Best of Houston

Rest of the Best 2014: Houston's Ten Best Hot Dogs

Our 2013 Best of Houston® winners were announced a while back, but in many cases, picking the best item in any category was no easy task. In order to show off all the culinary greatness Houston has to offer, we're continuing to round up the "rest of the best" in some of our favorite categories. Bon appétit!

'Merica, man.

It's Independence Day. We've got patriotic pride coursing through our veins and an ache in our bellies for some classic American food. Enter the hot dog.

I know, I know, technically the frankfurter is from Germany and the wiener is from Austria, but the hot dog as we know it today--sandwiched in a bun and topped with condiments--is a distinctly American invention, no matter which origin story you believe.

So in honor of the overwhelming sense of pride we're feeling for our fair country (and because on the Fourth, you eat hot's just a thing you do), we're rounding up the best dogs in the city. Due to a surge in the popularity of what one might call "gourmet hot dogs," there are a lot of those on the list. But don't worry. We haven't forgotten the classic dog either.

Best Dog Dive The Hot Dog Shop Restaurant & Sports Bar Speaking of classic dogs, The Hot Dog Shop is about as classic as they come. The restaurant and bar hosts an annual hot dog eating contest, and the menu is very straightforward. No Sriracha or kimchi or venison here. Just good ol' all-beef Vienna dogs, a few basic toppings (chili, kraut, pickles) and traditional white bread buns. Should you be feeling a little adventuresome, though, there are also Polish sausages and corn dogs.

Best Fusion Dog Los Perros Hot dogs are surprisingly popular in Colombia, where you can buy them from street stands on every other corner. They're a little more festive than regular American dogs, though, incorporating the hot dog and bun from our culture and mixing it with the flavors of Colombia. On "El Perro Colombiano," you'll find ketchup, mustard, mayo, crumbled queso fresco, crushed potato chips, salsa rosada, homemade pineapple sauce, homemade tartar sauce, homemade raspberry sauce and honey. That's according to the menu. If you can taste all of those disparate toppings, more power to you. Regardless, it's one festive hot dog!

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Best Classic Dog James Coney Island Houston's oldest hot dog restaurant has been serving the city since 1923, and though James Coney Island recently underwent a rebranding of sorts (JCI Grill...really?), the classic hot dogs are as good as ever. The Texas, Chicago and New York dogs are great examples of the diversity of early hot dogs. In Chicago, it was all about that sweet green relish and sport peppers on a poppyseed bun. In New York, folks want mustard and sauerkraut. And here in Texas, of course, we pile chili on top. Whatever you choose, you can rest assured that JCI is making the same quality all-beef hot dogs that have made them a Houston institution.

Best Chicken Dog Eatsie Boys A chicken hot dog? For real? Oh, you'd better believe it. The "Frank the Pretzel" hot dog at Eatsie Boys is a superb reflection of Houston in hot dog form, from the Slow Dough pretzel bun to the chardonnay mustard from Grateful Bread to the delectable chicken sausage dog ground in-house with parsley, poblano peppers, Parmesan and feta. The sausage is grilled so there's a nice char in spots, which brings out the slight heat in the poblano peppers and the funkiness in the cheese.

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Most Unique Toppings Happy Fatz Part bakery, part hot dog shop, Happy Fatz shouldn't work--but it does. All the hot dogs are 1/4-pound Hebrew National kosher beef, and they have a wonderful smoky flavor. It's the toppings and bread that really make these hot dogs shine, though. How 'bout Shiner Bock chili, hashbrowns, basil-garlic mayo, charro beans, white cheddar pimento cheese or olive tapenade? Instead of a regular bun, try a soft pretzel bun, a poppyseed bun, a jalapeño bun or even...a tortilla? Yeah, we haven't tried that one yet, but based on all the other hot dog iterations at Happy Fatz, we're sure it's grand.

Best Local Dog Revival Market For those locavores among us, Revival Market is the place for all your hot dog needs. All the meat Revival sells is locally raised, and it's all butchered, ground and cased in house. The frankfurter is a simple creation--an all beef hot dog in a buttery toasted bun with sauerkraut and mustard (reminder: that's New York style). For something a little more fun, try the Revival Dog, a Mangalitsa hot dog topped with chicharrones from the same Mangalitsa piggy as the hot dog itself. Nose to tail, baby.

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Wildest Dog Sammy's Wild Game Grill On any given day, Sammy's Wild Game Grill will be offering a new and exotic sausage dog for your dining pleasure. From the pheasant with Cognac to the elk with apple and pear to the rabbit/venison combo, these sausages are not like grandma used to make. To ease into the exotic meats, try a buffalo and chipotle dog. It's rich and smoky, halfway between a burger and a traditional hot dog. Choose from a number of toppings and sauces, but beware: The ghost pepper sauce is the best, and it's likely to burn your tastebuds right off.

Best Gourmet Dog Moon Tower Inn Like Sammy's, Moon Tower Inn focuses on wild game hot dogs cased with ingredients like marsala wine, blueberries or foie gras. Try a pheasant dog with spicy mustard or a duck foie gras dog on a crisp pretzel bun. Want something gamey-er? Try the lamb or elk hot dogs and top them with sambal for a little heat. Oh, and let's not forget the beer selection while we're here. Few things pair with a gourmet hot dog quite like a craft beer, and in both cases, Moon Tower Inn satisfies.

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Best All Around We couldn't choose a winner for best all around hot dog in Houston, so it's a tie. Both are (or were) food truck, and both take the traditional hot dog out of the box and make it something worthy of a fine meal.

Good Dog Houston Though some might balk at paying more than $6 for a hot dog, take note: These are worth every penny. Good Dog Houston's signature hot dogs were such a hit on the food truck that its owners, Amalia Pferd and Daniel Caballero, were able to open a restaurant and serve their hot dogs six days a week. Every ingredient -- from the condiments to the buns to the proprietary dogs themselves -- is made in Texas, and most are produced right here in Houston. Try the Ol' Zapata for a spicy, overstuffed frank, or the New Yorker, which is topped with sauerkraut, a more traditional approach.

Koagie Hots The name may refer to a Korean hoagie, but most Houstonians know by now that Koagie Hots makes a mean dog. Like the owner, Matt Pak, himself, Koagie Hots is half Korean, half American. Think cheesesteaks with kimchi and hot dogs with Asian slaw and spicy mayo. The Koagie Dog is perhaps the best hot dog on the menu. It's topped with the same marinated ribeye as the koagies as well as Asian slaw, spicy mayo and a perfectly fried egg. This is a knife and fork kind of dog, but getting it all in your belly is well worth the effort it takes to eat.

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Kaitlin Steinberg