Whether it’s because of the break-dancing Snapchat filter or the depth with which The New York Times has been covering it, the classic hot dog is having a bit of a moment. No longer do you have to settle for boiling your own Hebrew National. There’s a frank suitable for every New Yorker, whether you like yours pared down or piled high. Our truly intrepid food expert, Jess Bender, tried dozens in every borough to find the very best hot dogs. Take advantage of her hard work (and heartburn).
Looking for the dog that started it all?
Consider Feltman’s of Coney Island. After a 63-year retirement, New York’s first hot dog (brought from Germany by butcher Charles Feltman in 1867) made its long-awaited re-emergence this summer at Feltman’s original location on Surf Avenue and West 10th Street in Coney Island. Local historian-turned-restaurateur Michael Quinn acquired a license to bring Feltman’s back from the dead after the stand’s initial closure in 1954. Frankly, it was worth the wait; the dog has a distinctly juicy snap upon first contact, and the classic mustard and sauerkraut toppings complement the secret spice blended with the beef. Can’t make the trek all the way to the beach? You can also buy the uncured dog at Feltman’s location in the East Village, as well as your local supermarket. 1000 Surf Avenue, Coney Island
Craving a dog that’s the embodiment of NYC cheap eats?
Consider Gray’s Papaya. This colorfully retro hot dog stand—probably the only one in history to publicly endorse a presidential nominee—has consistently been in the public eye since it first opened its doors in 1973. Practically every New York–based movie you’ve seen has name-checked it—from classics such as The Warriors and Die Hard With a Vengeance to more sentimental favorites like You’ve Got Mail and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist—and Anthony Bourdain even had to stop by during an episode of No Reservations. Though our economy has stabilized, Gray’s Recession Special remains one of the best deals in town: Two griddled franks topped with tangy sauerkraut and taxi-yellow mustard and a signature fruit juice costs a little more than a Lincoln and fills you up for the rest of the night. 2090 Broadway (at West 72nd Street), Upper West Side
When you want a classic kosher dog...
Consider Katz’s. Sure, the iconic Jewish delicatessen is known for its mile-high pastrami sandwich and Meg Ryan having a euphoric conniption in When Harry Met Sally…, but don’t underestimate Katz’s humble frankfurter. Consistently making appearances on several “best of…” lists, the all-beef hot dog is one of the few I’ve tried that actually had a subtle char on it. The smoky flavor only heightened the eating experience, marrying the bold paprika and garlic seasonings within the casing and cutting the acidic sauerkraut and sinus-clearing mustard generously piled atop. For a more gluttonous hot dog, though, you could always steal some of your dining companion’s cured meat to throw on top. 205 East Houston Street (at Ludlow Street), Lower East Side
For a more modern take on the deli dog...
Consider Dickson’s Farmstand Meats. Walking through Chelsea Market during peak hours—mainly the lunch rush and weekends—can be panic attack–inducing. That being said, I’ll push through any crowd to get my hot dog fix at this modern-day butchery. Its locally raised beef is blended with State Berkshire pork to give the layered frank a bit of an edge over the competition. The preserved green chili peppers (fermented for up to two weeks) are on relish duty, giving off a subtle, slow heat with every snappy bite. While it seems sacrilegious to put mayonnaise on a hot dog, all can be forgiven once you taste Dickson’s Japanese-style varietal kissed with a hint of rice vinegar. 75 Ninth Avenue (between West 15th and 16th Streets), Chelsea
Consider Prontito. You don’t have to cross the border to sample this Sonoran-style hot dog; instead, all you have to do is take a quick trip on the 7 train to Elmhurst, Queens. Originating in the Mexican state of Sonora and made popular in parts of Arizona, this South American frank is what I like to call the kitchen sink of hot dogs. You think being deep-fried is enough? It’s also topped with everything from guacamole and Russian dressing to crushed potato chips and a quail egg. If Guy Fieri were to dream up a hot dog, this would be the embodiment of it…and I say that as a compliment. I may have used half of the dog’s toppings as a dip for my french fries later on in the day. 40-25 Forley Street, Elmhurst
Ready to take your chili dog to the next level?
Consider The Cannibal Beer & Butcher. It’s a dog-eat-dog world, especially when you encounter the Cannibal Dog 2.0. The original version was topped with a beef heart ragù, but this reiteration comes slathered with a tripe-based chili—yes, the lining of a cow’s stomach—that’s a lot more appetizing than it sounds. A fair warning for the chronic heartburn sufferers out there: The Chinese hot mustard has a wasabi-like heat. 113 East 29th Street (between Lexington Avenue and Park Avenue South), Kips Bay
Want the perfect post-cocktails hot dog?
Consider Crif Dogs. The convenient location is only half the appeal of this subterranean frank joint; it’s connected to the quintessential speakeasy Please Don’t Tell. And yet, we have to tell you about our favorite hot dogs coming out of these kitchens. The Good Morning, deep-fried in a bacon blanket while lying on a fried egg and a slice of American cheese, is a hangover cure between two buns. The Jon-Jon Deragon, meanwhile, wishes it could be a bagel—it’s heavy-handed on the chopped scallions, poppy seeds, and cream cheese slathering—but has to settle for being a ridiculously delicious hot dog. If you manage to have any remaining room in your stomach, it’s mandatory to order the perfectly crispy waffle fries. 113 St. Mark’s Place (between First Avenue and Avenue A), East Village