Slideshow: 12 Hot Dogs That Haunt My Dreams

The Dirty O (Pittsburgh, PA)
The Dirty O (Pittsburgh, PA)
I finally made it to Pittsburgh's legendary Old Original Hot Dog Shop (aka the "Dirty O") and was blown away. One of the few old-school hot dog shops in Pennsylvania serving natural casing franks, theirs are from nearby Silver Star meats, and they're delicious. Don't miss the massive mounds of hand-cut ultra-crisp fries that were definitely the best I had in the last year. Read more here.

Original Hot Dog Shop: 3901 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh PA 15213 (map) 412-621-7388

Jimmy John's Piping Hot Sandwiches (West Chester, PA)
Jimmy John's Piping Hot Sandwiches (West Chester, PA)
After living in Philadelphia for years, it was sort of embarrassing that I'd never been to Jimmy John's in West Chester, arguably our area's most important still-standing old-school hot dog stand. Then last year the restaurant was gutted by fire and I thought I'd never taste their signature "special frankfurter." Thankfully they re-opened soon after. I finally tried these short, stout, insanely snappy natural casing dogs, served Philadelphia-style on fresh club rolls. Read more here.

Jimmy John's Piping Hot Sandwiches: 1507 Wilmington Pike, West Chester PA 19380 (map) 610-459-3083; ‎jimmyjohns1940.com

The Froman from Gilbert's Craft Sausage (WI)
The Froman from Gilbert's Craft Sausage (WI)
A new hot dog and sausage maker out of Wisconsin, Gilbert's sent me a case of their product to mess around with. We especially loved the Froman, their nitrate-free, collagen casing, all-beef sirloin homage to the great Chicago red hot. We tried them steamed, grilled (pictured here) and even deep-fried. All were fantastic. They're available in retail stores in the Midwest or online.

Order at gilbertssausages.com

Scott Dogs (Philadelphia, PA)
Scott Dogs (Philadelphia, PA)
Philly's new hot dog cart from South Philly Taproom chef Scott Schroeder premiered at a handful of events last year. If you can find the thing when it's open, these are hands down some of the best dogs in Philadelphia. The fat, natural casing, traditionally spiced dogs are similar to nearby Jimmy John's "special frankfurter" but hand-made by Scott himself with local, grass-fed beef and pork. Warmed in beer, finished on a grill and served simply on potato rolls with cucumber-mustard relish, these high-end dogs that maintain the lowbrow spirit of hot dog culture. Look to see a lot more from Scott Dogs this summer. Read more here.

Scott Dogs: Follow them on Twitter @scott_dogs

Memphis Taproom's Pølser (Philadelphia, PA)
Memphis Taproom's Pølser (Philadelphia, PA)
Opened last summer in Memphis Taproom's beer garden in the Port Richmond neighborhood of Philadelphia, this newish hot dog truck surprised the hell out of me. The real clincher is that they serve Best Provisions all-beef, natural casing dogs from Newark, practically legendary in the hot dog world. Paired with unique homemade toppings like this Denmark-inspired Pølser covered in remoulade, pickles and crispy shallots, the only thing holding these back are the slightly bready vegan hoagie rolls—but everything else is so good you barely notice. Read more here.

Memphis Taproom Beer Garden (open summer only): 2331 East Cumberland Street, Philadelphia PA 19125 (map) 215-425-4460; ‎memphistaproom.com

Street Dogs (Guayaquil, Ecuador)
Street Dogs (Guayaquil, Ecuador)
Like much of Central and South America, Ecuador has a thriving street dog culture that's remarkably different from the more well-known dogs from Colombia, Chile, and Mexico. The dogs are cooked in a water bath that can contain anything from garlic, parsley, and onions to ketchup and mustard, then topped with aji (an Ecuadorian hot sauce made with tamarillos), mustard, mayonnaise, and creamy salsa verde. Many carts also offer chuzos, a deep-fried hot dog and plaintain skewers. Read more here.

Corner of Machala and Luis Urdaneta; Guayaquil, Ecuador (map); Open 4 to 11 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday

Pulliams Toasted Hot Dogs (Winston Salem, NC)
Pulliams Toasted Hot Dogs (Winston Salem, NC)
Serious hot doggers may frown on Southern wieners for their lack of natural casing or high-quality meat, but I've fallen in love with the no-frills, rough-around-the-edges world of Southern hot dogs. And Pulliams is one of my favorites. A crazy standing-room-only general store / BBQ stand / chrome Nascar shrine, Pulliams cooks neon red dogs until they're well-done on a flat griddle also used to toast the buns face down in butter. The dogs are topped with freshly made chili and magically white creamy slaw, along with a bit of mustard, a few fresh onions, and a dash of owner Big Ed's signature hot sauce. Read more here.

Pulliams Toasted Hot Dogs & BBQ: 4358 Old Walkertown Road, Winston Salem NC 27105 (map) 336-767-2211

Rolf's Pork Store (Albany, NY)
Rolf's Pork Store (Albany, NY)
An amazing German butcher shop and deli, Rolf's has been making all sorts of hot dogs and encased meats in this hidden Albany storefront since 1968. Besides the standard natural casing frankfurter (which was delicious) they also make their own version of the mini-dogs popular in the Capitol region, along with awesome Weisswurst (not too different from a Syracuse "white hot"), smoked kielbasa, and an overwhelming array of fresh, smoked and cured meats, many of which I'd never heard of and all of which were mind-blowingly delicious. Read more here.

Rolf's Pork Store: 70 Lexington Avenue, Albany NY 12206-3018 (map) 518-463-0185; ‎rolfsporkstore.com

Yesterdog (Grand Rapids, MI)
Yesterdog (Grand Rapids, MI)
A crazy hot dog joint in Grand Rapids, Michigan, that breaks all the hot dog rules, Yesterdog serves cheap boiled dogs (in the heart of Coney country) messily topped with mustard, ketchup, chopped pickles, and lots of chili. No fries, no burgers, just hot dogs. And homemade chicken soup in the winter. Eccentric and stubbornly lowbrow, Yesterdog has a huge local following and has been cranking out dogs since the 1970s. Read more here.

Yesterdog: 1505 Wealthy Street Southeast, Grand Rapids MI 49506 (map); 810-233-4000; ‎yesterdog.com

[Photograph: Mike Donk]