The Varsity: Atlanta, GA
The Varsity could quite possibly be the biggest hot dog place in the world. Scores of employees scramble behind the counter to feed chili dogs and onion rings to the giant lines of customers that fill this airport-sized drive-in, which holds up to 800 people.
Despite updating as a modern operation, chili dogs are still $1.83, or $2.22 for the Heavy Dog (pictured) covered in so much chili you need a knife and fork.
The Varsity: 61 North Avenue Northwest, Atlanta GA 30308; thevarsity.com
Ann's Dari-Creme: Glen Burnie, MD
This amazing dairy bar and hot dog counter outside of Baltimore deep-fries footlong hot dogs and serves them on sub rolls with generous amounts of spicy chili, creamy slaw, mustard and onions.
Be sure not to miss the hand-cut fries and super thick milkshakes. Our first stop on the way down South and a great start to a trip full of incredible hot dogs.
Ann's Dari-Creme: 7918 Ritchie Hwy, Glen Burnie MD 21061
Photo courtesy of Mark Jonas on Flickr.
Ben's Chili Bowl: Washington, D.C.
You might spot Bill Cosby or even president Obama at this Washington, D.C., landmark popular with celebrities and local politicians. The serve fat, juicy half-smokes (a coarsely ground, smoked pork sausage unique to the D.C. area) grilled until crisp and buried under a mountain of chili.
Ben's Chili Bowl: 1213 U Street NW, Washington D.C. 20009; benschilibowl.com
Nu-Way Weiners: Macon, GA
Nu-Way has been a Macon institution since 1916, and it's easy to see why. The neon red pork hot dogs are grilled on a flat top until well-done and topped with heavily spiced Greek chili and not-too-creamy Southern slaw.
Wash it down with sweet tea poured over Nu-Way's famous shaved "flaky ice" for the quintessential southern hot dog experience.
Nu-Way Weiners: 430 Cotton Avenue, Macon GA; nu-wayweiners.com
Pauly Dogs: Durham, NC
Former bartender and pizzeria cook Paul Konstanzer opened this hot dog stand near Duke University 12 years ago and has established a loyal cult following with his 52 varieties of hot dogs and hundreds of different toppings and sauces.
The dogs are high quality steamed Sabrett's natural casing beef hot dogs, the base for surprisingly well-balanced wild concoctions like the "Will" topped with chili, potato salad, sweet Thai chili sauce and crushed potato chips. Or the classic "Southern Belle" topped with chili, cole slaw, and a dash of Texas Pete hot sauce.
Pauly Dogs: Duke University, West Campus Plaza, 125 Science Drive, Durham NC 27705; Pauly Dogs on Facebook
Frank: Austin, TX
One of the country's newest gourmet shrines to encased meat, Frank serves up housemade antelope and pork sausages topped with things like huckleberry compote, along with the more traditional Vienna beef franks topped Chicago-style or with chili and slaw.
Things get even more intense with weekly specials like the cheese-stuffed, bacon-wrapped, deep-fried "Warehouse District" dog covered in Dr. Pepper barbecue sauce. Or the Muffaletta style "Bourbon Street" dog.
Frank: 407 Colorado Street, Austin TX 78701; hotdogscoldbeer.com/
Pete's Famous Hot Dogs: Birmingham, AL
You can't miss this 90-year-old hot dog counter with its gorgeous neon sign brightening the tree-lined streets of downtown Birmingham. Owner Gus Koutroulakis has been at the helm since 1948, cooking up tiny pinkish franks on the window grill and chatting it up with regulars and tourists alike.
Dropped into a mustard smeared bun, the "special" is topped generously with sauerkraut, seasoned ground beef, chopped onions and Gus's mysterious secret sauce. Add a dash of cayenne pepper from the shaker on the stainless steel ledge and the combination of flavors result in one of the most unique and delicious hot dogs in the country.
Pete's Famous Hot Dogs: 1925 2nd Avenue, North Birmingham AL 35203; Southern Foodways Alliance: Pete's Hot Dogs
Gus's Hot Dogs: Birmingham, AL
Pete's main competition is right down the street, serving an almost identical "special dog" loaded with seasoned ground beef, kraut and that mysterious special sauce.
The rivalry between the two ancient stands is intense; picking a winner is a real challenge. They are both ridiculously good hot dogs, better to just eat both!
Gus's Hot Dogs: 1915 4th Ave N., Birmingham AL 35203; Southern Foodways Alliance: Gus's Hot Dogs
Sandy's: Columbia, SC
A small chain in the Columbia area, Sandy's is unique for the South in that they serve big, spicy all-beef dogs, on fluffy white top-split buns. The slaw dogs were good but the dog slathered in creamy pimento cheese—a staple in this part of the country more often found on burgers—blew my mind.
Sandy's Famous Hot Dogs: 612 St Andrews Rd, Columbia SC; Sandy's on Facebook
Rough Hous: Abbeville, SC
This taxidermy decorated bar and pool hall in the tiny town of Abbeville, South Carolina, has been open since 1932 with one thing on the menu: chili dogs served in top-split buns. Great with a couple shakes of Texas Pete hot sauce.
Wash a few dogs down with an ice cold Budweiser or Grape Nehi (in an old-fashioned glass bottle) and check out some of the local blues and country acts that play here regularly.
The Rough House: 116 Court Square, Abbeville SC 29620; Rough House on Facebook
Skeenies Hot Dogs: Charleston, WV
West Virginia just might be the slaw dog capital of the world, with a local hot dog joint (or three) in every town. Skeenie's—a roadside stand and dairy bar near Charleston—serves up some of the best in the state, blanketed in chili, ultra creamy slaw, mustard and onions before being wrapped in wax paper.
Skeenie's Hot Dogs: 2399 Sissonville Drive, Charleston WV 25312-1334
Photo courtesy of asimplehomecook.com
Morrison's Drive-Inn: Logan, WV
Another contender for West Virginia's best hot dog, Morrison's is a real old-fashioned drive in with curb service, where they clamp a metal tray to your car window.
The dogs are buried in sweet and spicy chili, mustard, super finely chopped slaw and a small scattering of finely diced onions. Then the whole thing is wrapped in cellophane, enabling the flavors and ingredients to combine into the hot delicious mess that is a West Virginia hot dog.
Morrison's Drive-Inn: 126 Stollings Avenue, Logan WV
Photo courtesy of wvhotdogblog.blogspot.com
Roanoke Weiner Stand: Roanoke, VA
Smack in the center of downtown Roanoke, near the incredible City Market, you'll find the Roanoke Weiner Stand. A family business that's been around since the 1920s, the interior is covered in gigantic paintings of people chowing on hot dogs by local artist Eric Fitzpatrick.
The dogs are super simple and delicious, grilled up in the front window, served with thick chili, mustard and fresh diced onion on steamed buns.
Roanoke Weiner Stand: 25 Campbell Avenue Southeast, Roanoke VA 24011
Skeeter's E.M. Umberger Store: Wytheville, VA
Opened as a general store in 1925, Skeeter's is an awesome old-school lunch counter known for their hot dogs, claiming to have sold over seven million.
These are classic Southern slaw dogs, bright red steamed wieners buried underneath chili, creamy homemade slaw that's more sauce than salad, the standard mustard and onions as well as neon orange cheese sauce if ordered "all the way." And of course, bottles of hot sauce on every table.
Skeeter's World Famous Hot Dogs: 165 East Main Street, Wytheville VA 24382; Skeeter's on Facebook
Roast Grill: Raleigh, NC
This tiny eccentric lunch counter in the front of an old house seats about eight people and serves grill-blackened hot dogs covered in chili and a unique crunchy vinegar slaw. A real-deal old-school joint covered in "No Ketchup" signs, antique soda bottles and dudes drinking beer at 11 a.m. Awesome.
The Roast Grill: 7 South West Street, Raleigh NC 27603; roastgrill.com
Pulliams Barbecue: Winston Salem, NC
This 100-year-old roadside shack and Nascar memorabilia shrine on the outskirts of Winston-Salem serves a decent barbecue sandwich but is really known for their "toasted" hot dogs. Bright red, grilled pork hot dogs are topped with yellow mustard, thick homemade chili, and a heaping mound of the creamiest, whitest slaw you've ever seen.
The bun is toasted face-down on the grill in butter until it's golden brown, then gets topped with owner Big Ed's homemade hot sauce.
Pulliams Toasted Hot Dogs: 4358 Old Walkertown Road, Winston-Salem NC 27105