Walter's: Mamaroneck, NY
This Chinese pagoda-shaped roadside shack just north of New York City has been serving up "secret recipe" beef, pork and veal wieners on grill-toasted Freihofers buns since 1919.
The dogs are butterflied and brushed with butter as they cook on the grill, garnished with Walter's own pickle-flecked mustard. A model of hot dog simplicity, it's beloved by locals and regarded by many as one of the best in the country.
Walter's Hot Dog Stand: 937 Palmer Avenue, Mamaroneck NY 10543; waltershotdogs.com
Papaya King: NYC
Nothing says New York City like a garlicky, natural casing, all-beef kosher-style frankfurter from a bright neon yellow corner stand, washed down with a refreshing tropical fruit beverage.
Topped with red onion sauce and deli mustard, it's hard to compete with this kind of pure hot dog experience. As far as "tropical-style" NYC hot dog stands go, Papaya King—which opened in 1931 at 86th Street and 3rd Avenue—is the original and still the best.
Papaya King: 179 East 86th Street, NYC NY; papayaking.com
Clare & Carl's: Plattsburgh, NY
At the northern tip of New York state near the Canadian border you'll find this crazy little shack—slowly sinking into the ground—that's been serving up a curious local hot dog known as the "Michigan" since 1942.
The thick meat sauce is related to "Texas Hot Weiner" and "Coney" sauces served in other parts of the country, but dryer and thicker, ladled on top of the bright red dog with onions and mustard, served on a unique day-old steamed roll that sort of resembles a New England-style bun.
Clare & Carl's: 4727 U.S. 9, Plattsburgh NY; Open April through October; Clare & Carl's on Facebook
Olneyville NY System: Providence, RI
A Rhode Island tradition, the Hot Wiener is a grilled beef, pork and veal natural casing wiener served "all the way" on a steamed bun covered in meat sauce (don't even think of calling it "chili") with onions, mustard and celery salt. Then washed down with sweet coffee milk, another Rhode Island original.
There are dozens of different stands with the words "NY System" and "Hot Wiener" in the Providence area, but Olneyville is considered one of the best, where cooks line 10 or 20 dogs "up the arm" dressing them with mustard and sauce at a lightning pace.
Olneyville NY System: 18 Plainfield St, Providence RI; olneyvillenewyorksystem.com
Bark: Brooklyn, NY
One of the finest examples of gourmet hot dogs in the country, Brooklyn's Bark sticks with classic American flavors and elevates the frankfurter by using great local ingredients and housemade toppings with the same finesse you'd expect from a fine dining restaurant.
Bark serves Hartmann's natural casing franks cooked in lard butter, drops them into lightly toasted top-split buns, then garnishes generously with delicious homemade chili, house-cured sauerkraut or bacon braised baked beans.
Bark: 474 Bergen Street, Brooklyn NY 11217; barkhotdogs.com
Crif Dogs: NYC
Another fantastic newer hot dog stand, Crif Dogs is a no-frills Lower East Side spot for late-night dogs and sides of steaming hot deep-fried tater tots, yet another serious contender for the best dog in NYC.
They use natural casing Thumanns brand franks, specially made to stand up to a deep fryer, available in all sorts of delicious combinations. Wrapped in bacon or pork roll, topped with chili, slaw, cheese wiz, pickles, fried eggs, cream cheese, or avocado—the varieties are endless, perfect for soaking up alcohol and just the right size to order 2, 3, or 4 different dogs.
Crif Dogs: 113 Saint Marks Pl # 2, NYC, NY; crifdogs.com
Heid's: Liverpool, NY
In the Syracuse area a "Coney" is a white hot dog made with pork, veal, and egg whites. Heid's has been serving them since 1917, grilled and served "Texas Hot" style covered in chili, or topped with mustard and sweet pepper relish.
Along with the white Coneys, Heid's also serves a more standard beef and pork German frank. Both are made by nearby Hoffman's and both are delicious washed down with some local chocolate milk.
Heid's of Liverpool: 305 Oswego Street, Liverpool NY; heidsofliverpool.com
Gus's Hot Dogs: Watervliet, NY
In the capitol region of New York state, tiny 3-inch dogs are the norm, slathered in heavily spiced Greek meat sauce, practically dyed red from the paprika overload. Gus's is an amazing small town landmark, packed with locals wolfing down four or five at lunchtime.
Gus's tiny Helmbolds brand dogs are 65 cents each, grilled and served on specially made miniature buns.
Gus's Hot Dogs: 212 25th Street, Watervliet NY 12189
Ted's Hot Dogs: Amherst, NY
Known for their foot-long, "char-broiled" dogs, Ted's has been a Buffalo-area institution since 1927. Starting as a horse-drawn cart, there are now eight locations including one in the unlikely location of Tempe, Arizona.
The dogs are Sahlen's pork and beef franks—one of the best natural casing dogs out there—grilled over wood charcoal until deliciously blackened and almost splitting apart. Topping choices include everything from chili to pickles and tomatoes, and for the real Western NY experience wash it all down with Loganberry Soda.
Ted's Hot Dogs: 7018 Transit Road, Buffalo NY 14202; tedsonline.com
Nicky And Pete's: Philadelphia, PA
A hidden gem in a city better known for hoagies and cheesesteaks, Nicky & Pete's is a newer joint keeping long-lost Philly hot dog traditions alive. All-beef dogs are split and griddled, served on soft, double wide club rolls and delicious topped with "special sauce" and cheese whiz.
Or try the fish cake combo, a hot dog and potato fish cake jammed into the same roll and topped with pepper hash, mustard and chopped onions. This old-school, only-in-Philly concoction originated back in the 1920s, and Nicky & Pete's makes one of the best modern versions.
Nicky and Pete's Famous Hot Dogs: 349 N. 64th Street, Philadelphia PA 19139
Rutt's Hut: Clifton, NJ
Famous for their deep-fried "rippers," Rutt's uses natural casing dogs specially made for deep-frying. The homemade cabbage, carrot and mustard relish is super refreshing, the perfect cool counterpart to the crispy, salty dogs.
Washed down with an ice cold beer in the standing room only counter area or the amazing wood paneled dining room, Rutt's is one legendary hot dog joint. It's a great argument for the less-is-more philosophy when it comes to great hot dogs.
Rutt's Hut: 417 River Road, Clifton NJ 07014
Jimmy Buff's: East Hanover, NJ
One of the most unique regional hot dogs in the country originated at Jimmy Buff's. The New Jersey Italian Hot Dog is a deep-fried dog (or two) stuffed into a soft pocket of muffaletta-esque "pizza bread" with sauteed peppers, onions, and a heaping pile of deep-fried potatoes.
This epic sandwich is found all over New Jersey but best devoured at spots like Buff's that use real pizza bread, baked fresh daily by a handful of old-school North Jersey Italian bakeries.
Jimmy Buff's: 354 New Jersey 10, East Hanover NJ 07936; jimmybuff.com
Super Duper Weenie: Fairfield, CT
Starting with a truck on the side of the road, culinary school graduate Gary Zemola opened Super Duper Weenie in 1992, putting his training to work making all the toppings and sauces from scratch.
Since opening a full-sized restaurant, Super Duper has become one of Connecticut's most well-known hot dog stops, featured in several documentaries and even a spot on Triple D for their split and grilled Hummel dogs loaded with housemade chili and hot pepper relish.
Super Duper Weenie: 306 Black Rock Turnpike Fairfield CT 06825; superduperweenie.com
Photo courtesy of Mark Kotlinski at CToriginals.com
Rawley's Drive-In: Fairfield, CT
An old house that was converted into a hot dog stand in 1946, Rawley's is one of the state's most beloved and well-known stands, a favorite of Martha Stewart who grew up eating Rawley's dogs and milkshakes.
Rawley's uses natural casing Hummel Bros. franks, deep-fried and finished off on the grill. Served on toasted buns, the most popular is a dog "all the way" which means relish, mustard, sauerkraut, and a heaping pile of crispy deep-fried bacon.
Rawley's Drive-In: 1886 Post Rd, Fairfield CT
Photo courtesy of Mark Kotlinski at CToriginals.com
Flo's Hot Dogs: Cape Neddick, ME
The wait at Flo's can be up to two hours in the summer, with hundreds of people patiently waiting for the "special," a steamed natural casing dog topped with mayonnaise, celery seed, and Flo's unique hot and sweet tamarind-molasses-onion relish.
The dogs are churned out by Gail Stacey, the solitary, amazing employee of this tiny red shack on the side of Route 1. It's worth the wait for one of the most unique dogs on the East Coast.
Flo's Hot Dogs: 1359 Route 1, Cape Neddick ME; floshotdogs.com
Speeds Dogs: Boston, MA
A truck that's been around for more than 30 years, Speed's is anything but your everyday street dog. The jumbo franks are soaked in brown sugar and apple cider before being grilled over charcoal. Then they're loaded onto a toasted bun with homemade chili, sweet cranberry relish, or any combination of Speed's eclectic toppings.
Speed's has already been named the best in the country a few times, and is looking like a strong contender for this competition as well.
Boston Speed Dog: 42 Newmarket Square, Boston MA 02118;