Spring training inspired this month’s ode to one of sports fans’ favorite foods: the hot dog. Many of our 4,600-plus Facebook fans weighed in with their faves, ranging from Joey D’s Vienna beef hot dog to the Old Salty Dog’s infamous fried hot dog topped with cheese, bacon and more. So—with chef Judi Gallagher, associate editor Hannah Wallace and web/editorial assistant Beau Denton as judges—we put on our elastic-waist pants and set out to find the best hot dog around.
Winner - Best Overall: Tony’s Chicago Beef Company’s Chicago hot dog. An intensely flavorful, skin-on, snappy dog, imported from a Chicago company, topped with all the classic accompaniments and served on a poppyseed roll. The hand-cut, perfectly salted French fries seal the deal. “This place respects the hot dog,” noted Judi Gallagher.
Best Improv on a Classic Joey D’s Chicago cheese dog puts a spin on the classic Chicago dog (made of, in this case, Vienna beef) with the addition of cheddar cheese. “A great idea,” said Denton.
Best Bun Doggin’ It’s steamed bun reminded us that the vessel carrying the hot dog is almost as important as the dog itself. This one was soft with a slight crunch.
Most Original Toppings Doggin’ It took this category for its Carolina dog (topped with pulled pork, mustard and coleslaw), Cincinnati dog (with chili, mustard, onions and cheddar) and Reuben dog (sauerkraut, melted Swiss and 1000 Island dressing).
Best Hot Dog History Hot Diggity Dog, which has been open for 42 years. There’s history everywhere, from the signed Elvis picture on the wall that says “Thanks for the great hot dog” to Hot Diggity Dog’s welcoming matriarch, Sally Mastos, who still comes in at 6:30 a.m. every morning.
Best Diet Buster The Old Salty Dog from the Old Salty Dog—a quarter-pound monster of a hot dog, battered and fried, then topped with American, Swiss, cheddar and pepperjack cheese, grilled onions and mushrooms, sauerkraut and the pièce de résistance: bacon. “This is not for the faint of heart,” said Wallace.
“Hot Diggity Dog on Swift! A Sarasota landmark!”
–Stacy Wyatt Brown, in response to our Facebook question about where to find the best hot dog in town.