For an all-American treat like the hot dog, you’d think July 4th was National Hot Dog Day. Wrong! It’s actually July 21 … this year anyway. The date moves around July a little every year to coincide with a Wednesday. And before you ask, it was the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council – yes, a real thing – that lobbied Congress to establish a National Hot Dog Day in 1991 to commemorate a hot dog lunch on Capitol Hill.
Now that you’ve stomached through a history lesson for today, let’s get down to business. For those who love tubular meat on a bun, here are the best places for hot dogs in Florida along with some hot dog trivia to help you digest everything.
Chubby’s Hot Dogs
9400 N. Orlando Ave., Maitland
Chicago natives and transplants rave about this unassuming shop just north of Orlando. The owners make guests feel at home, and the linked meat does the rest of the magic. Try a pizza puff if you’re not in a hot dog mood.
1006 E. Altamonte Drive, Altamonte Springs
Hot Dog Heaven
5355 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando
The dogs here – and the buns, toppings, you name it – are shipped straight from Chicago. The eatery’s location is nearly hidden by a highway overpass, but just look for the crowded parking lot and you’ll find it. If it’s your first visit, try the Great Chicago Fire Dog featuring a spicy hot dog, poppy seed bun, mustard, relish, tomato, pickle and hot peppers.
This hot dog stand is mobile so check its Instagram page for daily locations. South American-style dogs are the main attraction. Really it boils down to toppings, of which there are too many to name here. Complete them all with house-made condiments and more cheese than you dream about – that’s the reason why this place has legions of fans.
Are Hot Dogs German?
Some experts believe Frankfurt, Germany, is the hot dog’s birthplace. Others point to Vienna, Austria. In the United States, it’s easier to pinpoint the epicenter of hot dogs. It’s New York City, where in 1867, Charles Feltman began serving them on Coney Island.
Mel’s Hot Dogs
4136 E Busch Blvd., Tampa
Right down the street from Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is this other local institution – Mel’s. It’s been around since 1973 and has its focus on Chicago-style dogs. I recommend the Reuben Dog with Thousand Island dressing, sauerkraut and melted Swiss cheese. The brats and Chicago beef sandwiches are hard to turn down too.
1748 W Brandon Blvd., Brandon
Portillo’s is a Chicago-based chain, but it’s relatively new to Florida, so it’s included on the list. It has three locations in the state, but we’re partial to the Brandon spot. Be hungry before you arrive because the dogs here are only matched by the cakes. (Oh, and you can get a milkshake with a piece of cake INSIDE the drink.) Plant-based dogs are available, but consider indulging in a jumbo chili cheese dog instead.
1301 N. Howard Ave., Tampa
There’s no shortage of Chicago-style dogs on this list, so maybe try something different at Paulie’s – the North Carolina Dog, with mustard, chili, chopped onion and homemade coleslaw.
The Half Baked Potato
1626 Central Ave., St. Petersburg
Loaded baked potatoes are the headline here, but there are also nine dogs on the menu. The Asian Surf-n-Turf has cold “crab” salad and Thai chili sauce are tempting. For something even more unusual, the Everything Bagel Dog has cream cheese sauce.
Eat Hot Dogs in Space
Hot dogs were once NASA-approved to be taken and consumed in space. While we know Apollo astronauts enjoyed them on the way to the moon, they are no longer part of the standard menu aboard the International Space Station.
Hot Diggity Dogs & More
2641 Griffin Rd, Fort Lauderdale
The green awning reminds us of the ice cream parlors the grandparents took us to each year. The menu looks old-fashioned too, but the eats are the stuff of culinary dreams. Try the New York Dog with mustard, sauerkraut and spicy red onion sauce.
4749 SW 8th St, Miami
Dogs here are cut in half so the toppings can be piled on. If the options are overwhelming, try a chef’s creation. Don’t be surprised if you get corn chips or potato sticks on top.
Arbetter’s Hot Dogs
8747 SW 40th St, Miami
They’ve been around for 50-plus years, so they’re doing something right. Chili dogs are the star here but don’t leave without sampling the cheese fries.
Jaxson’s Ice Cream Parlor and Restaurant
128 S Federal Hwy, Dania Beach
Founded in 1956, it’s a South Florida landmark. Dishes and ingredients here are homemade. Dogs here come in half-pound and one-pound sizes, but leave room for the old-fashioned ice cream desserts.
Island Dogs Bar
505 Front St., Key West
This bar and grill in the heart of Old Town has about anything a traveler could crave – conch fritters, buffalo shrimp, smoked fish dip and – yes – green dogs. Try the Island Dog, a bacon-wrapped wiener with mango, pineapple, banana peppers, red onion and a sweet chili sauce. If you’re adventurous in the A.M. too, try the Good Morning Dog, a bacon-wrapped dog topped with cheese and a fried egg.
The Hot Dog Bun Controversy
At one point in your life, you’ve asked: Why do hot dog buns come in packs of eight while the hot dog themselves typically come in packs of 10. We have the answer! When hot dogs were first introduced, they were bought at butcher shops in varying quantities. Bakers, on the other hand, typically owned industrial-sized ovens that produced buns in packages of eight. These days, thankfully, both hot dog packs and buns come in varying sizes so you don’t have to do the math anymore.
All American Hot Dogs and Sandwiches
10365 Beach Boulevard, Jacksonville
All American has been serving up dogs, pitas and cherry lime aid since 1972. Toasted buns are the secret here but so is the homemade coleslaw as a topping.
Hot Dog Hut
1439 3rd St S, Jacksonville Beach
Few treats match the magic of a day at the beach with a hot dog. Here, consider the Gator Dog with grilled onions, bacon and a spicy special sauce.
Hazel’s Hot Dogs
2400 N Ponce De Leon Blvd Saint Augustine
There are 13 dogs here to choose from, but you absolutely must not leave without an order of the hand-cut fries.
Hot Dogs and Baseball
More so than any other sport, hot dogs seem to be mystically attached to baseball. There are a couple of theories about this. First, baseball dates back further than other professional sports in America. Also, the food is easy to prepare, making it ideal ballpark fare. It’s also believed that the owner of the St. Louis Browns baseball team – German immigrant Chris Von de Ahe – fancied the food and made it a staple at home games.
FORT MYERS/SOUTHWEST FLORIDA
Matt’s Red Hots
18911 S Tamiami Trail #24, Fort Myers
Everything here is made from scratch so order without any guilt. Unlike so many other vendors here that serve Vienna dogs, Matt’s sells Sahlen’s dogs from Buffalo.
1528 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel
This local favorite is temporarily closed while Sanibel recovers from Hurricane Ian. When it reopens, we will be among the first to snap up the Original Schnapper, a chargrilled dog with mustard, relish, chopped onions and a special sauce.
330 U.S. 41 N., Naples; 845 Vanderbilt Beach Road, North Naples
Burgers might make the headline, but the hot dogs are the big news. Corn dogs are hand-dipped, but save room in the tummy for the Southern Dog featuring barbecued pulled pork and coleslaw.
What’s in a Hot Dog?
Are you sure you want to know? The answer really depends on the dog. Nearly all standard hot dogs consist of pork, beef, chicken, turkey or a combination of meats. Water is added along with garlic, salt, sugar, ground mustard and curing agents. If some more – shall we say – “exotic” proteins are included, they’d be listed as either “variety meats” or “meat by-products.” Those can include livers and hearts. Slather it all with mustard or chili, and you’ll never know the difference.
Wacked Out Weiner
6675 Pine Forest Road, Pensacola
This crazily named establishment has locations throughout Alabama and Texas, so we’re thrilled there’s now an outlet in Florida. Their namesake dog has mac-n-cheese with bacon, which sounds more drool-worthy than wacky. Consider a Beach Dog too, with pineapple, bacon and barbecue sauce.
Shore Dogs Grill
8100 Thomas Dr., Panama City Beach
Try the Junk Yard Dog here, featuring Coney sauce, cheese, mustard, ketchup, mayo, relish, onions, sauerkraut, lettuce … wait a minute, that’s everything. We get it now.