Top 10 hot dogs in the Twin Cities
While the Twin Cities may not exactly be Chicago where hot dogs are concerned, we've still managed to establish a pretty diverse sausage scene. There are a few familiar faces on this list of Top 10 best places to grab a wiener, including past City Pages Best Of winners, but some newcomers have also made the cut. Did your favorite place make the list? If not, we're sure you will let us know in the comments.
Who has the best Twin Cities tube steaks?
1. The Depot Tavern
Jana Frieband Diamond Dog gets the gold star
Attached to the hip and historic First Avenue & 7th Street Entry, the Depot Tavern is an ideal place to get a pre-game beer and an even better place to get an anytime dog. There's the Stadium Brat, with sauerkraut and whole grain mustard, and the awesomely messy Chili Dog, with cheddar and scallions, but it's the Depot's Diamond Dog that makes it a top hot dog destination. If the Diamond Dog were a musical act, it would be Lady Gaga, dressed to dazzle. The quarter-pound tube steak is encased in a crusty bacon spiral that's been fused to the dog via a dip in the deep fryer. But its real innovation is its soft pretzel bun, which possesses the same leathery, salt-glazed crust and dense, chewy white flesh of those sold at street carts and concessions stands. At $9, it may be the most expensive dog on our list, but it's well worth it.
2. The Wienery
Just as trail mix tastes best on the trail, a proper hot dog tastes best in a dive. In the Twin Cities, no atmosphere is more appropriate for hot dog consumption than the Wienery, a dump (in the best sense of the word) of a restaurant on Cedar Avenue. Belly up to the bar and order your dog as hot or cheesy as you like. Everything here is made to order, down to hand-chopping each small batch of onions that decorate the Ray Dog and steaming each sausage before it hits the griddle. The Wienery offers a dog for every diet: Polish, bratwurst, spicy sausage, vegan tofu dog, and the vegetarian Italian dog, winner of the 2010 City Pages Best Hot Dog. For those who love salt and vinegar and all things pickled, go for the Briny Dog, topped with kraut, spicy giardinera with a mix of peppers, and a crisp dill pickle spear.
Nate Beck Homemade toppings like mustards and kraut make a top dog
Natedogs applies an artisan approach to the humble hot dog cart. An all-pork, skin-on, uncured wiener (and wiener-sized bratwurst) from the family-run farm Pastures a Plenty is boiled so as not to risk splitting the casing and losing the juice, as it can when grilled. Nate Beck's homemade condiments include caramelized onions, coarse-cut sauerkraut, and a variety of blended mustards (try one made with a local beer). The snappy, fresh-tasting tube steaks and toppings do outshine their ho-hum, mass-produced buns, but that's kind of the point: The bread needs to fade to the background so the meat can be the star. For every dog purchased, Beck makes an equivalent donation to charity. "Get a dog, give a dog," he says. "That's our motto." Follow @natedogs on Twitter to find out where his cart is parked on any given day.
4. Uncle Franky's
Uncle Franky's delivers a fat, almost sweet Vienna Beef dog with an appropriately plush bun, a great topping-to-dog ratio, spicy peppers, surprisingly tasty fluorescent green relish, and an overall harmony that should be the envy of anyone in the business. We also like the Wall Street dog, with mustard, kraut that's spent a little time getting good flavor from the grill, and onions. Both dogs are fantastic as is, but ask nicely and they'll deep-fry your wiener before adding all the delicious toppings. And who among us has not wanted desperately to take a break during a long but sometimes unavoidable trip to the Home Depot? If you happen to be at the NE Minneapolis, Plymouth, or Bloomington stores, you can swing by the Uncle Franky's stand and take your timeout with a wonderful wiener.
5. Kramarczuk Deli
Brie McGee Miles of the best 'wurst
This Northeast shop, deli, and restaurant doesn't mess around with silly ball-park-style franks, and they don't offer a long list of make-it-your-own toppings. What they do have is a large selection of expertly seasoned sausages made in the Old World tradition. Choose from fresh Polish, bratwurst, Hungarian, Italian, or Andouille sausge. They all come simply: on a bun with sauerkraut. If you're looking for something a little different, try the Cossack with Kramarczuk's famous Ukranian sausage, melted Swiss, and sauerkraut. The sausage is subtly smoky, and the combination of toppings reminds us of a stripped-down Reuben that has no patience for Thousand Island dressing.