke House, it didn't serve food. Recently, the growler filling station and craft beer bar changed that up to include a short list of customizable hot dogs. First, choose your dog: all beef, Kobe beef, or a vegan-friendly wiener. Next, decide on a standard or pretzel bun. From there, it's a a half dozen toppings that range from the All American with yellow mustard, ketchup, relish, and chopped onion to the Mason Dixon with baked beans, coleslaw, BBQ sauce, and bacon bits. Go for the Far East featuring kimchi, wasabi sour cream, sriracha, shredded nori, and sesame seeds or the Machu Picchu, a dog topped with a spicy aji amarillo emulsion, Peruvian choclo and cancha-style corn, and a hearty helping of crispy fried sweet potato tendrils, scallion, and onion. Colorful and flavorful, these dogs are the perfect pairing for a cold pint of brew or to stave off hunger before you head home with a growler full of suds. 636 N Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale; 954-530-6524; facebook.com/DODoubleGHotdogs.
8. Howie's Top Dog. This Chicago-style eatery serves all the classic all-beef hot dogs — seven different types available in singles or double-style, to be exact. There's traditional Chicago fare like the famous Chicago dog and the less well-known Char dog, what is essentially the same as the classic seven-topping version, except that a grilled or "charred" hot dog is used instead of a steamed one. When given a choice, order the char for the added layer of flavor from the grill. If Chi-Town dogs aren't your favorite, you can always opt for the Ripper, a New Jersey-style one (typically made with a Thumann's beef and pork dog, although not here) deep-fried until it literally rips open. Add your own toppings, from neon-green relish and diced white onion to plain old yellow mustard, each a refreshing garnish for these crispy, deep-fried dogs. 5021 S. State Rd. 7, Davie; 954-792-8686; howiestopdog.com.
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9. PS561. One of Palm Beach County's first food trucks, this one specializes in founder Aaron Merulo's favorite fare: the hot dog. Their goal was to take the classic hot dog and transform it into an "experience" — a mission that remains on point to this day. It starts with grilled, all-beef Sabrett hot dogs (or smoked turkey and vegan veggie dogs) nestled in a toasted, buttered bun made fresh daily by Old School Bakery in Delray Beach. Then it's your choice of signature topping combinations, all made from scratch. The menu of staples hasn't changed much since the truck first rolled out in 2010, a compilation of gourmet dogs from the Hall Monitor (a Reuben-style dog with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and Thousand Island dressing) to the Math Wiz (with cucumber slaw and a sriracha lime mayo). The truck's all-time best is the Doug E. Fresh, a dog smothered with bacon, sautéed onions, cheddar, homemade BBQ sauce, and a good dose of PS561's own cilantro cream sauce. Of course, the daily specials are always worth a try. The best way to catch one of these dogs is to follow the PS561 Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts for regular updates. The schedule changes weekly, and the truck takes a different route each week. Visit facebook.com/PS561.
10. Frankie Dogs Gourmet. It's often said that necessity is the mother of invention. And Frankie Dogs Gourmet is the answer to the lack of vegetarian and vegan dog options in South Florida. The cart originally set up shop in 2012, a simple tabletop setup that eventually upgraded to a traditional cart. Today, owner/chef Mauricio Orellana is best-known for offering healthier hot dog options — as well as all-beef hot dogs for traditional meat lovers — served with a number of delectable homemade sides, including a divine vegetarian chili made with meat-free "meat" crumbles, black beans, and pinto beans. Our favorite dog is the Franks Classic, a five dollar dog topped with avocado, the aforementioned chili, potato sticks, crunchy onions, and a healthy dose of secret Frankie sauce. Find Frankie Dogs regularly outside Laser Wolf, Invasive Species Brewing, and during Weenie Wednesday at LauderAle Brewery in Fort Lauderdale. Visit facebook.com/frankiedogs.