Hot dogs can be polarizing. It seems people either love them or can do without them. I adore them. The approaching Elberta German Sausage Festival got me thinking about hot dogs, and I realized I …
Hot dogs can be polarizing. It seems people either love them or can do without them. I adore them.
The approaching Elberta German Sausage Festival got me thinking about hot dogs, and I realized I haven't found a favorite in Baldwin County. This realization prompted a Gulf Coast Media staff-wide request to tell me about their favorite hot dog in Baldwin County.
Hot dogs tend to be a food one thinks of at a cookout, ballgame, fair or gas station. In New York City, hot dog carts can be found all over the city and have been made iconic in television and movies. You may be surprised to know that according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, New York ranks No. 2 in consumption in 2022. The statistics show that Los Angeles residents consume approximately 30 million pounds, which ranks them as No. 1 for hot dog and sausage consumption in 2022. The cities of Dallas, Chicago and Philadelphia round out the top five regarding pounds sold.
While Alabama did not break into the top 10 for pounds sold, it did break into the top 10 on the Top 10 Hot Dog Consuming Cities (per capita) in the 2022 list. The city with my favorite hot dog restaurant also made the list.
Looking at the statistics available on the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council makes one think there are a lot of closet hot dog fans out there. According to retail sales data, nearly 917 million pounds of hot dogs were sold at retail stores, which equals $3 billion in sales. That is a lot of hot dogs.
During my childhood, I was an extremely picky eater. So picky, in fact, there are jokes and stories told by aunts and cousins. Growing up in the 1980s was a different time. Children spent their summers outside playing until the streetlights came on, and we learned to take care of ourselves and be resourceful.
When I was 4 or 5 years old my mom said, "If you don't like what we are having for dinner, fix yourself something." This comment might get a child to eat the prepared dinner, but for me it was a green light to embark on a culinary journey. At the time I could only operate the microwave and toaster. I mastered cooking hot dogs and a version of cheese toast in the microwave. Then around age 6, someone taught me how to make scrambled eggs and grilled cheese sandwiches on the stove. I then moved on to master the boiled hot dog around age seven. My childhood menu consisted of hot dogs, baked potatoes, grilled cheese sandwiches, scrambled eggs, cheese sandwiches with mustard and peanut butter sandwiches. It beat the mystery casseroles my dad was making while my mom was at night school.
My palate has expanded exponentially over the years, but I still enjoy a hot dog. The top dogs I crave are in Virginia and West Virginia. The best of the best is Famous Uncle Al's in Norfolk or Virginia Beach, Virginia. They use natural casing Boar's Head all beef hot dogs that are cooked on a flattop. The exterior gets good color, and when you take a bite, the hot dog has a satisfying snap. My second top dog happens to be at a drive-in my parents frequented in high school (in the late 1960s) in Lewisburg, West Virginia. The establishment, Jim's Drive-In has been featured on Food Network's "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" for its fried green tomato sandwich and milkshakes, but the toasted English bun hot dogs and hand-cut French fries are what I order. There is nothing quite as nice as a toasted English bun. It's also fun to take my children to a traditional drive-in where you turn on your headlights for service, the waitresses wear the change maker on their belt and place trays of food on your car window.
The Gulf Coast Media staff responses were mostly focused on one establishment, Wacked Out Weiner.
"I don't really like hot dogs but if I do, it's the Chicago style from Wacked Out Weiner. The only one I've had since living here." – Shawna Stefankiewicz, advertising representative
"I am also aboard the WOW (Wacked Out Weiner) train. I like the Frito pie one I had last time I went there. I also got my Christmas shopping (for my friends) done there." – Cole McNanna, sports editor
"WOW (Wacked Out Weiner) might be the only place around that does a real Chicago dog, too." – Micah Green, chief digital officer
"Not a huge hot dog fan, but here's a pro-tip: regular classic hot dog at Bywater Beachside at the Gulf State Park Pier. Ketchup, mustard, relish." – Kayla Green, executive editor
"The Mardi Gras dog at Bill-E's is my favorite." – Mike LeCroy, spouse of Lifestyle Editor Melanie LeCroy
After a meeting in Foley, I stopped into the newly opened Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers in Foley. The lunch stop yielded a story on the opening after bumping into the multi-unit manager and a hot dog that currently tops my list. Along with the steakburgers, Freddy's offers a Vienna beef hot dog in a toasted English bun. I am a purist and only enjoy mustard on my dogs. This means the dog needs to shine because there is not a plethora of toppings to cover it up.
My search will continue, but for now, Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers tops my list.
Baldwin County, where should I go for the best hot dog? Send me your recommendations to firstname.lastname@example.org.