Slideshow: Where to Find the Best European-Style Frankfurters in Philadelphia

Halteman Family Foods and Illg's
Halteman Family Foods and Illg's
Our first stop was Halteman Family Foods in center city's Philadelphia's Reading Terminal Market, my go-to spot for Pennsylvania Dutch lunchmeats, poultry, and natural casing hot dogs. Not to burst anyone's Amish food fantasy bubble, but we later discovered that Halteman's dogs are made at Illg's, a traditional German (but not PA Dutch) butcher shop out in Bucks County.

L Halteman Stand: 51 N. 12th St, Philadelphia PA (map) (215) 925-3206 ‎ ; readingterminalmarket.org

Ernst A Illg Meats: 365 Folly Road, Chalfont, PA (map) (215) 343-0670 ‎ ; illgsmeats.com

Illg's Meats Traditional German Wiener
Illg's Meats Traditional German Wiener
Illg's German dogs are natural casing, beef and pork, and fairly small at around 6 to a pound. We cooked everything with the same method: steamed lightly in water and finished off on the grill for just a minute to crisp them up a bit.

L Halteman Stand: 51 N. 12th St, Philadelphia PA (map) (215) 925-3206; readingterminalmarket.org

Ernst A Illg Meats: 365 Folly Road, Chalfont, PA (map) (215) 343-0670; illgsmeats.com

Illg's Meats - German Wiener
Illg's Meats - German Wiener
Illg's dogs were mild yet a bit saltier than some of the others we tried, and on the "almost none" side of the smokiness spectrum. Good but definitely not the best of the bunch, and really needed the mustard to add some zip to the mildness.

The frankfurter selection in general was smaller than I had expected, although it's definitely the place to go for smoked sausages from kielbasa to mettwurst, and offal of all sorts: lamb brains, duck hearts, plus they can get pretty much anything you need.

L Halteman Stand: 51 N. 12th St, Philadelphia PA (map) (215) 925-3206; readingterminalmarket.org

Ernst A Illg Meats: 365 Folly Road, Chalfont, PA (map) (215) 343-0670; illgsmeats.com

Czerw's Kielbasy - Old World Polish Hot Dogs
Czerw's Kielbasy - Old World Polish Hot Dogs
Czerw's is a well-known Polish spot in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia, famous for their kielbasa smoked on site (the lines go down the block at Christmas and Easter) and hand-made cheesesteak (and traditional) pierogies, a tray of which were literally billowing with steam in front of us when we stopped in to pick up hot dogs.

Czewr's Kielbasy: 3370 Tilton Street, Philadelphia, PA (map) (215) 423-1707; kielbasyboys.com

Czewr's Kielbasy - Old World Polish Hot Dogs
Czewr's Kielbasy - Old World Polish Hot Dogs
Czewr's pork "hot dogs" are massive, a quarter pound or bigger, and intensely smoked. Absolutely delicious, but also definitely not a hot dog. If you are looking for a traditional European frankfurter.. this isn't going to do the trick, although you'll find yourself with some of the best kielbasa in the world in bun-length form. Czewr's stuff looks and smells so good there's no way you're going in without leaving with an armful of smoked meat products.

Czewr's Kielbasy: 3370 Tilton Street, Philadelphia, PA (map) (215) 423-1707; kielbasyboys.com

Krakus Market - Parowki Hot Dogs
Krakus Market - Parowki Hot Dogs
I've written about the Polish hot dogs from Krakus Market (just a few blocks away from Czewr's in Port Richmond) for good reason. They are super snappy and intensely smokey - traditional but with more kick than the mild German franks.

Krakus Market: 3150 Richmond Street, Philadelphia, PA 19134 (map) 215-426-4336‎; krakusmarket.com

Net Cost Market - The Hot Dog Holy Grail
Net Cost Market - The Hot Dog Holy Grail
The biggest suprise of the trip, Net Cost is a Russian / Eastern European supermarket out in northeast Philadelphia, with the biggest selection of european-style natural casing hot dogs I've ever seen in Philadelphia. So many that I'm saving most of them for a different post. This place blew my mind, not only for the dogs but the massive variety of smoked and cured meats that would give DiBruno Brothers or hell even Eataly a run for the money - only more Eastern European than Italian and half the price.

Net Cost Market: 11701 Bustleton Avenue Philadelphia, PA 19116 (map) (267) 672-2500‎; netcostmarket.com

Net Cost Market - Veal Frankfurter
Net Cost Market - Veal Frankfurter
First from the Russian supermarket is an all-veal wiener, on the small side at 8 to a pound, made by Alex's Meats in Brooklyn. On the mild side but tasty with great snap. Similar to, but better than the Illg's franks with just the right amount of smoke.

Net Cost Market: 11701 Bustleton Avenue Philadelphia, PA 19116 (map) (267) 672-2500‎ ; netcostmarket.com

Net Cost - Bobak's Garlic Wiener
Net Cost - Bobak's Garlic Wiener
Sold loose at the deli counter, these short, fat smoky and ultra-garlicky beef and pork, natural casing dogs are from Bobak's, a Polish sausage company in Chicago that I've never seen in Philly. One of our overall favorites.

Net Cost Market: 11701 Bustleton Avenue Philadelphia, PA 19116 (map) (267) 672-2500‎; netcostmarket.com

Rieker's Prime Meats in Fox Chase
Rieker's Prime Meats in Fox Chase
Rieker's totally blew my mind. They've got a massive selection of encased meats from kielbasa to multiple styles of frankfurter, bockwursts, and bratwursts and anything you could imagine, everything made and smoked right there. Comparable to places like Rolf's Pork Store, that I've traveled hundreds of miles for, but maybe even better. In fact the dogs from here are up there with some of the best in the country.

Rieker's Prime Meats: 7979 Oxford Avenue, Philadelphia, PA (map) (215) 745-3114‎; riekersmeats.com

Rieker's Prime Meats - Thuringer
Rieker's Prime Meats - Thuringer
Somewhere I've read that the Thuringer Sausage is considered to be a precursor to the frankfurter. It's a variety of bratwurst, but longer and thinner, more finely chopped and mildly spiced. Rieker's Thuringer is a raw pork sausage, definitely a fine grind but not emulsified like a wiener. Cooked slowly over the grill, the flavor is really unique and delicate due to the mild spicing with marjoram and caraway. Not really a hot dog, but a really interesting and delicious find.

Rieker's Prime Meats: 7979 Oxford Avenue, Philadelphia, PA (map) (215) 745-3114‎; riekersmeats.com

Rieker's Prime Meats - German Wiener
Rieker's Prime Meats - German Wiener
This is Rieker's standard, traditional German extra-long frankfurter. Natural casing, made with pork and beef and pretty huge at almost a quarter pound each, these are comparable to the extra-long Continental franks, but juicier and a bit smokier.

Rieker's Prime Meats: 7979 Oxford Avenue, Philadelphia, PA (map) (215) 745-3114‎; riekersmeats.com

Rieker's Prime Meats - White Veal Wieners
Rieker's Prime Meats - White Veal Wieners
Somewhere in the twilight zone between weisswurst and wiener (and Rochester's White Hots) are these long, skinny veal sausages, spiked with parsley.

Rieker's Prime Meats: 7979 Oxford Avenue, Philadelphia, PA (map) (215) 745-3114‎; riekersmeats.com

Rieker's Prime Meats - White Veal Wieners
Rieker's Prime Meats - White Veal Wieners
Although the taste is more like a mild veal sausage, the tight grind is closer to a frankfurter. Again, while not exactly fitting as an example of an iconic traditional German wiener, a great find and Rieker's version is probably better than any Weisswurst or white hot dog I've had anywhere else.

Rieker's Prime Meats: 7979 Oxford Avenue, Philadelphia, PA (map) (215) 745-3114‎; riekersmeats.com

Rieker's Prime Meats - 100% Veal Wieners
Rieker's Prime Meats - 100% Veal Wieners
And finally we come to the cream of the crop. Rieker's all veal, natural casing quarter pound franks are just a little more flavorful than the standard version, somewhere in between a traditional mild pork and beef wiener and a spicier all-beef version. Perfectly, delicately made with great texture and a great balance of smoke, spice, salt and fat.

Rieker's Prime Meats: 7979 Oxford Avenue, Philadelphia, PA (map) (215) 745-3114‎; riekersmeats.com