Oscar Mayer and Ballpark franks are reaping a bunch of free publicity lately via a court case in which a judge is ostensibly supposed to decide which hot dog is superior. (Ballpark, you see, filed suit over a 2009 ad alleging that Oscar Mayer dogs won out in a national taste test, claiming said taste test was rigged, and then Oscar Mayer counter-sued, and here we are.) While TV journalists covering the case chortle over puns like “legal beefs” and “hung-ry juries,” we decided to turn to our Grub Street editors in New York, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Los Angeles to propose their own, local wiener wars — because let’s face it: In this age of locally sourced ballpark concessions and artisanal sausage-making, you can find far better hot dogs than these two national brands to fill your summer cravings.
Hot Doug’s vs. Gene & Jude’s
GS Chi editor Nick Kindelsperger insists, “Chicago has better hot dogs than anyone else.” (It should be noted that both Kraft Foods’ Oscar Mayer brand and Sara Lee’s Ballpark are headquartered in Chicago.) But the best dogs in town, Nick says, are from Hot Doug’s (“His Chicago-style dogs are just perfect”) and Gene and Jude’s, whose hot dog Rachael Ray recently crowned as the best in the nation.
Shake Shack vs. Bark
None other than Daniel Boulud picked these two as his favorites in a recent survey of the city’s dogs for Grub Street. Shake Shack’s Shack-cago dog was his No. 1, mostly because of the toppings. It’s a Vienna all-beef dog on a potato bun, with mustard, Rick’s Picks Shake Shack relish, onion, cucumber, pickle, tomato, and celery salt.
Speed Dog vs. Sully’s
Zillionaire Warren Buffett recently weighed in on the excellent hot dogs at Roxbury’s Speed Dog, but Boston editor Kara Baskin also says the dogs are tasty and the ambience is better at Sully’s on the water.
Memphis Tap Room vs. The Corner
Philly editor Collin Keefe recently rounded up his city’s best dogs, and his two top picks are the Mofungo dog at Memphis Tap Room and the seafood dog at the Corner.
4505 Meats vs. Fatted Calf
Because it’s San Francisco, this competition is all about the local and organic, with Fatted Calf making a traditional, all-beef frank using Prather Ranch grass-fed beef, lamb casings, organic garlic, etc. And 4505 Meats, the butchery concern from chef Ryan Farr, has scored a major hit with its uncured, nitrate-free, hormone-free, bacon-flavored hot dogs, which are fully cooked in a smokehouse. As for the weird gluten-free dogs at AT&T; Park, SF Weekly’s Jonathan Kauffman recommends sticking to the ones at the sole Hebrew National stand.
Fab vs. Slaw Dogs
It’s a fight between Reseda and Pasadena for L.A.’s best dog, but editor Hadley Tomicki says the deep-fried Ripper at Fab, which had its fifteen minutes on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, is the bomb.