Cape Fear Foodie: Hot Dog Road Trip Part 2
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - On the road again, just can’t wait to get on the road again, the life I love is eating hot dogs with my friends, and I can’t wait to get on the road again. Wait, that’s not the lyrics from Willie Nelson’s famed hit? Got it... well that’s a disappointment. Anyways, the “Hot Dog Road Trip” is back on the road again and with these gas prices, it hasn’t been cheap.
Yet I’m fueled by the outpouring of your support, tips, and suggestions. I’ve heard from more than 50 people over the last few months about where the best hot dogs are around Southeastern North Carolina. You can read “Part 1″ here if you haven’t already, and to say I’m speechless by everyone’s devotion to the patron saint of handheld foods (St. Frankfurter) would be an understatement.
You may be asking, why do “Part 2″ now? One key reason was the fair and festival season, which to me always speaks to eating a hot dog. Some people go with the deep fried Oreos or donut cheeseburgers, but not me, give me a hot dog, bratwurst, or kielbasa on a toasty bun. So what better time to revisit what has been by far my most popular food review to date.
Now to just to cover some boundaries, I only order hot dogs with mustard, onions, chili, and slaw...that’s it. I also rate the dogs on a scale of 1 to 5, and include everything from the softness of the bun, to the flavor of the hot dog, to the creaminess of the slaw.
Also, I don’t include chain restaurants on this Hot Dog Road Trip (that includes Sam’s, which is a chain started in my native West Virginia). This is just a handful of places I have gone and there are countless others that I promise to get to.
That being said, I recently made a late run to Carolina Beach on a Tuesday and arrived too late for Island Burgers and Bites and Nauti Dog was closed. I also have plans to visit a number of well-known locations like Paul’s Place, so don’t worry if you don’t see it here now. I also ordered to-go from Ruth’s Kitchen (a location I got a lot of emails about) but when I got back to the office and opened my bag, my standard order of chili, onions, mustard and slaw was nothing more than a plain hot dog with a cup of ketchup. I will be back though!
Alright, the tank is full, we have our route mapped out, so buckle up buckaroos and let’s hit the open road.
Brodee Dogs Brew House
A favorite locale for craft hot dogs in Leland, Brodee Dogs has a variety of dogs to choose from at an affordable price. While I would have loved to have tried a bacon wrapped dog, I have to stick with my guns. Right off the bat, the bun is noticeably soft and sturdy, providing a lovely foundation for the dog and all its toppings. The hot dog is juicy, the onions finely chopped with just the right amount of mustard. However, I thought the slaw could have been a little more tangy and the chili just a bit more spicy. Put it all together, and the pros and the cons balance out, providing a respectable 3/5 score.
Island Delights Surf City
A favorite for generations of visitors to Surf City, Island Delights provides that classic diner feel (complete with old-school vending machines and a jukebox). With that bit of nostalgia comes all your classic menu options, like burgers, loaded fries, milkshakes, and even an ice cream bar. Buried within the extensive menu is the hot dog at a very affordable $3 price tag. Of course, I loaded up with the pre-requisite toppings and unleashed this dog. A toasted split top bun was a nice choice, and everything on the dog was fine, from the chili to the slaw. However, nothing truly stood out, nothing that made me think “wow, that’s really good.” But don’t think for one minute this hot dog isn’t a delight. Let’s give it a 3/5.
Hot Diggity Dogz
Another stop I made while attending Ocean Fest in Surf City, Hot Diggity Dogz commands a prime spot in the heart of Surf City. Located across the street from the pier, this island mainstay has a nearly endless menu of specialty hot dogs to choose from. You can get a “Surfer Dog,” with melted cheese, bacon bits, and mustard...or how about a “New Yorker Dog” with spicy mustard and red onion sauce? My topping list falls under the “Beach Dog” moniker and each creation is centered around a Sabrett hot dog (a fan favorite for many, especially in the Northeast). That being said, my bun was huge, and each bite was more bread than just about anything else. The toppings were on par, but the onions were a bit too long cut for my liking. I’m sure Hot Diggity Dogz often lives up to its “Voted #1 Hot Dog” claim, but on this visit, it wasn’t the hottest...dog. A middle of the pack 2.5/5.
There is something about visiting the Carolina coast and swinging by a classic diner. Folks have been packing this spot in Carolina Beach for years. The interior is straight 50s, with the faux-chrome curved ceiling, and red and white booths. But how does the hot dog stack up? For starters, the bun isn’t anything to write home about. Just your run-of-the-mill offering, but everything else really “pops” off (I had to). The dog itself is beefy and savory, the chili makes you take notice, the onions are perfectly diced, with a nice mustard ratio and finely diced, semi-creamy slaw. If this bun was thrown on the grill with just a little butter, it would take this creation over the top. For a town with several hot dog options, this place is worth a visit, 3.5/5.
The Original Salt Works
Of the dozens and dozens of emails I have received, Wilmington’s The Original Salt Works was a name that kept popping up. Situated in an old diner-like building near Wrightsville Beach, TOSW is super popular with locals and tourists alike. I saw big, juicy burgers served with mounds of fries and onion rings slinged out of the kitchen...but I came here for the hot dogs. And I must say, what a dog it is. While boiled, the hot dog has flavor and the steamed bun is soft and sturdy. The chili is finely ground and has a savory, spicy, and beefy taste. The onions and mustard don’t distract and while the slaw was a little chunky for my liking, the peppery and tangy dressing was just right. Put it all together and it’s one of the best dogs I’ve had around here, a real “top dog”, 4/5. (Note: Cash only restaurant)
There you have it, another quick jaunt around Southeastern North Carolina to find the best hot dog. Do you have any suggestions about your favorite hot dog? It can be anything from a gas station to a sit-down restaurant, I want to know about it.
IF YOU GO:
Brodee Dogs Brew House is located at 103 A Village Rd NE, Leland, NC 28451
Island Delights Surf City is located at 316 N New River Dr, Surf City, NC 28445
Hot Diggity Dogz is located at 103 S Shore Dr, Surf City, NC 28445
Pop’s Diner is located at 109 N Lake Park Blvd, Carolina Beach, NC 28428
The Original Salt Works is located at 6301 Oleander Dr, Wilmington, NC 28403
Do you recommend a restaurant? Or know of a best kept secret that you want the rest of the Cape Fear to know about? Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I would love to feature your selection. Cheers!
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