Stop us if you’ve heard this one before. A Canadian, a German and a redneck set out on a hot dog tour. No? Well, here’s the punch line. This past weekend, the Keys Weekly embarked upon (to our knowledge) the first official hot dog tasting tour of Key West, using three diverse “experts” to carry out the experiment.
Before we digress, understand our research was purely subjective, with one goal in mind — drink beer, taste as many franks in Key West as possible and encourage readers to give each respected locale a visit. Did we miss some? You bet (and we hope folks will tell us their favorites as well), but we tried to encompass as many locations as possible with a standard set of rules in play for eligibility.
First, the hot dog had to be on the main menu. We love kids, but hot dog touring is a grownup game. Second, to qualify as a hot dog, the meat had to belong to the sausage, Brat or hotdog family. And last, there had to be a bun or bread in play.
So why a hot dog tour you ask? Because believe it or not, Key West boasts some world-famous wiener establishments, ranging from food carts to restaurants. And with summer in full swing, it just seemed appropriate that hot dogs finally get their due in a city built on fresh seafood and island eats.
Each hot dog was scored in the following categories:
• Speed of Service
• Condiments Offered
Hot dogs can receive one to five stars (or hot dogs in this case) with five being the highest mark.
For credibility, we pulled a German into the mix, as Germany gave birth to the hot dog over 500 years ago. Next we recruited a Canadian, who decided to wear a white $120 dress shirt on the voyage (note: the shirt is no more) and then we added our Publisher, Britt Myers, who’s southern redneck roots offered little to no credibility for the study (let’s just say he uses ketchup).
Judge 1: Joe Mitchell
Hometown: Ontario, Canada
Favourite hot dog spot: Olde Angel Inn:
Hot Dog Peeve: “Never overcook.”
Judge 2: Jan Blinckmann
Hometown: Hamburg, Germany
Favorite hot dog spot: Reeperbahn in St. Pauli (Germany)
Hot Dog Peeve: “No cheese.”
Judge 3: Britt Myers
Hometown: Gainesville, GA
Favorite hot dog spot: The Varsity (Atlanta)
Hot Dog Peeve: “There is no such thing as a bad hot dog.”
THE HOT DOGS
The Chart Room
(located at Pier House Resort):
John at the Chart Room says they put out about 20 dogs per day with mustard and ketchup on hand. It’s the only place on our list that offers a free wiener and self-service, but John says, “we try to get them to buy a drink,” if they are just coming in for a dog. Don’t let the free dog fool you … it’s pretty darn good.
(hence the name) offers an array of ingredients to build your own dog, including sauerkraut, bacon, banana peppers, garlic, jalapeno, onion, relish, chili and a tasty mess of others. We ordered “The Island Dog” — a bacon-wrapped hot dog with mango, pineapple, banana peppers, red onion and sweet chili sauce (served with fries) and it was simply one of the best in town.
has one hot dog on the menu, served with side of relish and onions and a few mustard and mayo packs. The dog comes with a choice of coleslaw or fries on the side. We did slaw and were not disappointed. The bar offers the prefect spot for a dog, beers and conversation.
The Conch Shack
located from the Duval entrance of Hogs Breath, boasts a “World Famous Hot Dog” on the menu, made with fresh relish, onion, sauerkraut and jalapeños. Dave is typically working the window and adds a friendly experience to a great hot dog.
Everything on the menu at Garbo’s is dynamite, including their Mango Dog. This messy delight comes with fresh mango, sautéed onion, jalapeno and house made Caribbean sauce.
Miami Subs offered a great late nightspot away from the strip. And to be fair, they are known for a slate of great eats and treats, but they do offer a quality dog on N.Roosevelt Blvd. with plenty of parking. We recommend grabbing a homemade shake anytime you are there.
(corner of Duval and Caroline)
Superdog has been curing hangovers and late night hankerings for 17 years. Jose-Luis offered up a bacon wrapped hot dog, grilled to perfection. The stand also dishes out a ton of toppings, with great tasting sauerkraut being a must.
(corner of Duval and Fleming)
By now everyone knows Chris Sheridan fended off a knife-wielding nut while running his hot dog stand on the corner (and he has the scar to prove it). But his sausages are still the story at Chubbs. Chris gave us two to try — “The Cadillac” (local special) made with Italian sausage with grilled onion and peppers and “The Smoked” made with smoked Cajun sausage and grilled onions. And for sauce lovers, Sheridan offers up 10 homemade condiments like wasabi ketchup and sriracha mustard.
Key West Taco Dog
(justoutside of Rick’s)
Josh runs the Key West Taco Dog which offers brats, Cajun smoked sausages and veggie dogs. But it’s their signature Taco Dog that is a must try—made with an all beef hotdog, grilled onions, peppers, shredded cabbage and fresh cilantro. But their secret lies within the tangy Peruvian style aji amarillo sauce.
DJ’s Clam Shack
Another spot that is known (world-wide) for other items like lobster rolls and clam baskets. But their hot dog is nothing to overlook—served with jalapeños and pickled onions. To be fair, comparing DJ’s to hotdog stands is simply apples and oranges for items like condiments offered and speed of service, because this place is always jamming and it is, after all, the house that clams built.
(Outside Sloppy Joe’s on corner of Duval and Greene)
Peter Killius halls from Syracuse, New York and has developed Pete’s Meats into household name on the island (and perhaps worldwide). From brats, Italian sausages and dogs — Pete’s Meats has it all. One of our favorite stories about Peter was seeing him just after Irma, as he spent a few days dishing out his eats to hungry locals for free. Ask Pete and he’ll tell you he loves his Italian Sausage with grilled onions and peppers.
Hot Dog Lounge
(corner of Caroline and Duval)
Dana Moffitan has been feeding locals, tourists, military, homeless and anyone else she can shed some love on for more than 20 years. Regrettably, we were not able to make it to the Hot Dog Lounge on our tour due to weather, but we had all eaten there multiple times. And this is a must try spot to say the least. Dana recommends the house special, made with a hot dog topped with chili, cheese, sautéed peppers, onions, a delicious garlic mustard and parmesan cheese.
(corner of Duval and United)
It’s hard to say which is better — Joe Sweeney’s dynamic personality or his delicious dogs. Joe, a native of the Jersey Shore, had his first hot dog stand at age 13 and uses Sabrett wieners, lightly boiled and grilled for an authentic pop. We tried the Jersey Shore Kraut dog and Joe recommended adding a red onion sauce made from Vidalia Onions — and we’re glad we did!
No Way Jose Taco Truck
In early July, the No Way Jose Taco Truck will move from behind Roostica to the storefront. And at that point, the dawn of the Tijuana Dog will be upon us. We were lucky enough to sample bacon-wrapped, all beef dog topped with picadillo, pineapple, avocado, grilled jalapeño and a spicy Baja sauce.
Hogfish Bar & Grill
From pizza to fish sandwiches, there isn’t much Bobby and Michelle Mongelli can’t prepare and their Two Smothered Chili Dogs are amongst the tops on our list. Dressed all the way with chopped onions and a side of onion rings — it’s impossible not to dig in.