Top 10 hot dogs in the Twin Cities
Who has the best Twin Cities tube steaks?
While the Twin Cities may not exactly be Chicago where hot dogs are concerned, we've still managed to establish a pretty diverse sausage scene. There are a few familiar faces on this list of Top 10 best places to grab a wiener, including past City Pages Best Of winners, but some newcomers have also made the cut. Did your favorite place make the list? If not, we're sure you will let us know in the comments.
1. The Depot Tavern Attached to the hip and historic First Avenue & 7th Street Entry, the Depot Tavern is an ideal place to get a pre-game beer and an even better place to get an anytime dog. There's the Stadium Brat, with sauerkraut and whole grain mustard, and the awesomely messy Chili Dog, with cheddar and scallions, but it's the Depot's Diamond Dog that makes it a top hot dog destination. If the Diamond Dog were a musical act, it would be Lady Gaga, dressed to dazzle. The quarter-pound tube steak is encased in a crusty bacon spiral that's been fused to the dog via a dip in the deep fryer. But its real innovation is its soft pretzel bun, which possesses the same leathery, salt-glazed crust and dense, chewy white flesh of those sold at street carts and concessions stands. At $9, it may be the most expensive dog on our list, but it's well worth it.
2. The Wienery Just as trail mix tastes best on the trail, a proper hot dog tastes best in a dive. In the Twin Cities, no atmosphere is more appropriate for hot dog consumption than the Wienery, a dump (in the best sense of the word) of a restaurant on Cedar Avenue. Belly up to the bar and order your dog as hot or cheesy as you like. Everything here is made to order, down to hand-chopping each small batch of onions that decorate the Ray Dog and steaming each sausage before it hits the griddle. The Wienery offers a dog for every diet: Polish, bratwurst, spicy sausage, vegan tofu dog, and the vegetarian Italian dog, winner of the 2010 City Pages Best Hot Dog. For those who love salt and vinegar and all things pickled, go for the Briny Dog, topped with kraut, spicy giardinera with a mix of peppers, and a crisp dill pickle spear.
3. Natedogs Natedogs applies an artisan approach to the humble hot dog cart. An all-pork, skin-on, uncured wiener (and wiener-sized bratwurst) from the family-run farm Pastures a Plenty is boiled so as not to risk splitting the casing and losing the juice, as it can when grilled. Nate Beck's homemade condiments include caramelized onions, coarse-cut sauerkraut, and a variety of blended mustards (try one made with a local beer). The snappy, fresh-tasting tube steaks and toppings do outshine their ho-hum, mass-produced buns, but that's kind of the point: The bread needs to fade to the background so the meat can be the star. For every dog purchased, Beck makes an equivalent donation to charity. "Get a dog, give a dog," he says. "That's our motto." Follow @natedogs on Twitter to find out where his cart is parked on any given day.
4. Uncle Franky's Uncle Franky's delivers a fat, almost sweet Vienna Beef dog with an appropriately plush bun, a great topping-to-dog ratio, spicy peppers, surprisingly tasty fluorescent green relish, and an overall harmony that should be the envy of anyone in the business. We also like the Wall Street dog, with mustard, kraut that's spent a little time getting good flavor from the grill, and onions. Both dogs are fantastic as is, but ask nicely and they'll deep-fry your wiener before adding all the delicious toppings. And who among us has not wanted desperately to take a break during a long but sometimes unavoidable trip to the Home Depot? If you happen to be at the NE Minneapolis, Plymouth, or Bloomington stores, you can swing by the Uncle Franky's stand and take your timeout with a wonderful wiener.
5. Kramarczuk Deli This Northeast shop, deli, and restaurant doesn't mess around with silly ball-park-style franks, and they don't offer a long list of make-it-your-own toppings. What they do have is a large selection of expertly seasoned sausages made in the Old World tradition. Choose from fresh Polish, bratwurst, Hungarian, Italian, or Andouille sausge. They all come simply: on a bun with sauerkraut. If you're looking for something a little different, try the Cossack with Kramarczuk's famous Ukranian sausage, melted Swiss, and sauerkraut. The sausage is subtly smoky, and the combination of toppings reminds us of a stripped-down Reuben that has no patience for Thousand Island dressing.
6. The Bulldog (Uptown) Of the three Bulldogs in the Twin Cities, the Uptown location gets the least love, but its authentic Chicago dog will make you long for summer nights, when the Bulldog's caged outdoor seating is filled with tables rather than heating lamps. Choose from a regular all-beef hot dog or spicy veggie dog (a fine meat-free specimen); it will arrive topped with yellow mustard, that signature neon-green relish you only ever see on a Chicago dog, roughly chopped onions, whole sliced tomatoes, sport peppers, and a pickle spear, in a lightly steamed poppy seed bun. If the Southern Slaw dog--covered in slightly mushy pinto beans, a scattering of crisp, real bacon bits, tangy and creamy house-made coleslaw, finished with Cajun seasoning--sounds like a whole delicious picnic on a bun, it is. Replace any dog on the Bulldog's menu with a lean and spicy Bison Polish for just 50 cents more to elevate your whole hot dog experience.
7. The Walkin' Dog With specialty dogs called the "I Have to Meet a Client Dog" (none of the bad-breath-inducing toppings) and the "I Hate My Co-Workers Dog" (all the bad-breath-inducing toppings), it's clear that this downtown institution, located in the Northstar building, caters almost exclusively to the busy professional. But the defining feature at the Walkin' Dog isn't the Secret Stadium Sauce (which is actually pretty good), it's the fact that it uses Klement's real-deal Milwaukee-made brats. Our favorite indulgence is the Cheddar Brat that pops open and oozes with salty cheese. Top it any way you like, but be sure to pair it with a Black Forest malt. The cheese-chocolate-cherry combo may sound a little strange, but test it out and you'll be a believer.
8. Hot Diggity Dog A relative newcomer to the Twin Cities hot dog scene, at first glance this tiny Stadium Village spot appears to be just another cheap and fast option for students. But with 15 different preparations and nothing but dogs on the menu, it has a tight focus that sends a clear message about its desire to be known for having the best dogs in town. The Fire Dog, with Tabasco, Frank's hot sauce, sriracha sauce, and hot giardinera, unlike most "hot" hot dogs, is truly spicy, almost so much that it covers up the taste of the dog, but great if you like that sort of extreme eating. We recommend the Boston dog, loaded with sweet baked beans, tons of cheddar, and spiked with a handful of bacon bits. At just $3.19 for almost any dog on the menu, you can afford to try a couple.
9. Chris and Rob's Chicago Are you from Chicago? Are you dying to talk to someone about the Bears? Do you have a deep and haunting fear that your child may grow up not being able to tell a Maxwell Street Polish from a sport pepper? If any or all apply, head to Chris and Rob's, a dog-and-beef palace run by two brothers, Chicago natives Chris and Rob Dubnecay. Their Chicago Dog is textbook: a Vienna all-beef dog with all the fixings and a very liberal sprinkling of celery salt. The chili dog is only mildly spicy but includes beans, which makes a nice change-up in taste and texture, even better with a side of some of the crispiest tots in town. Chris and Rob's may offer a little taste of home for native Chicagoans, but Al Capone would find it a too conspicuous hangout--it's a total cop shop.
10. Galaxy Drive-In We'll admit that the atmosphere factored in a bit on this one. The kitschy St. Louis Park retro-future-themed Galaxy Drive-In is a slick, Disneyfied concept with lots of teal and purple paint, neon lights, and pint-size replicas of old-fashioned planes and cars. Galaxy is the brainchild of Steve Schussler, the creative vision behind Rainforest Cafe, which means the dining experience tends to be more about theater than food. But Galaxy does serve up a tasty, fun-to-eat dog. Go for the Italian sausage, a thick and meatier option, with a mix of soft grilled peppers and onions, for deeper, more sophisticated flavor. Don't forget to ask for a cone for your pup on your way out. Galaxy gives them away for free.
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