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Good Dog(s): Why Columbus is now a destination city for new-school hot dogs

Good Dog(s): Why Columbus is now a destination city for new-school hot dogs


Dining in Columbus has gone to the dogs.

And also the coneys, franks, wieners and sausages.

That crisp “snap” you’re hearing around Columbus is folks biting into gourmet hot dogs, as a  growing number of shops are offering fresh, elevated takes on the traditional stadium and backyard cookout favorite.

Newer entries into the market, including Tasty Dawg Downtown, Junkyard Dogs in Linworth (from the owner of Borgata’s Pizza Cafe) and Weenie Wonder in Dublin’s Bridge Park (RIse Brand’s first food concept) have joined established shops including the godfather of the Columbus gourmet dog scene, Dirty Frank’s Hot Dog Palace on Downtown’s South Fourth Street strip.

While the Arch City most definitely offers its fair share of old-school standouts (like Ritzy’s and Toney’s Coneys), it sets itself apart from other cities with its unique brand of approachable, yet gourmet offerings.


Consensus among shop operators is that customers appreciate both the nostalgic simplicity of the hot dog and the care each shop takes in elevating the flavors and the experience.

“There’s a lot of nostalgia that comes with the hot dog. People equate them with fun times,” Weenie Wonder general manager Brandon Mauldin said.

“It’s exciting to see,” Dirty Frank’s co-owner Miriam Ailabouni said. “People are rediscovering their love for one of America’s iconic foods while at the same time we’re taking it to another level.”

That next level is a blend of curated flavor combinations plus the option for the customer to create their own gourmet dog, a staple of fast-casual dining.

“Hot dogs are a clean slate – you can do anything with them,” Ed Bisconti, co-owner of Junkyard Dogs, said. “You can add ingredients to suit your palate, or you can try something that we’ve worked hard to create that offers that balance of flavors.”

At Junkyard Dogs, those curated tastes include regionally-inspired dogs including The Chicago (yellow mustard, relish, onion, tomato, sport peppers, pickle) and The Detroiter (house-made coney sauce, onion, yellow mustard) to unique takes like The Elvis (bacon, barbecue sauce, cheddars cheese, onion) and Bisconti’s personal favorite, The Chili Cheesy Onion.

“We grill the onions and melt the cheese over them on the grill so the cheese gets this crispy crust,” Bisconti said. “It’s just a great blend of different textures and tastes.”

At Weenie Wonder, signature options include the Wingdinger with buffalo sauce and bleu cheese, the Southwest with pico and Ranch Doritos, and the Dumpster, with a jojo (potato wedge), coney sauce, cheddar cheese, mac & cheese and the shops’ Wonder Sauce.

“Our team members all have their favorites and are happy to make recommendations,” Mauldin said. “The signature dogs are carefully designed and they’re all inspired by (owner) Troy (Allen).”

Dirty Frank’s menu includes combos for Columbus sports teams (the CBJ Dog features cheese sauce, bacon bit and jalapenos, for example), the Picnic Table (baked beans, coleslaw, relish, crushed potato chips), the Ohioana (corn relish, celery salt, optional sriracha mustard) and Ailaboini’s favorite, the Westside Bestside, with bar cheese, brown mustard, pretzel bites and cheddar cheese.

“I love all of those things together,” Ailabouni said of the dog that pays tribute to the shop’s former West Broad Street location.

Ailabouni, Bisconti and Mauldin each made it clear that what makes these hot dogs “gourmet” isn’t just the unique topping combinations. Before you add high quality ingredients, great dogs, they said, start with, well, great dogs.

Dirty Frank’s starts with a Vienna beef dog and an Alpha Baking poppy seed bun, both from Chicago, Ailabouni said. Polish sausage, bratwurst and veggie dogs are also options.

Weenie Wonder’s base is a beef and pork dog from Michigan’s Koegel Meats, Mauldin said.

Bisconti said his team sampled more than 50 different dogs before settling on three different dogs from Cleveland, Michigan and New Jersey. Junkyard also offers bratwurst and Italian 


“They all have that ‘snap’ when you bite into them that really helps make the hot dog eating experience,” he said.

Ailabouni explained the final piece that elevates a hot dog to a “gourmet” dining experience.

“‘Gourmet’ comes with the care we put into it,” she said. “The flavors and ingredients are important, of course, but we also elevate with service, ambiance and care that go into making it ‘gourmet.’”

Want to read more? Check out our print publication, (614) Magazine. Learn where you can find a free copy of our new December issue here!


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