Photos by Sally Quinn.
Nothing says summer like a delicious grilled hot dog on a fresh bun. They’re a favorite with kids and a regular item on kid-focused menus at area restaurants. Dogs are a staple at backyard cookouts, baseball games and our favorite museum cafes.
We tracked down some of the best hot dog spots in Pittsburgh. These places will please the cravings of Mom and Dad, as well as their kids. They will all be delighted with the many hot dog choices, entertaining menus and delicious sides available. Here are 6 of our tried-and-true favorites:
We love Franktuary for its inspired menu and playful attitude. With booths made from wooden church pews and garage-style windows that open to the Lawrenceville neighborhood, it’s a place that welcomes families, from carnivores to vegans. Natural casing, local grass-fed beef, turkey, chorizo and tofu are part of the frank lineup.
Franktuary caters to “Small Fry” with playful meals like Frankensquid on Fry Beach. Here, a frank is sliced partway through to make squid-like tentacles. A necklace of pepper ring and google-y eye olives complete the transformation. Kids can order Pirates Frank’s Swashbuckling Booty where mini corn dogs are skewered with plastic swords. Order It with your choice of fries, apple slices or mac and cheese. As a choose-your-own option, kids can pick from an all-beef frank, corn dog or grilled cheese.
On the adult menu, grownups can play at choose-your-own, too. The add-ons – you can choose up to 10 – are beyond belief. The usual suspects are there, of course, but some will surprise: Potato sticks, rainbow sprinkles, fried pickles and gummy bears. And don’t forget your umbrella!
Mom and Dad will appreciate the craft beer selection. Kids will love the 1919 Classic American Draft Root Beer. Make it a float with a scoop of ice cream. Other sweet choices are melt-in-your-mouth Chocolate Mousse and a Brown Butter Cake with luscious lemon curd, raspberry coulis and blueberries. Heaven on a plate!
Keep an eye on the Franktuary Food Truck schedule. You might catch it in your neighborhood.
2. Dee’s Six Pax & Dogs
Celebrating 20 years, Dee’s Six Pax & Dogs in Regent Square has become known for its terrific franks. As a go-to spot for family dinners, you can find hot dogs that appeal to every age and palate.
Buns range from sesame seed and whole wheat to corn tortilla. Your dog choices begin with Vienna all-beef, turkey and vegan, then expand to the Scorpion (cheddar, jalapeno kielbasa) and D’s Brat (a cheesy bratwurst).
Pick your toppings from the 31 available or try one of the specialties: The Mac-N-Cheese dog comes with homemade macaroni and cheese served on top of the dog. Yum! Angry Tiki adds bacon, pineapple, spicy mayo and hoisin. Hot Valentine entices with sweet potato fries and sriracha piled on top. Or go for the Big Ben with cheese sauce, fries and creamy coleslaw. It’s a glorious mess with particular Pittsburgh charm.
3. Frankie Bunz
Time this Squirrel Hill stop to a Carnegie Library visit or a movie at the Manor Theatre. Both are just up the street. Frankie Bunz offers a playful menu of delicious doggies along with a revolving list of daily grilled cheese specials.
Hot dogs are themed to pop culture references. You’ll find “The Godfather”-inspired Fredo’s Frank, an all-natural turkey frank, and The Don (also known as the Dogfather), a slightly spiced dog served with homemade chili sauce, shredded cheese sauce and chopped Vidalia onion.
We loved the Mr. Miyagi Doggie, a nod to “The Karate Kid.” It’s a kind of corn dog but dipped in tempura batter rather than cornbread. Deliciously crunchy on the outside, this frank-on-a-stick comes with a dragon sauce for dipping and crisp Asian slaw.
Build-your-own options include veggie, turkey, skin casing, kosher and all-beef franks, plus plenty of creative toppings (candied bacon and avocado sound awesome!).
The French fries are worth mentioning, too. These hand-cut matchstick potatoes are fried in sunflower oil for a great non-greasy crunch. Excellent!
4. Wiener World
Wiener World might seem old school, but for good reason. The hot dog joint has been feeding customers Downtown for well over 50 years. The Market Street Deli Co. was added in 1996 to bring more variety with sandwiches, wraps and salads. But we show up for the hot dogs!
The natural casing dogs offer a satisfying snap to every bite. There are all-beef doggies and kielbasa, too, with standard add-ons: chili, cheese sauce and sauerkraut. Shoestring fries are a must, with or without cheese or gravy.
We think dessert is an important part of a balanced hot dog outing, too. (Strawberry milkshake, please!)
Note that Wiener World is a stand-up dining spot, with handy counters lining the wall. But on a bright sunny day, we love to take our goodies outside onto Strawberry Way, where we can dine alfresco.
5. Yovi’s: A Little Bit of Chicago
Take kids on a cultural trip to Chicago at Yovi’s: A Little Bit of Chicago, a small spot on Graeme Street, just off Market Square. Step down the stairs into the foreign world of the Cubs, da Bears and Blackhawks. You know you’re in another world when greeted at the door by a large poster of Mike Ditka. On a day the Cubbies are playing at PNC Park, expect a sea of blue filling the place.
An authentic Chicago dog starts with an all-beef Vienna frank cradled in a steamed poppy seed bun. Classic toppings require yellow mustard, crazy glow-in-the-dark green relish, diced onions, Kosher dill pickle spears, tomato wedges, sport peppers and a sprinkle of celery salt. Delicious!
Want to upgrade your dog? Choose from natural casing dogs, Polish sausage or Italian sausage. Pick your own toppings if you’re unsure of joining the Cub nation. Fresh-cut fries are cooked to a dynamite level of crunch. Other sides include Pizza Puff, Hot Tamale and Chili. The pickiest of kids might ask for the chicken tenders, but where’s the fun in that?
Check on Yovi’s Food Truck postings for Chicago flavor on the road.
6. Essie’s Original Hot Dog Shop
Affectionately known as The Dirty O by Pitt students, Essie’s Original Hot Dog Shop has been cranking out franks and fries for nearly 60 years. The Original opened in 1960 during that summer’s amazing Pirates baseball season, just blocks from Forbes Field. It’s a great place for neighborhood college students to grab a cheap meal. Families can stop by after a visit to the Carnegie Museum. Get your order as takeout and turn your meal into a picnic at Schenley Plaza.
Go for a cheese dog, Super Dog with bacon and American cheese, or order the Italian-leaning Hot Dog Parmesan made with red sauce and melted provolone cheese. Tasty fries are massively sized. We love them with a side of cheese sauce for dipping, but others prefer gravy. Either way, you’ll know you’re immersing yourself in a long-time Pittsburgh tradition.