Regional Hot Dog Styles and Where You Can Try Them

The hot dog may be an iconic American food, but that doesn’t mean that they look the same in every part of the country. It seems that every city and state has its own take on the humble (and versatile) frankfurter. Chicagoans favor a dog loaded with colorful toppings, while in Arizona, the Mexican influence means you’ll see sausages topped with pinto beans and jalapeños. From New York to Hawaii, here are seven regional takes on the classic hot dog, as well as the restaurants where you can find them.

1. New York

nathan's hot dogs coney island

Hot dog stand | Andrew Burton/Getty Images

New York favors simplicity when it comes to its hot dogs: an all-beef sausage in a natural casing topped with mustard and sauerkraut or a mix of onions and tomato is the traditional style. You could always buy a “dirty-water dog” from a street vendor, but for an authentic New York experience, head down to Coney Island to visit the original Nathan’s Famous. This boardwalk institution (and site of the annual Fourth of July hot-dog-eating contest) has been dishing up sausages at the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues since 1916.

Nathan’s Famous
1310 Surf Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11224

2. Chicago

chicago style hot dog

Chicago-style hot dogs | Scott Olson/Getty Images

The Windy City’s signature hot dog involves an all-beef sausage (usually from the Vienna Beef company) on a steamed poppy seed bun and topped with mustard, chopped onions, brightly colored relish, a pickle spear, sliced tomatoes, sport peppers, and a dusting of celery salt. No ketchup, ever.

You can find Chicago-style dogs at neighborhood hot dog stands all over the city, but we suggest venturing just outside the city limits to Gene & Jude’s in River Grove, Ill. The small fast food joint serves up one of the best hot dogs in America, according to the Daily Meal, and it also came out on top of Rachael Ray’s 2011 hot dog bracket. Gene & Jude’s Depression-style version of the Chicago dog leaves off a few of the traditional garnishes, including the pickle spear and tomato, and adds fries as a topping.

Gene & Jude’s
2720 River Road
River Grove, IL 60171

3. Arizona

sonora dog

Sonora-style hot dog | El Guero Canelo via Facebook

The Sonora-style dog is a Southwestern-flavored spin on the traditional hot dog native to northern Mexico and Arizona. An all-beef sausage is wrapped in bacon and nestled in a bolillo roll and covered with toppings like mayo, pinto beans, tomatoes, onions, jalapeños, and mustard.

You can find these bacon-wrapped beauties at street carts and restaurants all over Tucson and Phoenix. El Güero Canelo, a small Tucson chain, was declared the city’s best in Tucson Weekly’s 2014 reader’s poll.

El Güero Canelo
5201 S. 12th Ave.
Tucson, AZ 85706

4. Detroit

american and lafayette coney island detroit

Hot dog restaurant in Detroit | J.D. Pooley/Getty Images

The somewhat confusingly named Coney dog is a Motor City fast food staple. The key ingredients are an all-beef sausage smothered in an all-meat chili and topped with diced white onions and mustard, according to the Detroit Historical Society.

Several restaurants claim to have created this unique take on the hot dog, including American Coney Island and Lafayette Coney Island, both in Detroit. The neighboring stands have been battling for ultimate Coney supremacy for years. We leave it to you to decide which makes a better dog.

American Coney Island
114 W. Lafayette Blvd.
Detroit, MI 48226

Lafayette Coney Island
118 W. Lafayette Blvd.
Detroit, MI 48226

5. The South

slaw dog

Slaw-topped hot dog | iStock.com

Below the Mason-Dixon line, hot dogs are often topped with meaty chili or creamy coleslaw — and sometimes both. Brandi’s World Famous Hot Dogs in Marietta turns out one of the best versions of this regional staple, according to Mapquest, and others agree. Zagat included this cash-only joint, which is only open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays, on its list of top hot dogs in the Atlanta area.

Brandi’s World Famous Hot Dogs
1377 Church St. Ext NE
Marietta, GA 30060

6. New Jersey

italian-style hot dog

Hot dog smothered with onions and peppers | Source: Jimmy Buff’s via Facebook

Compared to neighboring New York, the Garden State takes a maximalist approach to hot dog preparation. After all, why just grill or steam a hot dog when you can deep fry it? The Italian-style hot dog was invented in Newark and involves the aforementioned deep-fried sausage on a bun made of an Italian roll or pizza bread and topped with bell peppers, onions, and potatoes.

New Jersey’s unique take on the hot dog began as a snack served during card games by James and Mary Racioppi. The sandwiches proved so popular that they opened a restaurant in 1932, Jimmy Buff’s. While you can now find this iconic sandwich at multiple restaurants around northern New Jersey, we think it makes sense to go straight to the original source.

Jimmy Buff’s
60 Washington St.
West Orange, NJ 07052

7. Hawaii

puka dog

Hawaii’s take on a hot dog | Source: Puka Dog via Facebook

Unique local traditions combined with an Asian influence and Hawaii’s distance from the mainland U.S. makes for some one-of-kind regional cuisine. (Spam musubi, anyone?) So it’s no surprise the Hawaiians have come up with their own island-influenced spin on the hot dog. A puka dog (sometimes called a hula dog) is a Polish sausage or veggie dog stuffed inside French bread with a hole in the center. Toppings include fruit relishes made of ingredients like mango, pineapple, and star fruit, plus a secret hot sauce and Hawaiian mustard. To try one of these tropical-inspired dogs, head to one of two Puka Dog locations on Kauai.

Puka Dog
2360 Kiahuna Plantation Drive
Koloa, HI 96756

Follow Megan on Twitter @MeganE_CS

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