Best hot dogs in Pittsburgh

BRGR and Joe's Hot Dog Stand stand out above the rest

Anna Walsh, Xuexia Jiang Sep 30, 2012

Hot dogs: The food of choice for baseball games, backyard barbecues, and drunk college meals across America. One bite into a tasty hot dog recalls memories of home and comfort away from angry professors and annoying obligations. Such comforts are not readily available through on-campus dining — and even when they are, they leave one feeling empty in both wallet and stomach. Here we lay out a number of locally available hot dogs from the fancy to the plain, from costly to cheap.

BRGR
BRGR’s approach to burgers involves fresh, local ingredients and inventive, gourmet condiment combinations, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to hear that its approach to hot dogs is the same. BRGR, located in East Liberty at 5997 Penn Circle South, has two hot dogs to choose from on its menu: the Triple Delight Dog ($8) and Smith’s Local Hot Dog ($5). The former takes an Asian fusion approach to the hot dog, with Asian slaw, pickled cucumbers, jalapeños, toasted sesame seeds, wasabi aioli, and furikake (a Japanese condiment containing dried fish and seaweed) piled on top of a beef hot dog. The Smith’s Local Hot Dog doesn’t come with such toppings, but for $2 more, we added guacamole, hot mayo, and bits of bacon.

The hot dogs were surprisingly large — they were nearly twice the diameter of all the other hot dogs we tested — and, as one might expect from a quality-driven restaurant, delicious.

On first bite, the Triple Delight was overwhelmingly spicy, with a lasting, distinctive flavor. While it was an interesting take on a hot dog, the toppings tend to overwhelm, rather than complement, the hot dog’s flavor. On the other hand, the Smith’s Local Hot Dog blended well with the guacamole and bacon. The buttery smoothness of the guacamole served as a nice juxtaposition to the crunch and saltiness of the bacon.

The Original Hot Dog Shop (the ‘O’)
For a place that claims to be the original hot dog shop, the ‘O’ is certainly lacking in quality dogs. The hot dog ($4.50 with cheese) was extremely bland, with a thick casing thanks to the hours it likely spent sitting idle on the grill. The ‘O’ probably tastes delicious at 1 a.m. when you’re drunk and you’ve walked all the way from campus, but otherwise, go for a six pack instead.

Five Guys
At Five Guys, we purchased a bacon cheese hot dog at $5.19. While simple, it had all the necessary traits of a delicious hot dog. At first bite, one can easily notice the grilled flavor and feel the calorically-rich goodness as the various condiments blend together with the hot dog’s natural greasiness. Five Guys offers a number of choices for hot dogs, providing variety as well as quality.

Smallman Street Deli
Smallman Street Deli offers its jumbo hot dog ($3.99 with toppings) grilled and with a number of condiments — we chose relish, onions, and mustard. Despite its moniker, the hot dog was about the same size as the rest of the dogs we tried elsewhere. However, it was nicely grilled, adding extra flavor.

Joe’s Hot Dog Stand
If you’re looking for a quick, cheap lunch, this hot dog stand located outside Posner Hall is the place to go. All-beef hot dogs are available for $2.75; you can add relish, ketchup, mustard, and onion for free, and more toppings like tomato and lettuce are available for an extra charge. Although the hot dog tasted under-grilled, the quality of the meat was surprisingly good, especially considering the low price.

Our top choice
BRGR had the tastiest dog, but when it comes to value, nothing beats the stand outside Posner. It’s inexpensive, good quality, and conveniently right on campus, and when you get a craving for comfort food, those characteristics tend to trump all else.