A plate of hot dogs from around the United States
Valentina G/Shutterstock

Sausage Party! Which U.S. Region Serves the Best Hot Dog Variety?

Show me a hot dog with all the fixings, and I’ll tell you what part of the United States you’re in.

Many regions of the country have distinct ways of dressing up their dogs, and to aficionados, these differences say as much about local culture as they do about taste. Here are some that we think belong in the—sorry, sorry—wiener's circle.

Chicago-style hot dogs with potato chips
Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock
Illinois: Chicago-Style Hot Dog
It’s thought that today's Chicago hot dog is a descendant of the franks that Austrian immigrants brought with them to the Windy City, although their original, pork-and-beef "Wiener-Frankfurter" eventually morphed into a kosher all-beef version to appeal to a wider audience. Chicago's so-called Vienna Sausages were a smash at the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, though those dogs probably weren't "dragged through the garden" the way they are today. A modern Chicago Dog is boiled or steamed, and once it's in its poppy seed bun, it's piled with a lot of vegetables: white chopped onions, an electric-green sweet pickle relish, tomato slices, pickled sport peppers, a shake of celery salt, and finally a dill pickle spear that barely fits. It’s a mouthful and a half. The one ingredient you’ll never get on a Chicago style dog? Ketchup. Requesting it can practically get you kicked out of Wrigley Field.
advertisement
A plate of Coney dogs from Michigan
Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock
Michigan: Coney Dog

Despite the name, these loaded treats don’t come from Coney Island in New York. They’re Michigan all the way, with three restaurants—American Coney Island and Lafayette Coney Island, both in Detroit, and Todoroff’s Original Coney Island in Jackson—all claiming to be the creators of the dish. The Detroit eateries were founded by a pair of feuding Greek brothers over a hundred years ago. According to the Detroit Historical Society, the pair tried their first hot dogs soon after they arrived at Ellis Island in New York, where Coney Island was the popular place to hang out on a day off.

At base, a Coney Dog is grilled and nestled in a soft steamed bun, then topped with all-meat chili (no beans!), a zigzag of mustard, and chopped onion. A variety from the city of Flint uses a less soupy chili, but is essentially the same.

New Jersey: Italian Hot Dog

This type of dog comes from New Jersey—you gotta problem with that?

It’s wrapped in a flat, chewy bread that the locals call "pizza bread" because, well, that’s what it tastes like—and it sops up oil like a champ. That last quality is key for this dog, because not only is the frank fried, but so are the potatoes, red peppers, and onions that are heaped atop it. With all that grease, who needs sauce? Most aficionados simply eat these without any additional condiments. In certain parts of New Jersey, the beverage of choice with the Italian hot dog is either birch beer or, bizarrely, buttermilk (according to Robert Sietsema and the New York Times).

advertisement
A young man sells Fenway Franks at Fenway Stadium in Boston
Kayem Foods
Boston: Fenway Franks

Hot dogs are served at ballparks across the U.S., but somehow the ones you get at the venerable Fenway Park stadium in Boston are considered an iconic part of the baseball experience.

Since 2009, Kayem Foods has been supplying the franks, and they're a hair spicier than the ones your grandparents ate. These hot dogs are both boiled and grilled, which gives them a combination of juiciness and snap, according to New England Today. Mustard is the primary condiment, though some people add piccalilli (a relish made of chopped pickled vegetables), and/or diced onion.

A New York System-style frankfurter
Providence Convention and Visitor's Bureau
Rhode Island: New York System

In the 1900s, vendors in Rhode Island often gave their hot dogs a mark of authenticity by bragging they came from New York. The Greek cart cooks of Providence would line up buns along one arm and use their free hand to load the bread up with wieners, mustard, meat sauce, onions, and salt. It was an assembly style that came to be known as "the system," according to the New England Historical Society. Today, New York System dogs are crafted from veal and pork and the sauce is known for being as spicy as many curries, incorporating cumin, paprika, allspice, and chili powder.

advertisement
A Polish Boy hot dog
daisesvoice/Shutterstock
Cleveland: Polish Boy

Made with either a regular hot dog or kielbasa, this Cleveland fave is as layered as lasagna: First comes a steamed bun, then grilled meat, then French fries, barbecue sauce, and (usually, though not in this photo) a crown of coleslaw. Poles first came to the Cleveland area in the late 1860s to work in the stone quarries, establishing such a vibrant community that many relatives followed and took up other professions in the 1870s and 1880s. The city is still known for its rich Polish traditions, both culinary and otherwise.

A cream cheese-laden Seattle Dog
Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock
Washington State: Seattle Dog

It’s thought that the inventor of this regional treat might have been a bagel cart owner who decided to expand into wieners. That makes sense; a lashing of cream cheese is applied to the bun just before the hot dog is nestled in. Fried onions, mustard, and jalapeños are some of the other pick-and-choose condiments.

Seattle Dogs were the sustenance of choice outside the city's famous music clubs in the 1980s and 1990s, with carts selling the sausages into the wee hours of the morning—sort of like a very early breakfast.

advertisement
A plate of scrambled dog sided by soda and fries.
Deliott/Flickr
Georgia: Scrambled Dog
Meet the Southern Gothic version of the hot dog. Invented at Columbus, Georgia’s Dinglewood Pharmacy—yes, that’s its real name—in the 1940s, it consists of artfully hacked red wienies set on a bun that is, in turn, set on a china plate. This is a fork-and-knife dish. The sausage is then slathered with chili, as it is in many other places, but a twisted mind must have came up with the coup de grace: On top of the chili goes a generous handful of oyster crackers and pickles. You wouldn't think those flavors go together, but we'd say: They're peachy.
A Sonoran Hot Dog
Suzanne Pratt/Shutterstock
Arizona: Sonoran Hot Dog
A true meat bomb, this Arizona specialty is wrapped in thick bacon, grilled, and cushioned in a smile-shaped Mexican roll called a bolillo. Capped with refried beans, onions, tomatoes, mustard, jalapeño, and avocado, it's at long last finished with an artistically swirled ribbon of mayonnaise from a squeeze bottle. According to Sabores Sin Fronteras, a coalition dedicated to preserving the culinary traditions that exist in both Mexico and the U.S.A., the Sonoran was invented in the 1980s by a restaurant called El Guero Canelo in the Mexican town of Hermosillo. Variations of the dog are sold on many Mexican streets as a doguero.
advertisement
A garbage plate with white hot sausage
Nick Tahou
Upstate New York: White Hot

These sausages—made of uncured and unsmoked pork, veal, and beef—turn an ashy white color when grilled over charcoal. Hence the name of this Rochester, New York, favorite. "Hot" comes into the picture because, according to the Farmer’s Almanac, manufacturers used to disguise cheaper cuts of meat by loading up on the spices. Today’s higher-quality version has been around since the 1920s and is most notably made by a firm called Zweigle’s, which became famous supplying these dogs to Red Wing Stadium (now known as Silver Stadium). Those who want the classic experience paint on a sauce made from relish, onions, peppers, molasses, and vinegar. Or you can go for the carb-intense "garbage plate" (pictured), which is usually a sausage with home fries, baked beans, and macaroni salad. 

advertisement