Slideshow: My Favorite Hot Dogs of 2012

Best Provision All Beef Syd's Dogs (Newark, NJ)
Best Provision All Beef Syd's Dogs (Newark, NJ)
Frequently mentioned by hotdoglover and other hot dog aficionados as one of Jersey's all-time best dogs is Best Provision's 5-to-a-pound dog served at the legendary, now defunct Syd's of Springfield. But Best Provision has preserved the recipe, and you can still find them at Best's retail store - little more than a deli case in the middle of their factory - or served at The Garage in Millburn.

Best Provision: 144 Avon Avenue, Newark, NJ (map) (973) 242-5000 ; bestprovision.com

Best Provision All Beef Syd's Dogs (Newark, NJ)
Best Provision All Beef Syd's Dogs (Newark, NJ)
Once you climb onto the loading dock, dodging trucks and meat-covered factory workers, and finally get someone's attention, they'll sell you as many (or as few) hot dogs as you want at ridiculously low prices. I picked up a 5-pound bag of the Syd's dogs and took them camping. They're perfect for grilling - big juicy dogs with a thick natural casing, and lots of spice. They don't really need anything but some mustard, maybe some grilled onions and a beer or 6 to wash it down.

Best Provision: 144 Avon Avenue, Newark, NJ (map) (973) 242-5000 ; bestprovision.com

Hoffman's Old Fashioned Hot Dogs (Hagerstown, MD)
Hoffman's Old Fashioned Hot Dogs (Hagerstown, MD)
Not to be confused with Hoffman's of Syracuse, also a quality hot dog-maker poised to go national, Hoffman's is a small farm, game processing plant, and butcher shop that makes several varieties of really terrific hot dogs. Along with traditional pork and beef, natural casing "old fashioned hot dogs", Hoffman's also makes super spicy atomic dogs, jalapeno cheese dogs, and half-smokes that rival anything I've ever had in Washington D.C.

Hoffman's Meats: 13225 Cearfoss Pike Hagerstown, MD (map) (301) 739-2332 ; hoffmanmeats.com

Swiacki Meats Kielbasa (Philadelphia, PA)
Swiacki Meats Kielbasa (Philadelphia, PA)
I first wrote about Swiacki, a polish kielbasa and sausage shop in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia, back in 2011, but it's just one of those places that's so good, I can't stay away. Super garlicky, mildly smoky and jucier than you might imagine, Swiacki's housemade kielbasa is best served with whatever they have on the counter: fresh rolls, local Zayda's hot pickles and some horseradish or mustard. Read more here.

Swiacki Meats: 3623 Salmon Street, Philadelphia, PA 19134; (map) 215-634-0820

Swiacki Kielbasa Detail (Philadelphia, PA)
Swiacki Kielbasa Detail (Philadelphia, PA)
Grilled over charcoal and delicious. The sausage is obviously different, but I was definitely thinking Sheyboygan Brat a bit with the raw onion and pickle garnish. Read more here.

Swiacki Meats: 3623 Salmon Street, Philadelphia, PA 19134; (map) 215-634-0820

Tommy's Italian Hot Dog (Elizabeth, NJ)
Tommy's Italian Hot Dog (Elizabeth, NJ)
I wasn't expecting to like Tommy's Italian Hot Dog as much as Jimmy Buff's, the originator of this unique-to-north-Jersey deep-fried hot dog, onion, pepper and potato on pizza bread concoction. I was expecting something sort of greasy and soggy, but instead I got amazing golden brown, soft fried potatoes, perfectly seasoned, stuffed into fresh pizza bread and a deep-fried Best Provision all beef dog. Definitely the best New Jersey-style Italian Dog I've had. Read more here.

Tommy's Italian Sausage: 900 2nd Avenue, Elizabeth, NJ 07201; (map) 908-351-9831

Zweigles dog with Rochester Sauce
Zweigles dog with Rochester Sauce
After trying hot dogs all over the country, Zweigle's from Rochester (available at any Wegman's, if you're lucky enough to have one near you) are still one of my favorites. These "Texas Hots" as they're known in Rochester, are big, juicy natural casing dogs with a unique spice that's more clove and juniper than garlic or paprika, and delicious buried underneath Rochester's spicy, lard-infused "Beef Hot Sauce", the same stuff they put on their famous Garbage Plates. Read more here.

Order Zweigle's Hots and Rochester Beef Sauce from (nystyledeli.com)

Thanksgiving Dog from Misconduct Tavern (Philadelphia, PA)
Thanksgiving Dog from Misconduct Tavern (Philadelphia, PA)
Misconduct is a sports bar in Philly with an ambitious menu that includes housemade hot dogs served on New England style buns. I'm always a little skeptical about their latest concoction, at least until I try it and have my mind blown. These Thanksgiving dogs were made from ground turkey and duck fat, stuffed and smoked in-house, and sold for only $4 a pop. Unlike other housemade "hot dogs" I've had that are coarse ground and more like sausages, chef Nick Mezzina goes to great lengths to really get the perfect texture, even with turkey. Read more here.

Misconduct Tavern: 1511 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA (map) (215) 732-5797 ; misconduct-tavern.com

Bobak's Pork Frankfurters (Chicago, IL)
Bobak's Pork Frankfurters (Chicago, IL)
I'd never heard of Bobak's until finding several varieties of their awesome, well balanced frankfurters at the Net Cost Russian supermarket in Northeast Philadelphia. They're actually from Chicago, where they have a retail store open to the public. Wherever you get them, I was shocked how good these are. Pictured here is an all-pork natural casing frankfurter, juicy and well spiced enough to stand up to some European style toppings.

Bobak's Sausage Store: 5275 South Archer Avenue, Chicago, IL 60632; (map) (773) 735-5334

Rieker's Prime Meats (Philadelphia, PA)
Rieker's Prime Meats (Philadelphia, PA)
An old-school German butcher shop in the Fox Chase section of Philadelphia, they make their own everything, from extra-long traditional wieners to thuringer and just about any encased meat you can imagine. Read more here.

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

Rieker's 100% Veal Frankfurter (Philadelphia, PA)
Rieker's 100% Veal Frankfurter (Philadelphia, PA)
Rieker's housemade 100% veal frankfurter, steamed and lightly grilled in my backyard. Mildly spiced but not bland, juicy, snappy and overall just one of the most well-balanced frankfurters I've ever had. Philadelphia's best kept hot dog secret that's up their with (or maybe even better than) the best in the country. Definitely my top pick for 2012. Read more here.

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