12 Best Hot Dogs in Philadelphia

By Danya Henninger  |  June 16, 2014
Credit: Danya Henninger

Hot dogs have a long history in Philadelphia. In 1895, just a few years after the first stand opened at Coney Island and around the same time as the first franks were served in a St. Louis ballpark, Lithuanian immigrant Abe Levis opened his modest pushcart on South Street. His most popular item? Sausage links on a bun — aka hot dogs. The cart morphed into a brick-and-mortar soda fountain at Sixth and South, and the dogs gained fame, especially topped with fishcake, a combo some credit as the original surf ‘n’ turf.

You won’t find that South Street shop anymore (it closed in 1992), but not to worry — there are plenty of great ways to fulfill cravings for the summertime classic. From haute to old school, gussied up to plain and simple, here are 12 hot dogs to seek out in Philadelphia.

  • Credit: Danya Henninger

    The Big Kahuna at Hot Diggity

    A hot dog made for the beach. Keith Garabedian tops a snappy Sabrett frankfurter with guava mustard, grilled onions, pineapple salsa and habanero aïoli as one of the many creative combos at his zany South Street hot dog shack ($5.50). Don’t miss the housemade sodas or fresh-cut fries with dozens of housemade dipping sauces.

    630 South St.; 267-886-9253

  • Credit: Danya Henninger

    Tuscan Tony at Paesano’s

    “Meat” your match at Peter McAndrews’ Italian Market and Northern Liberties hoagie shops, where an all-beef dog is wrapped in sopressata, then dressed with Bolognese, chunks of sharp provolone and a good sprinkling of hot peppers. ($6.50)

    1017 S. Ninth St., 215-440-0371; 152 W. Girard Ave., 267-886-9556

  • Philly Combo at Johnny’s Hots

    This breakfast-lunch-only shack on the industrial east edge of Fishtown by I-95 caters to construction workers with hours from 4:30 AM-2 PM. It’s not for everyone, but a smashed fishcake wrapped around a frankfurter is an old Philadelphia tradition ($5). Even more popular is the hot sausage, topped with griddled long hots and classic pepper hash.

    1234 N. Delaware Ave.; 215-423-2280

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    The Philly Dog at SquareBurger

    At the Stephen Starr-run seasonal hut at Franklin Square, kosher salami is wrapped around a thick all-beef frank before it’s fried hot to order. Pickled cherry peppers, raw onions and plum tomatoes and mustard complement the super-pungent center — just promise not to breathe on your friends to distract them as they putt for mini-golf ($4).

    Franklin Square (Sixth and Race Sts.); no phone

  • Credit: Danya Henninger

    The Works at Texas Weiners

    A famous NJ soup company once tried to buy the recipe for the secret brown sauce that joins mustard and onions on the signature dog at this 89-year-old diner in deep South Philly, but the owners weren’t selling. Get a trio of these smallish franks and watch the cook line ‘em up along his forearm to add the toppings ($2.25 ea.).

    1426 Snyder Ave.; 215-465-8635

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    Supper Dog at Supper

    At his elegantly cozy South Street restaurant, chef-owner Mitch Prensky grinds pork shoulder into a thick frankfurter, then wraps the link in even more pork, this time in the form of bacon. Deep-fried, the result is set on a house-baked bun with kraut, BBQ onions and beer mustard, then served with a side of fried pickle chips. The catch? It’s only available during Sunday brunch ($11).

    926 South St.; 215-592-8180

  • Splinter at Memphis Taproom

    Kick it in this hip Kensington beer garden, where the stationery food truck serves craft cans and a menu of long, five-to-a-pound franks from Best Provisions in NJ. This one is grilled and served with marinara, a schmear of “pizza” cream (garlic and herb spiced) and crispy fried onions, but you can also try versions that are deep-fried and even beer-battered ($5).

    2331 E. Cumberland St.; 215-425-4460

  • Pepper Hash Dog at Mike’s Hot Dog Cart

    People wait in the rain to snag franks from this unadorned silver wagon that sets up with semiregularity at the corner of 24th and Passyunk, just before the I-76 overpass. Housemade pepper hash (a vinegary Philly classic that’s like a cross between coleslaw and relish) is the topping to choose for your steamed-bun jumbo dog, if you do catch the cart before sellout ($4.50).

    24th St. & Passyunk Ave.; no phone

  • Credit: Danya Henninger

    Mortadella Hot Dog at Alla Spina

    Hot dogs are Italian, right? At this Vetri joint on North Broad they are. Found under “panini” on the menu, this link is made in the style of mortadella, served with red-cabbage relish on a roll lined with crunchy, spicy pickles. Snag one at half-price during 4:30-6 PM weekday happy hour ($8).

    1410 Mt. Vernon St.; 215-600-0017

  • Corn Dog at Moe’s Hot Dog House

    There aren’t many places to get corn dogs on the regular in Philadelphia, so, good as the Levis franks at this Grays Ferry diner are on their own, it’s worth getting the battered and fried stick-threaded version. It’ll only run you $2.25, though, so if you’re up for it, add another griddled dog with housemade pepper hash and wash it all down with Levis Champ Cherry soda. Take note: new hours are shorter than ever (6:30 AM-1 PM, Monday-Friday).

    2601 Washington Ave.; 215-465-6637

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    My Thai at Underdogs

    Late-night cleanup at many Rittenhouse kitchens is fueled by this below-ground hot dog dugout, where the names of regulars who make their way through everything on the menu (franks, sausages, brats) get a place of honor on the restaurant wall. With spicy peanut sauce and green papaya slaw, this is one of the highlights, served in a combo with fries and a soda for just $7.25

    132 S. 17th St.; 215-665-8080

  • World Cup Dog at Jose Pistola’s

    When FIFA action in Brazil is on the TVs at this Center City cantina, chef Adan Trinidad is offering a frankfurter topped with pico de gallo, crema, jalapeños, ketchup and strips of bacon for just $3. Hurry over to try it, because when the games end on July 13, so does this special.

    263 S. 15th St.; 215-545-4101