Hot Dog of the Week: Hot Diggity Opens in Philadelphia

Hot Dog of the Week

A unique hot dog feature each week from hot dog connoisseur and cartoonist Hawk Krall!

[Original artwork and photographs: Hawk Krall]

Yet another addition to the growing roster of Philadelphia hot dog joints, this one features a menu illustrated by yours truly. Chef Keith Garabedian, who lives in South Jersey and has worked in New York including a stint at Tom Colicchio's Craftbar, contacted me a year ago about his plans to open Hot Diggity in Philadelphia.

Having received several similar requests from folks with plans (that didn't pan out), I didn't think much of it. So I was surprised and excited to hear from Keith a few months ago with a location, a deadline, and an invitation to taste the menu in progress.

After a few months of scrubbing and remodeling this former falafel stand (and me painting mustard and pickles until 4 a.m. for almost a month straight), Hot Diggity opened last weekend with a menu of 10 different regional hot dogs.

Each dog starts with an extra-long grilled Sabrett natural casing all-beef frank on a fresh hot dog roll from Liscio's Bakery. The specialty dogs are around $5 to $6 each, while a plain dog with your choice of relish, mustard, or onions is $3. Most of the toppings are made in-house and delicious, and it's nice to see a veggie dog option for any of the variations.

I tried all 10 dogs a few months ago, then again the other day in the finished restaurant. Some of these photos are from the original tasting, but not much has changed except for the natural casing dogs and slightly smaller rolls.

The Bronx Bomber is one of the more traditional options, a take on the Papaya-stand style dog covered in homemade red onion sauce, sauerkraut, and brown mustard. Pretty close to the real thing, especially since they use a similar dog, this is a good choice for folks not looking for pineapple relish or lettuce on their hot dog.

The Desert Dog was my favorite of Hot Diggity's Latin American variations (there's also a Fiesta Dog with guac, sour cream, lettuce and a lime wedge) that's slightly similar to a Sonoran Dog with the smashed pinto beans, green chili sauce, tomato, shredded cheese, but instead of bacon they top it with a heap of deep-fried tortilla strips. Sounds like a lot of stuff, but it's a nice balance of toppings and the tortillas add a great crunch.

Next up is the Texas Hold-Em wrapped in bacon and covered in shredded cheese, hot sauce, onions, and made extra awesome with the addition of Old Faithful Barbecue Sauce from Percy Street BBQ , a Texas-style barbecue spot (get the burnt ends) right down the street.

The Windy City is Hot Diggity's take on the classic Chicago Dog, and while not 100% authentic—after several experiments they opted to leave off the sport peppers rather than try to substitute them with something that didn't work—it's damn close with the neon green relish, pickles, onions, tomato, mustard and celery salt, and really good with the Sabrett's grilled dog.

The Seattle Grunge, is pretty far off from an actual Seattle "street meat" dog, which is usually split, grilled, and served on a toasted bun with a line of cream cheese and grilled onions. Hot Diggity's version—with lots of garlic cream cheese, chopped tomatoes, scallions and thinly shaved red onions—is more of a hot dog bagel situation but also really good. The combination of snappy dog and cream cheese really makes this one.

My favorite since the beginning has been the Saigon Fusion, a hot dog version of a banh mi. The larger bun really works in this one's favor. Everything is fresh and the banh mi flavors are right on. If you closed your eyes you might not know you were eating a hot dog.

Also really good are the thick, hand-cut fries served in a paper cone with awesome housemade dipping sauces like curry mustard mayo and peppercorn ranch.

There are a few things that I don't love here. I've written many times of my dislike of hot dogs on big rolls, and while these are smaller than the torpedo rolls of the first tasting, they are still fairly big and despite being fresh, delicious and local (Liscio's is one of the best in the area) it's still too much bread, especially if you want to try three or four different dogs (anyone else?).

I also sort of wish they would combine the Cincinnati Skyline (a good chili cheese dog that tastes nothing a Cincinnati style Coney) with the Southern Comfort, a chili-less slaw dog that feels like it needs something more. I'm hoping they'll eventually devise a system of mixing and matching toppings for those who want to go off the menu.

Aside from some minor quibbles, Hot Diggity is a great addition to the hot dog scene in Philadelphia. Natural casing dogs are hard to find in Philly, and those Sabretts alone are enough to keep me coming back. Future plans include a craft beer menu, monthly specials like a Philly Combo served with housemade fish cakes, a farmer's market dog loaded with toppings based on seasonal produce, and late-night discounts for the tipsy crowd on the weekends.

Hot Diggity

630 South Street, Philadelphia PA 19147 (map); 267-886-9253‎;

Hawk Krall is a Philadelphia-based illustrator who has a serious thing for hot dogs. Dig his dog drawings? Many of the illustrations he has created for Hot Dog of the Week are available for sale: