Fast Food Hot Dogs, Ranked Worst To Best

Hot dogs are the star of the show at backyard cookouts, summer get-togethers, and pretty much any time a grill is brought out. There's just nothing like biting into a dog that's loaded with all your favorite toppings, whether you like to keep it basic with ketchup and mustard or you crave the completely filled Chicago dog. When it comes to national fast food chains, though, the hot dog can sometimes come as an afterthought compared to the chicken sandwiches, burgers, and secret menu orders. Yet true fast food fans know that hot dogs shouldn't be left by the wayside.

While hot dogs aren't the ubiquitous menu item that burgers are, there are plenty of respectable hot dog options out there from famous famously cheap eateries like Costco and Sonic. In many fast food cases, the hot dog is topped with chili. The variations available are all part of the fun. Fast food hot dogs are customizable and can please a multitude of appetites — if you order from the right place. These are the best choices ranked from worst to best, with supermarket food court options thrown in as well because they are indeed fast (and also delicious).

11. Dairy Queen's hot dog

Rumors of poor hot dog quality at Dairy Queen have circulated the internet for at least a decade. In 2010, a Reddit commenter who claimed to work at Dairy Queen said the hot dogs were reheated and reused day after day until they were sold. Another commenter said that didn't happen at the DQ they worked at, but others who say they worked at Dairy Queen posted on Quora that people should "avoid the hot dogs" and that the way the chili is prepared for the chili cheese dogs is "really disgusting."

According to a press release, Dairy Queen has used an all-beef hot dog since 2007 (though as a reviewer for Eater noted in 2016, the franks are of the "skinless" variety with no snappy casing that pops when you bite into them). Turns out, they're not too popular. A Business Insider fast food reviewer named Marina Nazario wrote in 2016 that the Dairy Queen chili dog was the worst menu item she's eaten from any fast food restaurant.

And then there's the reviewer from the site Fast Food Menu Prices. The review found that the chili cheese dog wiener "is not comparable to a backyard BBQ or sporting event," but instead "it tastes like low-grade meat." There's not much going for Dairy Queen in the hot dog department. Even adding chili cheese on top can't save the dogs. It's best to stick to the Blizzards and fries at Dairy Queen.

10. Five Guys' hot dog

The full name of this chain is Five Guys Burgers and Fries. "And hot dogs" is not in the official title, yet Five Guys still puts out a very tasty dog. The Hebrew National Hotdog is sliced lengthwise (also known as butterflied) and cooked on the griddle, so there's a crisp outside and inside. As for topping, mustard and maybe some relish is the way to go, though raw onions and Kraft American cheese are acceptable additions on the cheese dog, if that's something you're into. There's even an option for a bacon dog and a bacon cheese dog. All of these are filling and fine tasting options.

This type of praise isn't normally lavished on a food item that lands close to last in a ranking. But there's a sticking point: Five Guys prices its hot dogs at more than $5 for the most basic version at many locations and racks it up to $7 or more for additions like bacon and cheese. 

A single Hebrew National Hotdog with basic condiments and a basic bun should not cost $5 or more. For perspective, a pack of seven Hebrew Nationals can cost less than $4 at Walmart. Hot dogs are cheap and quick hunger fixes, even by fast food standards. So while Five Guys deserves to be higher from a pure taste perspective, only the most decorated and craft of hot dogs should command the prices that Five Guys' does.

9. Checkers' hot dog

There are a lot of good hot dogs in the world as well as a lot of bad hot dogs. But there are also a lot of hot dogs that are just fine. That last category is where Checkers (or Rally's, depending on what part of the country you're in) lands. The price is just right at around $1 for a basic dog, and there's a chili dog option for when you want something a little messier. Yet there's nothing that really makes a Checkers beefy hot dog on a toasted bun stand out.

That hasn't stopped Checkers from feeling hot dog pride, however. In 2016, Checkers released a series of advertisements about Burger King's short-lived phase of selling hot dogs. The campaign was filled with cringe-inducing lines like, "It's time to compare wieners," and, "Overcompensating, anyone?" As if that wasn't enough, the advertisement joked that the chain was promoting its dogs because Burger King showed "their wiener in public for the very first time." A side of indecent jokes doesn't make an average hot dog taste any better, regardless of the fact that Checkers has served all-beef hot dogs for over 30 years, according to the food industry publication QSR Magazine.

8. Sam's Club's hot dog

Legend has it, at one point in time, every Sam's Club hot dog served from the in-store cafe was a Nathan's Famous. Then, around 2018, people on Reddit started to notice a change in flavor. Sam's Club opted instead for its own house brand: Member's Mark hot dogs, which all proclaim "Served in Sam's Cafe" right there on the front of the package.

In short, the Sam's Club Cafe hot dogs are like what you'd get at a backyard cookout where the host opts for the budget hot dog option but still knows how to cook a good-tasting hot dog.

The all-beef hot dogs are similar in price to the more famous Costco hot dogs. They're also sold at the same hard to beat price of $1.50 for a combo, so you still get that great value you love. Yet the flavor is a little lacking. Sure, the Sam's Cafe hot dog will do in a pinch, but it's not the type of value hot dog that is going to draw people to the store or anything.

7. Nathan's Famous' hot dog

Few hot dogs can compare to the reputation of Nathan's Famous. It's the centerpiece of the Fourth of July's most famous eating competition, and it's the standard for ballpark hot dog stands and beachside shacks. Nathan's Famous hot dogs can be found on supermarket shelves, but they're best from a stand. The dog itself is just the right amount of sweet and salty, and the meat is juicy and full of all-beef flavor without being watery or oily.

This hot dog is a classic that sells around 550 million hot dogs annually for a reason. The brand purports to use the same recipe that was invented by Polish immigrant Nathan Handwerker, which made Nathan's famous more than 100 years ago in Coney Island (long before "famous" was part of the "Nathan's Famous" name). Grabbing a hot dog from the original shack on the boardwalk deserves to be on every hot dog lover's bucket list.

A hot dog with mustard from a Nathan's Famous stand rarely disappoints. However, it tastes best when it's eaten after a long day spent relaxing on the beach and riding Coney Island's roller coasters. Ordered elsewhere, you might find a dearth of quality consistency.

6. Portillo's hot dog

It can feel at times that everyone in Chicago has an opinion on the best place to get a Chicago dog. The style — mustard, relish, celery salt, onion, tomato, pickle, and peppers on a poppy seed bun — is sometimes known as a hot dog that's "dragged through the garden" because of all the toppings. It is one of the best ways to eat a hot dog, as it's full of tangy acidity, umami, and salt that all complement an all-beef dog.

Portillo's does a fine job with Chicago-style hot dogs. There are small shops that do it better, but the chain is about the closest you can get when you're looking for a Chicago dog outside of its home state. Since its humble start in a trailer in Villa Park in 1963, the chain has opened Portillo's locations in Arizona, California, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and, of course, Illinois. 

There are basic hot dogs and chili dogs on the menu, but the best option is to go with the classic to have a taste of Chicago delivered fast casual style. Each hot dog is more filling than any of the comparatively skimpy options you'll find at other chains, but if you're looking for something a little more, just ask for a Jumbo, which is simply the same but with a thicker hot dog.

5. IKEA's hot dog

While the many condiment options at IKEA can make assembling your hot dog about as complicated as assembling a piece of IKEA furniture, there's no denying the furniture store makes a good dog. It's just one of the foods that draw the 30 percent of Ikea shoppers who visit the store primarily to eat, and it's an often overshadowed one at that thanks to the popularity of items like the Swedish meatballs.

In the United States, IKEA's hot dogs are a mix of chicken and beef, an IKEA spokesperson told Mashed. Large fluffy buns hold it all together with the condiments on the bottom, if you want. What, exactly, your IKEA hot dog experience is like depends on where you're located.

What really makes IKEA stand out is that it makes a veggie hot dog that actually tastes good. It's made with sustainability at front of mind, according to the company, using kale, lentils, quinoa, onions, and wheat protein. You might not opt for the veggie hot dog and instead choose the more popular classic meat version, but it's nice to have options when you're craving variety of the sustainable kind in your life.

4. Wienerschnitzel's hot dog

Wienerschnitzel is like the Nathan's Famous of the West Coast, only with less of the "famous" part. Wienerschnitzel has no nationally televised eating competition and lacks supermarket and ballpark ubiquity. Yet it's still a successful hot dog seller with some 120 million hot dog sales every year, according to USA Today. And it does that while only having locations in ten states.

Options are king at Wienerschnitzel. Before you order, decide whether you want a pretzel bun or a regular bun (the former is a solid vessel if you're ordering one of the more stacked options) and whether you want a hot dog that's the World Famous Original style, all-beef, or Polish.

The chain started in Southern California in 1961, according to the company history. Today, there are a number of options that will satisfy any type of hot dog craving, which helps push it ahead of some competitors on this list. There's a Relish Dog and a Bacon Street Dog, as well as a Green Chile Chili Cheese Dog and a plain dog known simply as the Mustard Dog. There's even a Chicago Dog that's been dragged through the garden. It's perhaps most famous for what the company describes as its "über famous" chili that's smothered on the Chili Dog. What you won't find is actual wiener schnitzel, which is a pounded, breaded, and fried piece of veal. But if you're going for the hot dogs, as you should be, you'll leave satisfied.

3. Costco's hot dog

In 1985, Costco began selling a hot dog with a soda for $1.50, according to Insider. That price remains the same to this day, and it's just about the best deal in hot dog meals you can find. That said, Costco's prime hot dogs are far from a secret. Food writer Kevin Pang praised them in the Chicago Tribune, and there are apparently plenty of people who agree with him. In 2015, Costco sold 128 million hot dogs, according to the investing publication The Motley Fool.

Though the price has stayed the same over the past three and a half decades, the dog has changed. Costco swapped Hewbrew National for Kirkland hot dogs in 2009. The quarter-pound, all-beef hot dog is actually ten percent larger than the Hebrew Nationals' and is free of artificial flavors and fillers, Costco's publication proudly stated in 2009

Costco got rid of its Polish dog to make room for healthy options, much to the dismay of fans, but the regular ol' hot dog is good enough. Top it up with all of the complimentary condiments you enjoy, and eat it right away for full enjoyment of the steamed bun and all that it contains.

2. Sonic's hot dog

Sonic's All-American Hot Dog is a dog done right. It's loaded (ketchup, yellow mustard, relish, and chopped onions) without being overly full, though if you prefer a simpler hot dog, you'll still be satisfied on the flavor front. The true draw when it comes to Sonic hot dogs, however, is the Coney.

The Chili Cheese Coney is smothered in an all-meat chili and melted cheddar cheese. It's made in the true Coney style, which is defined by a steamed bun, beanless chili (which sets it apart from some of the other straight chili dogs out there), and white onions. It's believed the Coney was invented in the early 1900s in Michigan by Greek immigrants who had tried Nathan's Famous hot dogs on Coney Island, according to the Detroit Historical Society.

At Sonic, the Coney is a filling load of flavor. It's messy — probably best to eat this one outside of your car, just to be safe — but the toppings won't all fall off before you get into it. Go big or go home with the Footlong Quarter Pound Coney. It's a blend of beef and pork, according to a press release from 2010 when the item was announced. While the weight is the same as the dogs at Costco and Sam's, it's elongated rather than chunky, which leaves plenty of room for the chili in between the buns.

1. Shake Shack's hot dog

Shake Shack is known for its Shack burgers. The chicken sandwich has gotten a lot of love as well since it was first released in 2015. But the original Shake Shack menu option is the hot dog, and it's just about the best fast food hot dog on the market.

In 2001, the first Shake Shack hot dog cart opened in Madison Square Park in Manhattan. The goal was to support the Madison Square Park Conservancy's first art installation, the company notes. The cart drew crowds for three summers until a permanent spot opened in 2004, which eventually transformed into the national burger chain we know today. And it all started with a hot dog.

Shake Shack's hot dogs are butterflied (or flat-top, as the company puts it) like how the ones at Five Guys are. For just over $3 (or $4 to have it Chicago style), you get a juicy yet crispy Vienna beef hot dog that can hold all its toppings thanks to the butterflied style. It's all served in an airy and lightly sweet Martin's Potato Roll. If you're feeling extra, there's the option to add the house-made cheese sauce, which is a blend of cheddar and American. However you do it, the Shake Shack original is worth every penny.