Hot dog styles

You may think ordering a hot dog makes for a boring meal choice. A hot dog is a hot dog, right? If you’ve ever traveled around the country, you know that’s not a correct assumption. Depending on which region of the United States you’re in, what you’ll get when you order a hot dog will be completely different.

According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council (yes, that’s a real thing), there are at least 18 regional hot dogs across the country. In fact, the differences are so drastic that it’d be a legitimate culinary adventure to drive from coast to coast and eat nothing but local hot dogs. While eating them every day would obviously not be the best thing for your health, it’d be the road trip of a lifetime for your taste buds.

If you don’t have time for that ultimate wiener road trip, you’re still in luck. To guide you to the ultimate hot dogs in the nation, we’ve ranked regional hot dogs beginning with the worst and ending with the best. You can use this information to head straight towards the best hot dogs in the United States and skip over everything else.

18. Philadelphia dog

Philadelphia Dog

Being creative is usually a plus when it comes to thinking up possible ingredients to add to a hot dog. However, the Philadelphia Dog simply went too far. Unless you’re a local who grew up eating this strange creation, you’re sure to be grossed out.

When you look at a Philadelphia Dog, you won’t immediately notice that anything is amiss. The hot dog comes in a standard bun and is topped with a spicy mustard and either coleslaw or onions. But if you look underneath the hot dog, you’ll find a fish cake. Yes, a fish cake inside of the hot dog bun.

This combination is even worse than you could imagine. The texture of the fish cake doesn’t go well with the hot dog. Even worse, it gives the hot dog a fishy smell and a fishy taste that will make you gag. Unless you have a cast iron stomach, you’ll probably give up trying to eat the Philadelphia Dog after a couple of bites.

17. New York City hot dog

When it comes to popularity, not many hot dogs can compete with those found in New York City. Their hot dogs are known around the world. When you’re in the Big Apple, a hot dog cart is always a hop, skip, and a jump away. If you’re on the go, grabbing a hot dog for lunch is easy — no matter where your travels take you in the city.

Unfortunately, New York City is hiding a truth about their hot dogs that they don’t want the rest of the world to know: their hot dogs are overrated. While that may be sacrilegious for a native New Yorker to even contemplate, outsiders are sure to be underwhelmed if they travel to NYC to eat one of their famous hot dogs.

Truth be told, there’s just nothing special about these hot dogs. They come in a normal bun and feature mustard along with either sauerkraut or steamed onions. Yawn.

16. Atlanta hot dog

When you’re in Atlanta, Georgia, and nearby areas in the South, ordering a hot dog typically isn’t an exciting ordeal. The most well-known regional hot dog in the area is called the Georgia Dog, which comes with coleslaw and Vidalia onions. Although you can add condiments to it if you wish, most locals eat it without mustard, ketchup, or any other condiment added.

While not as boring as a New York City hot dog, there’s only so much excitement you can derive from that combination. Sure, Vidalia onions have exquisite flavor and coleslaw in the South can be simultaneously extra sweet and extra tangy — but these hot dogs still aren’t memorable enough to be worthy of a special trip to the South.

If you go to Atlanta, you should take advantage of all the delicious Southern comfort foods in the city and skip hot dogs altogether. You won’t be missing anything of note.

15. Seattle dog

While not nearly as strange as what you’ll find in a Philadelphia Dog, a Seattle Dog features its own unique topping: cream cheese. No matter where you are in the United States, if you order a Seattle Dog, the one thing you can count on is that it’ll come with cream cheese. Theoretically, that might not sound like a bad topping. However, after a few bites, you’ll agree that hot dogs and cream cheese are not a natural fit together. It’s not terrible, mind you, but it’s unquestionably suboptimal.

Other characteristics of a Seattle Dog include the hot dogs being split in half, the hot dogs being grilled, and the bun being toasted. Beyond the cream cheese, other popular toppings include jalapeno peppers, grilled onions, and Sriracha. Sadly, no matter what is added to the Seattle Dog, nothing can mask the unsalvageable marriage between the hot dog and the cream cheese.

14. Michigan Coney Island dog

People in the state of Michigan in general and in the city of Detroit specifically are very proud of their wieners. In fact, Michiganders believe that their state is the true birthplace of Coney Island hot dogs, while just about everyone else in the United States assumes that they’re from New York.

In reality, though, a Michigan Coney Island Dog isn’t much to brag about. It traditionally features white onions that have been diced, yellow mustard, and a chili made with extra meat and no beans or veggies. In other words, this thing is basically a run-of-the-mill chili dog. You could even make the argument that a Chili Cheese Coney from Sonic Drive-In is an upgraded version due to the presence of cheddar cheese.

If you got to Michigan and order a Michigan Coney Island Dog, you won’t be disappointed — but it also won’t be anything to write home about, either.

13. The Rockie dog

If you’re in Denver, Colorado, the most talked-about regional hot dog you’ll hear about is the Rockie Dog. Originally sold at Coors Field, the home of the Colorado Rockies baseball team, this bad boy is topped with onions, sauerkraut, and grilled peppers. Importantly, the Rockie Dog traditionally features a footlong kosher hot dog that is Hebrew National brand, one of the best hot dog brands available at grocery stores.

The first time you eat one of these hot dogs, you’ll be pleased. Hebrew National makes a great hot dog and the grilled peppers add a unique yet pleasant topping. That said, you really won’t be tempted to eat more than one. The Rockie Dog is a fine choice but it is still missing the pizzazz you can find in other regions of the United States. Part of the issue that holds it back is the sauerkraut is relatively bland compared to the sauerkraut you’ll find in other cities in America.

12. Alaska hot dog

When you’re in the contiguous United States, it’s easy to find beef hot dogs, pork hot dogs, chicken hot dogs, turkey hot dogs, vegetarian hot dogs, and even vegan hot dogs. But when you’re in Alaska, they serve reindeer hot dogs. And, no, that’s not a gimmick. These hot dogs are made with real reindeer meat. Don’t let Santa Claus hear this but, yes, the hot dogs are tasty.

The most common topping that you’ll find alongside your reindeer hot dog in Alaska is grilled onions. But this isn’t the typical grilled onions that are found in the lower 48 that taste almost exactly the same no matter where you go. The grilled onions on these Alaska-born hot dogs are glazed with Coca-Cola. That’s as yummy as it sounds.

Is it worth going all the way to Alaska to try one of these reindeer-powered hot dogs? Probably not. These things are good but they’re still only average when compared to hot dogs from other regions.

11. West Virginia dog

Many people may be surprised to learn that West Virginia has their own regional hot dog. But after you take one bite, you’ll remember it for the rest of your days.

No matter where you go in the state, if you order a West Virginia Dog, you can count on getting a hot dog that is covered with chili, coleslaw, and mustard. Onions are also a popular topping. Like the aforementioned Michigan Coney Island Dog, the meaty chili has no beans in the recipe. The coleslaw used on these hot dogs isn’t too tangy but it’s so sweet that your sweet tooth will instantly fall head over heels for it. The mustard in West Virginia will always be yellow and not brown. If onions make an appearance, they will be fresh and diced.

While you’ll enjoy the chili, what really stands out when you bite into a West Virginia Dog is the sweetness from the coleslaw. Combined with all the other ingredients, it’s a perfect fit.

10. Kansas City dog

When you think of Kansas City cuisine, what first pops into your head is likely either Kansas City barbecue or their world-famous barbecue sauce. Surprisingly, the Kansas City Dog doesn’t have much to do with the local barbecue scene.

While hot dogs drenched in scrumptious barbecue sauce can definitely be found throughout Kansas City, a real Kansas City hot dog features grilled sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and mustard. Swiss cheese on a hot dog sounds like an iffy idea on paper but it turns out to be a fantastic partner for the grilled sauerkraut. This combo isn’t for those with a cowardly palate but it’s oh, so good.

To be at its best, the Swiss cheese on the Kansas City hot dog needs to be slightly melted. If it’s too melted, it could turn into a liquidy mess. When it’s melted just right, it covers the grilled sauerkraut and the hot dog, while adding a whole lot of flavor to each mouthful.

9. The Fenway frank

In Boston, Massachusetts, the Fenway frank is, without a doubt, the regional hot dog of choice. As you may be able to guess from its name, it was born in Fenway Park, the home field of the Boston Red Sox. To say these hot dogs are popular would be an understatement. Hundreds of thousands of Fenway Franks are sold each year at Fenway Park alone.

Making the Fenway frank is actually a complicated process. First, the hot dogs are boiled to lock in all of the juices. Second, in order to improve the texture by adding a little bit of crunch, the hot dog is gently grilled for a short period of time. Third, a New England hot dog bun is prepared, which is basically a buttery toasted roll. Finally, the hot dog is placed inside of the roll, and relish and mustard are added on top to complete the Fenway frank.

8. The Texas dog

A delectable amount of Tex-Mex flair can be enjoyed if you order the Texas dog. The most prominent topping is chili. Pale in color, this chili is mostly comprised of ground beef and has a subtle yet unmistakable spiciness to it. You’ll also notice the addition of cheese. It’s typically shredded cheddar cheese but it can also be nacho cheese. Last, but certainly not least, is the jalapeno peppers that come along for the ride and end up stealing the show. The spicy peppers are sure to add a fiery kick that will keep you on your toes.

As far as the bun is concerned, the Texas Dog can be found in two different ways. Sometimes, a regular hot dog bun is used, but other times, Texas toast is used as the bun. It’s typically grilled and is similar to the amazing Texas toast Raising Cane’s is known for.

7. California hot dog

California has regional hot dogs that are so yummy that they undoubtedly deserve to be classified as elite. If you need to make a special trip to get your hands on one of these bad boys, do it without a second of hesitation. Your taste buds will be forever in your debt.

Why all the excitement for California hot dogs? The explanation is simple — bacon. These hot dogs are delicately wrapped in bacon and then blessed with grilled peppers and grilled onions. In San Francisco and Los Angeles, carts selling these California hot dogs aren’t difficult to track down.

Pink’s Hot Dogs, a legendary stop in Hollywood that’s become a must-try destination, has been around since 1939. Their version of the California hot dog is called the LA Street Dog and it adds mayonnaise, ketchup, and jalapenos to the bacon, grilled peppers, and grilled onions. It’s even more spectacular than it sounds.

6. Cleveland Polish boy

At first blush, a Cleveland Polish boy looks like it was invented by a crazy person. Your eyes will tell you that the components are a poor fit. However, all it will take is for you to give it a single try and you will be convinced that this is a genius invention that doesn’t get the recognition that it rightfully deserves.

For the meat, the Cleveland Polish boy features either a kielbasa or, less frequently, a traditional hot dog. To begin things, a pile of French fries are thrown on top of the meat. Next, a generous amount of coleslaw is added on top of the fries. To top it off, the Cleveland creation is drenched with a flavorful ocean of sweet barbecue sauce. Some brave locals opt to switch out the barbecue sauce for hot sauce. Either way, it’s stupendous.

Tip: Make sure you’re hungry before you order one of these bad boys. It’s not a snack, it’s a super filling meal.

5. New Jersey dog

The New Jersey dog, also known as the Italian hot dog, basically combines two things that Americans love the most: hot dogs and pizza. The result is a beautiful beast that can stand toe-to-toe with any other regional hot dog in the nation.

The star of the show is the bun. A New Jersey Dog uses pizza bread, which is thick and has a similar texture to pizza. The party doesn’t stop there, as this thing is topped with grilled peppers, grilled onions, and deep-fried potatoes. The deep-fried potatoes may sound like a weird choice but it works surprisingly well by adding a helping of heartiness.

Jimmy Buff’s, an eatery in the city of Newark, claims to have invented the Italian hot dog in 1932, and it can still be found on their menu to this day. At Jimmy Buff’s, you can trade out the hot dog for a hot or sweet sausage if you wish.

4. Washington, D.C. hot dog

If Washington, D.C. wasn’t the capital of the United States, it might primarily be known as the birthplace of the half-smoke. This thing is so breathtakingly good that it deserves to be the first thing you order when you arrive in D.C.

Compared to a typical hot dog, the meat in a half-smoke sausage is noticeably coarser and spicier. It’s also half beef and half pork. First, it’s smoked to perfection. Then, the sausage is sliced open and grilled. To complete the half-smoke, chili, diced onions, and mustard are added. The chili is dark brown and extremely savory.

When you order a half-smoke, it’s common to get it with chili-covered French fries. In fact, that’s exactly what President Barack Obama ordered when he visited Ben’s Chili Bowl, a famous place to grab a half-smoke. Ben’s Chili Bowl has a history dating back to 1958 and has been visited by countless celebrities over the years.

3. Cincinnati coney

While chili is a common topping for hot dogs, not all chili is created equal. Bad chili can ruin a hot dog in an instant. Conversely, great chili can carry a hot dog to the stratosphere. Cincinnati chili is world-renowned, so it makes sense that the best chili-powered hot dog can be found here.

If you order a Cincinnati Coney, you will get a hot dog covered with Cincinnati chili and then piled high with grated cheese. If you’ve ever tasted Cincinnati chili before, you know that it has a distinctive sweetness to it that will make you cherish it until the final drop has vanished. Beyond the sweet flavor, there’s also what tastes like paprika, cumin, vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce at play that will only add to the fun.

If you’ve never had Cincinnati chili before, order a Cincinnati Coney and you’ll understand why no other chili dog can compete with this masterpiece.

2. Sonoran dog

Originally invented and popularized in the Mexican state of Sonora, the Sonoran dog has gained universe stateside appeal in the Southwest. This hot dog isn’t for the faint of heart due to its laundry list of stimulating toppings — but it’s definitely worth it. If you’ve never eaten a Sonoran dog before, take a leap of faith and order one the next time you have the opportunity. A road trip to the Southwest to get one of these bad boys is sure to leave a smile on your face.

Like the hot dogs from California, a Sonoran dog is wrapped in bacon. It’s then grilled until it gets extra crispy. From there, the bacon-wrapped hot dog is placed inside of a savory bun. Finally, it’s topped with pinto beans, grilled green peppers, grilled onions, chopped tomatoes, shredded cheese, mayo, relish, mustard, and a salsa that’s made from tomatillos and jalapenos. Don’t let all those ingredients overwhelm you. Take a big, confident bite and then begin reveling in the majesty that is a Sonoran dog.

1. Chicago dog

When it comes to regional hot dogs, no place in the United States can hold a candle to Chicago and their Chicago dog. The greatness of these dogs can only be described as next-level. Chicago has long been serious about the potential of the hot dog and they’ve made it an artform over the decades. Today, a Chicago dog is what you order when only the best of the best will do.

A proper Chicago dog begins with a poppy seed bun. After the hot dog has been added, it’s time for the peppers, pickles, slices of tomatoes, diced onions, green relish, yellow mustard, and celery salt. If you order a Chicago dog, don’t you dare mess with perfection. Keep all the ingredients on there.

While you need to go to Chicago to find the ultimate Chicago dogs, the Shack-cago Dog from Shake Shack is a surprisingly excellent option if you’re in a hurry. Portillo’s also has really good Chicago dogs. One way or another, there’s no question that the Chicago dog deserves a highlighted spot on your bucket list.