Advertisement
  1. Food

5 best places to get a hot dog in Tampa Bay

Mel’s Hot Dogs, near Busch Gardens in Tampa, has been serving customers since 1973.
Published Apr. 8, 2015

The Godzilla vs. King Kong of dogs is Nathan's versus Vienna. But then you've got to get into the toppings. In New York? A proper dog comes with steamed onions and pale, deli-style yellow mustard. In Kansas City, it's melted Swiss and kraut; Atlanta dogs get a coleslaw mantle. Whatever your frankfurter fantasies, here are some of Tampa Bay's best hot dog spots.

Mel's Hot Dogs

You want a dog to snap when you bite it? Then you want one with the natural casing, made of sheep's intestine, as opposed to a "skinless" dog. (Kosher dogs are either skinless or made with an artificial collagen casing that lacks quite the same snap.) Mel's has the goods. This won't be news to aficionados who have been crowding into this red-and-white storefront near Busch Gardens since 1973. The red wienermobile outside beckons; inside, it's order at the counter. The house special ($4.25, $6.74 as a basket with fries and your choice of coleslaw or baked beans) is packed with sauerkraut, onion, mustard, relish and pickle. Still, the Polish sausage ($5.50, $7.99) is a fat, juicy choice, accessorized with brown mustard and grilled onions.

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

Bruce's Chicago Grill & Dog House

Owner Bruce Karlin, here since 1994, has a more-is-more decorating motif in fluent Windy City: photos of Al Capone, da Bears and other local luminaries, dog-eared menus from Chicago greats, all haphazardly staple-gunned. The way to go here is the Chicago Dog ($3.59), dragged through the garden (translation: with the works). That means a tender steamed poppy seed bun cradling a Vienna beef dog in the casing, topped with yellow mustard, alarmingly neon-green relish, a dill pickle slice, tomato and cuke, chopped onion, "sport peppers" (hot little babies packed in vinegar) and several shakes of celery salt. And a tamale with chili and giardiniera ($2.75) is pure Chi-Town, too.

7733 Ulmerton Road, Largo; (727) 524-1146

Hot Dogs on Main

Susan Norton, a personal chef by trade, is at the helm of this little charmer. She has been going at it for several years now, bringing folks traditional dogs and more pedigreed "show dogs." Case in point, the new Chihuahua: That's a wiener putting on the dog with guacamole, mango salsa, diced onion, Greek yogurt, jalapeno melted cheddar and crushed Fritos for $5.95. The standard issue here are Vienna 1:6 (that means six dogs in a pound) skinless all-beef dogs, but she will sub out a veggie dog, organic turkey or beef dog. Popular options include a bacon-cheddar dog ($4.55) and a BLT dog ($4.50).

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

Coney Island Grill

1926. That's a long time to be the alpha dog, but Coney Island's Michigan-style chili dog ($2) is the coin of the realm, especially when eaten atop a vinyl stool at the counter with an impossibly thick chocolate shake ($3.75) at your elbow. The franks cost more than the nickel that owner Pete Barlas charged back in the day (he did add a 5-cent extra charge for anyone who ordered — sacrilege — ketchup on their chili dog), but son Hank and grandson Pete Barlas II haven't let prices get out of hand. While you're there, it's worth checking out the mighty fine BLT ($4), as well.

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

Americanwiener

This food truck cruises the mean streets of Wesley Chapel, sometimes downtown Tampa (MOSI, Curtis Hixon) and sometimes St. Petersburg. To keep track of its whereabouts, visit the website, americanwienertruck.com. It's been around for several years and changed hands, but current owners, husband-and-wife team Ben and Amy Laffey, have a serious following. What got people in a tizzy initially was the Asian dog, which combines nori seaweed, pickled ginger, Japanese kewpie mayonnaise, grilled onions, teriyaki sauce and furikake seasonings on an all-beef wiener ($5). Since then, allegiances might have shifted to their own spin on the Chicago dog, called the Capone: an all-beef wiener dressed with roma tomatoes, onions, mustard, piccalillis, wild cucumber spears, Thai chile peppers and furikake seasonings ($5).

To find them or book them, call (813) 720-7692.

Contact Laura Reiley at lreiley@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. The French onion soup dumplings at Tropez. MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE  |  Times
    The approach at this restaurant/bar/lounge might be a little too eclectic. | Restaurant review
  2. Alison Krauss will perform at the Clearwater Jazz Holiday on Oct. 20. Capitol Records
    The Clearwater Jazz Holiday returns with a strong music lineup, Zac Brown Band plays Tampa and Barry Bostwick will be here to screen ‘Rocky Horror.'
  3. Festival goers move through the midway during the St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church's annual Ethnic Festival. This year's festival will be Oct. 17-20 at the church on Spring Hill Drive at Coronado Drive. Tampa Bay Times | 2010
    The 28th-annual Ethnic Festival returns to St. Joan of Arc.
  4. Left to Right: Hospitality panel members Viviana Leyva, Steve Westphal and Jeff Gigante talk about the needs of the hospitality industry in Tampa Bay region during a kickoff of the University of South Florida Hospitality Leadership Program last month. SCOTT KEELER  |   Times
    Restaurant and hotel owners say they have a need for finding and keeping talented workers.
  5. Vegan broccoli slaw with vegan burgers in the background for Memorial Day. SHADD, DIRK  |  Tampa Bay Times
    We have plenty of plant-based eateries to choose from.
  6. Milk and Honey Sprouted Wheat Bread. LORRAINE FINA STEVENSKI  |  Special to the Times
    Try to find a local honey for this easy bread.
  7. You can taste more than 100 beers during Brews by the Bay, now in its 11th year at Tampa's Florida Aquarium. Courtesy of Florida Aquarium
    Brews by the Bay samples 100-plus beers, wiener dogs lead Marker 48’s Oktoberfest, seasonal sweets at local restaurants and Mastry’s Brewing celebrates three years.
  8. Blue crabs are seasoned and steamed for ten minutes at the Key West Seafood Company, Gulfport,  Wednesday, October 2, 2019.  SCOTT KEELER  |   Times
    Not sure where to start? Go from market to table with guidance from local sellers.
  9. CJ Hnilica, manager of Key West Seafood Company, Gulfport, sorts through a box of fresh blue crabs, Wednesday, October 2, 2019. The crabs were steamed for customers.  SCOTT KEELER  |   Times
    Here’s what you need to know about Florida’s other crab.
  10. Aubi & Ramsa opened last month with an aesthetic that strives more for cocktail bar than ice cream parlor. (Divya Kumar | TIMES). DIVYA KUMAR  |  Divya Kumar | TIMES
    The menu offers 26 flavors, including White Chocolate Merlot and mezcal-infused Chocolate Azteca.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement