“Some people wanted champagne and caviar,” Dwight D. Eisenhower once remarked, “when they should have had a beer and hot dogs.” A well-done dog has the ability to evoke childhood nostalgia, fierce geographic rivalries (ketchup, really?), and campfire memories. But, most of all, it sparks cravings. Whether you prefer yours slathered in mustard, piled with toppings or wrapped in bacon, here’s where to find the best hot dogs in San Francisco.
SF’s top hot dogs
When the spot sells T-shirts declaring “Praise the Lard” and proudly serves up “tasty salted pig parts” by the cone, you know you’ve arrived at a true meat-lover’s paradise. Prather Ranch’s all-beef hot dog weighs in at a respectable quarter-pound. It’s served on an Acme pain de mie bun and topped with relish, organic ketchup, yellow mustard, sauerkraut and shaved red onions. Tasty, if unconventional, toppings like house-made mayo, pickled onions and wild arugula are free; fried egg, caramelized onions, jalapeños and uncured maple bacon will cost you $1 to $2 extra. Don’t skimp on the old-fashioned fries, which are hand-cut daily from Kennebec potatoes.
Rosamunde is technically a sausage shop, but don’t let that deter you: the grass-fed beef Knockwurst is one of the best high-quality hot dogs you’ll ever sink your teeth into. The meat is free of antibiotics, hormones and nitrates, resulting in a full-flavor dog nestled in a hardy French roll. (If you’re feeling gluttonous, order it Mission Street-style—wrapped in bacon.) In addition to tried-and-true ketchup and mustard, the condiments section includes exotic alternatives like curry ketchup, honey-wasabi dijon and garlic pepper mayo, among others. Pair your meal with a mound of the gut-busting, bacon-topped German potato salad and a beer. The Mission Street location has 26 varieties on draft and 14 bottles, and the original Haight Street storefront shares a wall with the heavy-metal craft beer haven Toronado.
Founded by Sue Moore, the former meat manager at Chez Panisse, and Larry Bain, a longtime Bay Area restaurant insider, Let’s Be Frank is a hot dog cart with a conscience. The dogs contain no nitrates, hormones or antibiotics, and the meat is sourced only from pasture-based California livestock. Moore and Bain spent over a year perfecting their recipes with third-generation sausage-makers before rolling out their first cart outside the Giants’ ballpark in 2005 (they now have a second haunt on Linden Street at Octavia Street, across from Blue Bottle, open on Fridays and Sundays). The uncured frank is made from 100 percent grass-fed beef and organic spices, while the Mutt dog is a mix of grass-fed beef and heritage pork. (Take heart, vegetarians: the “Not” dog, made from non-GMO soy, is surprisingly tasty.) Toppings include ketchup, mustard, relish and sauerkraut, but that all takes a backseat to LBF’s patented Devil’s Sauce.
This narrow, ten-year-old hot dog and sausage shop is lined with ledges and colorful stools for those chowing down in a hurry. The dogs are organic, but the beers are a bargain: $1 PBRs and $3 drafts. Order the Frisco Frank, a grass-fed beef dog on a white bun, if you’re feeling basic. That said, most along Underdog row roll up their sleeves for specialty combos like the Wild Style—a dog slathered in bacon, grilled onions, cheese and Underdog sauce—or the All the Way, which is piled with bacon, mushrooms, cheese, potato salad, chili and grilled onions. Bonus: the spot offers burnt bacon as a topping.
When Los Shucos reopened earlier this year after being shuttered by a 2015 fire, the Mission breathed a collective sigh of relief. The shuco, a Latin American “dirty dog,” is a thing of beauty. The bread is baked by a local Guatemalan baker, then toasted on the grill. The dog—an all-beef frank made by a generations-old Mission sausage maker—is skinless and naturally smoked. (You can also opt for Spanish chorizo.) The Original is heaped with repollo (cabbage), chirol (a Guatemalan roasted tomato salsa), avocado and house-made “maya” mayo, but various other house specialties come with bacon, grilled pineapple, refried beans or chimichurri sauce. Try the mixta, a taco/hot-dog mash-up in which the frank is served on a homemade corn tortilla.
Rye Project owner Adam Mesnick made a name for himself at Deli Board before setting up his own shop. Though he’s best known for Jewish deli staples—corned beef, pastrami, smoked fish—the expertly-assembled $5 dogs are worth a cross-town trip. Rye is one of the only places in the city to get a real Chicago-style dog, which is topped with sport peppers, pickles, neon green relish, onion and celery salt. (Mesnick adds Cleveland brown mustard to his, a secret sauce he squirts liberally on most sandwiches and sides.) Pair it with a sour pickle, some dirty chips and a Dr. Brown’s cream soda. No ketchup? No problem.
This narrow joint has a whiff of New York about it, where hungry patrons wolf down dogs while hovering around high bistro tables out front. Choose your frank of choice: Niman Ranch beef, chicken or Tofurky. The classic combo is garnished with mustard, relish and white onion, but more bizarre combinations include the Buffalo dog (blue cheese, diced celery and spicy ranch) and the Napa dog (arugula, crumbled blue cheese, diced dried apricots and house apricot sauce). Don’t miss the loaded potato croquette, a potato with a cheesy core and a smattering of bacon and chives.
This date-y gastropub is home to the Abe Froman, a beef, cheddar and bacon sausage covered in thousand island dressing, chopped romaine, tomato and pickles. Unconventional? Sure. But it’s also juicy, perfectly grilled and unquestionably delicious. Groups tend to opt for the Wurstfest, a 6-sausage platter served alongside pickled vegetables and kraut. (Trust us: You’ll want to tack on an order of the fried pickles as well.) There are 30 beers on tap from breweries like North Coast, Moonlight, Fieldwork and Marin Brew Co.
The 4505 hot dog is “bacon-studded,” meaning it won’t be entombed in slabs of bacon, but it packs a subtle bacon-y kick. The dog is naturally smoked and served on an Acme bun with a side of pickles. Unlike most hot dog joints, the sides here are as worthy as the main event. The potato salad, baked beans and tangy coleslaw are all great, but the real star is the Frankaroni: a crispy-on-the-outside, gooey-on-the-inside brick of fried mac and cheese with hot dogs baked in. The picnic table seating is all outdoors (mercifully, under heat lamps) and dogs (the furry kind) are welcome.
This oddly proportioned restaurant juts onto Market and Golden Gate, a high-trafficked corner of the Tenderloin. The music is loud, the service is surly and the neighborhood can be rough—but the hot dogs, which spill enticingly over the ends of their buns, make it all worthwhile. Highlights include the chili cheese dog, a Polish sausage topped with beef chili and organic sharp cheddar, and the hot-from-the-fryer corn dog, dipped in house-made beer batter. The drinks may seem uncharacteristically chichi (blueberry basil soda, anyone?), but if you arrive between 4 and 6pm, beer is just $4 a pint.
This hole-in-the-wall Southern joint is rightfully known for its fried chicken and waffles. But the lunch menu, which is served from 10:30am at the window and from noon inside Victory Hall next door, also features the equally special Waffle Dog: a juicy hot dog wrapped in bacon and served on a warm cornmeal waffle bun. The pineapple-jalapeno relish on top offsets the decadent richness of the waffle for a treat that’s so much more than just a plain old dog.