1. Arts & Entertainment
  2. /
  3. Food

11 places to get a great hot dog in Tampa Bay

From classic yellow mustard franks to inventive vegan dogs, snap into one this summer.
Hot dogs are on the menu at Cass Street Deli. Courtesy of Cass Street Deli.
Published Aug. 13

Hot dogs: The hallmark of the backyard barbecue cookout. It wouldn’t feel like summer without them. But it’s also August in Florida, and our dog days of summer are less than ideal for lighting up the grill.

Thankfully, the Tampa Bay area has always had plenty of solid hot dog options, and iconic stalwarts like Mel’s Hot Dogs in Tampa and St. Petersburg’s Coney Island Sandwich Shop have long set the standard for celebrating the frankfurter.

Lots of elements make a hot dog truly great, from snap and texture to, of course, the bun. However, classic ’kraut, yellow mustard and chili dogs are facing some serious competition from spots putting their own spin on the beloved handheld with inventive ingredients, including quirky toppings and links made with Florida beef, or no meat at all.

Yep, plant-based, all-vegan weenies seem to be popping up across the region lately. But what makes the humble hot dog so enduring?

Shaun Noonan, who owns downtown Orlando’s Vegan Hot Dog Cart and runs Heights Public Market stall Dixie Dharma at Tampa’s Armature Works, credits the recent vegan hot dog boom to a resurgence of what he calls “Americana cuisine.”

“The modern vegan food scene definitely leans in that same direction,” Noonan said. “You can eat plant-based and still enjoy that nostalgia, and it’s a fun challenge for us in the kitchen to prove it when we’re getting compared to the ‘real’ deal.”

Whether you’re a Chicago hot dog fanatic or looking for a meatless alternative to the summer staple, here are some new- and old-school joints.


Coney Island Sandwich Shop

250 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 822-4493.

It has been around since 1926, and folks are still pulling up a swivel stool at this St. Petersburg mainstay for shakes, burgers and the Michigan-style, chili-dressed Coney dog. The franks are topped with seasoned ground beef, onions and mustard — no frills and no fuss, but still a classic.

People wait in line outside of Coney Island Sandwich Shop on Saturday November 19, 2016. MONICA HERNDON | Times

Mel’s Hot Dogs

4136 E Busch Blvd., Tampa. (813) 985-8000.

A total throwback next to Busch Gardens for close to 50 years, the family-owned institution is known for its wide selection of all-beef links and retro decor. Choices include the bacon cheddar dog, which calls for melted cheddar cheese and two slices of crispy bacon, a soul-warming combination you’re never not craving. Or try the Mel’s My Way, with whatever you like on it.

The Fire Dog at Mel's Hot Dogs. Times (2013)


1748 W Brandon Blvd., Brandon. (813) 210-8190. 2102 E Fowler Ave., Tampa. (813) 540-9001.

This fiercely loved Windy City chain churns out two hot dogs, each served in a poppy seed bun, at its pair of local restaurants. There’s the Chicago-style frank that comes dragged through the garden (read: topped with mustard, relish, celery salt, chopped onions, sliced tomatoes, kosher pickle and sport peppers), plus the equally iconic chili and American cheese wiener sprinkled with chopped onions. Best part? Portillo’s does jumbo versions of each.

The Chicago-style hot dog at Portillo's in Brandon. MONICA HERNDON | Times

RELATED: Forget plain ketchup. Try making these nine condiments for your cookout



7204 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. (727) 345-9701.

Can you still call it a hot dog if it’s presented on a baguette? The Parisian hot dog on the menu at this French-Vietnamese bistro blurs the line. But who cares when it’s that good? The decadent take features a beef dog smothered in caramelized onions, melted gruyere cheese and creamy mornay sauce, all served on an open-faced crusty baguette.

Cass Street Deli

1331 W Cass St., Tampa. (813) 609-6316.

Sure, there are massive pastrami sandwiches, corned beef hash and matzo ball soup. But the newly opened New York-inspired Jewish delicatessen also features a killer hot dog, built upon a Wagyu link from the multigenerational sausage pros at Tambuzzo Sausage Company. The bun is sourced from Jamison B. Breadhouse Bakes in Ybor City and Ba-Tampte spicy deli mustard is imported from New York. Additional fixings — onion mix, relish and sauerkraut — are made in-house.

A hot dog topped with mustard and relish at the Cass Street Deli in Tampa. ANGELIQUE HERRING | Times

RELATED: Cass Street Deli brings a New York-inspired Jewish delicatessen to Tampa

Goody Goody

1601 W Swann Ave., Tampa. (813) 308-1925.

The Columbia Restaurant Group’s Hyde Park revitalization of the iconic diner is best known for burgers, but the quarter-pound Florida beef frankfurters are a great alternative and just as filling. The links are served on a warm bun with yellow mustard and a selection of toppings, ranging from onions and relish to sweet and spicy pickles. Go the extra mile and order the Rusty (named for owner Richard Gonzmart’s late German Shepherd), which comes topped with signature chili, shredded cheddar cheese, onions and blistered jalapeno peppers.

The lunch counter at Goody Goody in Tampa's Hyde Park Village. Times (2016)

Hot Dogs on Main

505 Main St., Dunedin. (727) 408-5103.

Susan Norton’s quirky Dunedin spot specializes in creative twists on traditional all-beef Vienna franks as well as veggie and organic turkey links. There’s the Reuben Dog, topped with Russian dressing, melted Swiss cheese and sauerkraut; the Dixie Dog, which highlights chili and coleslaw; and the Chihuahua, smothered in guacamole, mango salsa, jalapenos, melted cheddar cheese and a handful of Fritos.

The Chicago Dog at Hot Dogs on Main in downtown Dunedin. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

RELATED: 10 beloved, old-school ice cream spots in Tampa Bay


Dixie Dharma

1910 N Ola Ave., Tampa.

Shaun Noonan, who founded after-hours downtown Orlando staple the Vegan Hot Dog Cart, knows a thing or two about plant-based links. So it’s no wonder his Dixie Dharma stall at the Armature Works’ Heights Public Market slings a signature hot dog dish — and make no mistake, it’s a meal in itself. Hillbilly Chili Dogs smother two vegan franks in pretzel buns with Indian chili and “cheese” sauce, blackened onion, scallions and za’taar. Mmm.

The Hillbilly Chili Dog from Dixie Dharma features a vegan frank in a pretzel bun with masala chili and cashew cheese sauce, blackened onion, scallions and za’taar spice. Courtesy of Dixie Dharma.

Golden Dinosaurs Vegan Deli

2930 Beach Blvd. S, Gulfport. (727) 873-6901.

Under the “sandwiches” section of the meat-free menu (controversial, we know), you’ll find the popular chili dog. This eatery drawing veg-heads on the regular for both sweet and savory munchies gloriously covers the wiener in a marriage of house-made chili, yellow mustard and chives. Don’t pass up the option to add vegan nacho cheese for an extra $1.

A vegan chili dog at the Golden Dinosaurs Vegan Deli in Gulfport. LUIS SANTANA | Times

Nah Dogs

This is one of Tampa Bay’s own roving vegan hot dog carts that recently retired its beloved Yo Soy Dog special with nacho “cheese” and more. Choose from a couple of house creations or opt to build your own frank with various condiments and toppings.

Sly Dogs Vegan Hot Dogs

Another vegan hot dog cart slinging inventive weenies around town. Signature options include the oh-so-Tampa Cubano, featuring black beans, sweet plantains, onions and mojo mayo, and the Frito Pie, which sports the nostalgic mashup of chili, “cheese,” onions and Fritos.


  1. Tostones Inc.'s signature item, tostones, are served at its new Tampa restaurant, as is the customizable rice bowl. Courtesy of Chris Fasick
    More pizza and poke also come to town.
  2. Spiced pears MICHELLE STARK  |  Tampa Bay Times
    And a couple of ideas for how to use them.
  3. Opening on Halloween, Tampa's Luv Child will feature shareable plates such as sliced steak with Cuban pesto. Courtesy of Ciccio Restaurant Group
    It’s the latest venture from the Ciccio Restaurant Group.
  4. The Garden Cobbler cocktail made with gin, sherry, cucumber, mint and red fruits cordial at Sonder Social Club. SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The downtown Dunedin craft cocktail hub offers plenty of good reasons to belly up to the bar. | Restaurant review
  5. At The Tiki Cove, you don’t need too much imagination to place your mind and mood at an actual beach. JUSTIN GRANT  |  Justin Grant
    The Tiki Cove is a Florida-only novelty that anyone passing through will be sure to enjoy. | Bar review
  6. Try I Am The Walrus Berliner Weisse ib draft at Hidden Springs Ale Works, or look for it in cans at your local quality beer shop. JUSTIN GRANT  |  Justin Grant
    This is Florida, so some of our autumn brews fall outside the paradigm. | Local beer of the week
  7. Dunedin's Parlor House Bistro will feature an American-French menu that includes house-made pastries. Courtesy of Ryan Steffensmeier
    The new restaurant will serve American-French cuisine, offering a New Orleans vibe.
  8. Ginger molasses spice cookies LORRAINE FINA STEVENSKI  |  Special to the Times
    They’re loaded with fresh seasonal spices, plus pecans and raisins.
  9. Screenshot of Austin Davis from a Vice News documentary on Youtube. Vice News/Youtube
    The 20-year-old Keystone Heights resident has selective eating disorder believed to stem from childhood trauma.
  10. The John's Pass Seafood & Music Festival will return to Madeira Beach for its 38th installment this weekend. But the Friday event, Flavors of the Gulf, is a big draw for gastronauts. SCOTT KEELER  |  Times (2016)
    Flavors of the Gulf and two stone crab fests embrace Florida seafood, plus a mac 'n' cheese fest, Top Local Chef and a gardening class.