In New York and its suburbs, where I grew up, there is only one way to eat a hot dog: in a potato roll with brown mustard, sauerkraut, and the option of onions in a sweet red sauce akin to ketchup.
Sure, there were heretics who added ketchup, relish, and raw chopped onions, and the occasional splash of disgusting, muddy chili, but they were few and far between. In New Jersey, we had Italian (or Newark-style) hot dogs dressed up like sausages at the Festa di San Gennaro. It was a real shock, though, to discover that in Chicago, they put a perfectly good (okay, not that good) pickle on their hot dog. And hot peppers and celery salt! I was pretty sure that was banned in the Bible or at least the Constitution.
Well, now I live in Southern California, where it's a hot dog if it contains a tube steak of some description; it could be wrapped up in a tortilla or stuffed into a bolillo. It could have bacon, or pastrami, or much-improved-from-my-childhood chili atop it. It could have mayonnaise–mayonnaise!–on it. My appreciation of all things hot dog has grown along with my waistline, and so here are ten of the top hot dogs in Orange County right now.
Don't agree? Did we miss yours? Are you some kind of hot dog heretic? Well, that's what the comments section is for.
10. PCH Hot Dogs
Why does Orange have so many good hot dogs? While the plain dogs are good–great snap to the casing, bun that doesn't go mushy–the reason to line up at this cash-only stand is for the chili cheese dogs. Eat the tasty little gut bomb on the curb and bring extra napkins.
3438 E. Chapman, Orange; 714-744-1415; no website.
A chain restaurant in a top-ten list? Well, yes, but Portillo's is a Chicago legend, and they've got an In-N-Out-like mania about making sure the two California locations (one in the IE, one here) are up to snuff. Get the Chicago dog as Chicagoans do: mustard, onions, tomato, pickle spear, celery salt, and–if you like the taste of spicy vinegar–sport peppers.
8390 La Palma, Buena Park; 714-220-6400; portillos.com.
8. Pee Wee's Famous Hot Dogs and Hamburgers
Don't order the Mexican hot dog at Pee Wee's–El Güero Canelo in Tucson it isn't, and there are better imitations elsewhere–but do order the Chupacabra, a double bacon-wrapped dog on a baguette (yes, it works) dressed like a Mexico City-style quesadilla, with crumbled cotija cheese, sour cream, avocado and salsa.
5942 E. Edinger #104, Huntington Beach; 714-846-3100; peeweesfamous.com.
7. The Viking Truck
What do you get when a lutefiskano–a half-Mexican, half-Norwegian chef–opens a hot dog truck? Tube steaks that are surprisingly like the post-clubbing food of most of Scandinavia. Ham and cheese on your hot dog? Sure, why not? How about the Odin, with sweet pickled red cabbage, sauerkraut, cheese, bacon, mustard and ketchup? Where most people would eat two normal hot dogs, these are like Thor's Hammer: one will knock you out.
Parks throughout Orange County; 714-369-9800; thevikingtruck.com.
6. Jerry's Woodfired Dogs
Jerry's Woodfired is the Chipotle of hot dogs. You order the dog you want and it's cooked on a griddle over burning wood. When your number is called, you move down the line and specify your toppings for them. Goopy sauces first, then crumbly toppings, then chili if you want it, then anything sprinkled or squirted on top. PRO TIP: Don't wear a white shirt here.
2276 E. 17th St., Santa Ana; 714-245-0200; jerrysdogs.com.
1360 S. Beach Blvd. #C, La Habra; 562-697-4644.
1701 Corporate Dr. #CB, Ladera Ranch; 949-364-7080.
13786-C Jamboree Rd., Irvine; 714-665-1480.
Orange County's analogue to Vancouver's famous Japadog carts is a bright green truck that sells dogs on curiously partitioned slider rolls with all sorts of Japanese and American toppings on top, from bacon to Kewpie mayonnaise to furikake. There's a reason the lines are long–and not just because this is one of the few trucks to serve the eastern inland parts of OC.
Parks throughout Orange County; 714-805-8857; dogzillahotdogs.com.
4. HOT DOGS HOT DOGS HOT DOGS
The carts along la Cuatro in downtown Santa Ana are named in a manner so utilitarian as to make Pho 79 seem like poetry; the fruit stands say, “FRUITS FRUITS FRUITS”, the churro stands say, “CHURROS CHURROS CHURROS”, and the hot dog stand on the corner of Broadway says. “HOT DOGS HOT DOGS HOT DOGS”. Never mind the name: you're here to order a border dog, a bacon-wrapped frankfurter stuffed into nondescript bread and topped with grilled onions and chiles, mayonnaise, ketchup and mustard. It's a heavy caloric load–but when you're about to go party it up in the Arts District, you know you'll work it off.
W 4th St. at Broadway, Santa Ana; no phone number; no website.
3. Disneyland Corn Dogs
Let's face it: Disneyland isn't known for its gustatory delights. People's love for the gumbo in a bread bowl or fried chicken are probably best chalked up to nostalgia. There are a couple of gems, though, and a freshly fried corn dog, with the perfect mixture of cornbread batter and snappy sausage, from the little red wagon behind the Plaza Inn ranks high on the list of things to do at the Happiest Place on Earth.
Off Main Street, U.S.A. at Disneyland: 1313 S. Harbor Blvd., Anaheim; 714-781-4000; disneyland.com.
2. Game Day Fire-Grilled Hot Dogs
These are the most under-hyped hot dogs on the planet. They've actually done what no other hot dog stand in the county has done: combined all the nation's various types of hot dogs into one place. You can get a barbecue hot dog, Carolina-style, with cole slaw on top; you can get a Hawaiian-style “No Ka Oi” dog, a New York dog and a Chicago dog and even a take on the Detroit coney. Definitely a significant upgrade for what used to be a Taco Bell.
3009 E. Chapman, Orange; 714-639-3388; no website.
1. Berkeley Dog
The perfect sausage. No matter which one you get–chicken and apple, standard hot dog, bratwurst–it'll have the snap of a Nathan's natural-casing frank, encased in a bun that puts all those steamed, soft pillows to shame. You'll be flooded with choices–they have a dozen kinds of mustard alone–but when you're done choosing, you'll be happy. After all, how can you say no to a hot dog with bacon and hash browns?
25522 Marguerite Pkwy., Mission Viejo; 949-455-1888; berkeleydogs.com.
4249 Campus Dr., Irvine; 949-387-2111.
215 W. Birch St., Brea; 714-257-0988.