Photo courtesy Yuriy Golub/Shutterstock
We were once dubbed Porkopolis for a reason: cased and smoked meats are in our collective DNA. But hot dogs are more than links (!) to our past. Between our German heritage and our affinity for cheese coneys, a new golden age of wieners, sausages, and wursts is dawning—so try out these outstanding spots that have gone to the dogs.
Originally published in the issue of July 2017; updated March 2018
1. The Cuban Missile
Wurst Bar in the Square
Price: $12 (with waffle fries)
Despite what its name may conjure, this dog is the furthest thing from a crisis. It is instead a beautiful union: grilled Andouille sausage wrapped in smoked ham and Swiss, made even better by the Applewood-smoked pulled pork and a banana pepper relish, plus a pickle, mayo, and sweet mustard. So, yeah, it’s our new favorite way to consume a Cubano sandwich. Wurst Bar sources its sausage from Wassler Meats in Bridgetown, and the freshness is evident. They also serve killer jalapeño-cheddar and “u-betta goetta” dogs for any return (or particularly famished) visits.
3204 Linwood Ave., Mt. Lookout, wurstbarinthesquare.com
2. Chicago Dog
Mr. Gene’s Dog House
Price: $4 (no sides)
Atop Mr. Gene’s Chicago dog lies a symphony of flavor, the panoply of ingredients piled to crescendo. The foundation is a meaty all-beef hot dog and blandly sweet untoasted egg bun. Layer in the cool juice of tomato, watery crunch from diced onion, the soft snap of dill pickle, a vinegary schmear of yellow mustard, a hint of clove from the neon relish, a sharp but mellow heat from serrano peppers, and the vegetal salinity of celery salt. There’s so much going on, you might have to order another to figure it all out.
3703 Beekman St., Cumminsville, mrgenesdoghouse.com
3. Two All-Beef Dogs
Price: $6.25 (no sides), $10.25 (two sides)
You probably had no idea Eli’s even served hot dogs. But tear yourself away from the pulled pork and smoked turkey to discover something completely different yet equally satisfying. Skinny all-beef dogs spend half an hour in the smoker and a minute in the fryer, then get slipped into toasted wheat buns and topped with slaw, BBQ sauce, and a generous helping of pork crumbs (you know, the heavenly bits they put on the grits, baked beans, and mac-and-cheese when you want it “dirty”). Fair warning: You’ll probably need a fork and plenty of napkins.
3313 Riverside Drive, East End, elisbarbeque.com
4. The Sausage Board
Winerwurst Mike Frankfurtary
Price: $16.50 (three links and accoutrements)
So a guy walks into an OTR taproom … and discovers the holy grail of sausages. There’s a currywurst, a hot mett from Eckerlin’s, a perfectly spiced lamb chorizo in sheep casing (a collab with Avril-Bleh), and even two veggie options. But the link at the Christian Moerlein brewery that captivated us is the Swiss brat, also from Avril-Bleh. Stuffed with Swiss cheese, it meshes so well our only words were “How is this real?” Which makes the sausage board the way to go: Choose any three links, served with three mustards, slices of Swiss and rye, and sauerkraut.
1621 Moore St. Over-the-Rhine, facebook.com/wienerwurstsmike
5. Bat Masterson Dog
Price: $3.75 (no sides)
You may already know this MainStrasse carryout for its 67 soft-serve varieties, but don’t overlook the dedicated hot dog list. The Bat Masterson is a particularly odd duck but worth a try for the unusual—and satisfying—flavor combo of Worcestershire, sage, spicy mustard, and dill pickles. Shop owners Chip Adkins and Charles Killian like to name-check the local ingredients: Worcestershire powder and sage powder from Colonel De Gourmet Herbs & Spices, pickles from The Pickled Pig, and light pretzel dough bun from Bean Haus Bakery & Cafe.
520 West Sixth St., Covington, piperscafe.biz
6. Kimchi Hot Dog
Price: $6 (no sides)
For the more intrepid hot dog samplers, Flavortown awaits in the form of Red Sesame’s kimchi dog. Owner BJ Kim credits the California-based Kogi food truck enterprise for the popularity of Korean-American streetfood mash-ups, and Kim’s own take is on the menu at his Eastgate location inside Jungle Jim’s market: a griddled all-beef dog on a white bun with plenty of housemade daikon kimchi. The kimchi gets a quick ferment—four days—but is loaded with complex flavor, upping the meat to stratospheric levels. Choose between his housemade miso and ginger sauce or the traditional Korean chili paste gochujang for extra heat. Fortune favors the bold.
4450 Eastgate South Dr., Eastgate, redsesamebbq.com
7. The Lincolnshire
Price: $12 (includes colcannon and Guinness-braised onions)
Elevating comfort food is a tricky thing, but Krueger’s Lincolnshire sausage pulls this off with aplomb. The pork link—named after its English county of origin—is lightly herbed with sage, and like all of Krueger’s burgers and dogs, made with meat fresh-ground in-house that day. It’s served on a scoop of colcannon (mashed potatoes and wilted kale) and topped with Guinness-braised onions. The colcannon deserves a special shout out: It’s rich and creamy, and holds its own while still allowing space for the bolder flavors from the sausage and onions. Dig in and get comfortable.
1211 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, kruegerstavern.com
8. Curry Wurst
Price: $7.50 (includes a side)
Wunderbar has roughly 20 housemade sausages they rotate on and off the menu, though the curry wurst is generally a mainstay. For good reason. Ground pork shoulder from Heringer Meats just up the road is infused with yellow curry powder, garlic, onion powder, sriracha, salt, and pepper and cooked fresh in the oven for 8–10 minutes. The finished product is topped with a zingy housemade curry ketchup for a mouth-enchanting fusion of German and Indian flavors. Any blue cheese-heads should also try the hot bleu wurst’s blend of wing sauce and Gorgonzola; if you want more heat, the feuer wurst (another regular) will clear your sinuses for good.
1132 Lee St., Covington, facebook.com/wunderbar.covington.3
9. Hot Mett Cheese Coney
Putz’s Creamy Whip
Price: $3.20 (no sides)
When I-74 was being built in the early 1970s just above Putz’s location near Mt. Airy Forest, highway workers kept coming by and asking if the creamy whip served any food other than ice cream. Then-owners Ray and Gertie Ehrhardt decided to add some to the menu, including the family’s secret chili recipe. Still a Putz’s staple, it’s a meatier take on classic Cincy chili ladled over Queen City Sausages, including their hot mett cheese coney. The spicy, grilled link is piled high with cheddar cheese fresh-grated every day for a fiery, hearty tweak on the classic coney—and better than any version you’ve created in your backyard.
2673 Putz’s Place, Westwood, putzscreamywhip.com
10. Italian Sausage
Chicago Gyros and Dogs
Price: $7.50 (no sides)
Prepare to be dazzled with options. Chicago’s “Dogs & Stuff” menu category is the understatement of the century, with a dozen-odd hot dog-adjacent items, including your standard Chicago-style, a couple takes on a coney, and some wrapped (lovingly, we imagine) in bacon. If you want the real deal without a lot of multi-meat fuss, go for the Italian Sausage. It’s a simple setup with sautéed green peppers, grilled onions, and provolone, but then you get the intriguing choice of marinara or mustard. We went with mustard and never looked back. Chicago’s website trumpets, boldly, that they have “the best Greek food West of the Greek Isles.” We’re not sure where the Italian Sausage fits into that brag, but we’d go back for it in a heartbeat.
201 West McMillan St., Clifton Heights, chicagogyrosanddogs.com
11. Trailer Park Hot Dog
Price: $11 (no sides)
Credit Dan Wright for Making Hot Dogs Great Again. The Senate chef/owner gussies up his signature Avril-Bleh dogs with toppings like kimchi, béchamel, and goat cheese. Remarkably, the funky adornments work, including on the best-seller and longtime staple Trailer Park. Atop a sturdy brioche bun, the heaping pile of creamy coleslaw tempers smokiness from both the bacon-wrapped dog and crushed Grippo’s BBQ chips. It’s the same balanced approach you’ll taste on the Korean dog, with the pickled acidity of the house kimchi married perfectly with rich, braised short rib. Hot dog purists: Lay down your relish and embrace the funk.
1212 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, senatepub.com
Price: $9 (with a housemade potato pancake)
Goetta need not be consumed strictly in fried patty form. At Mecklenburg Gardens, they’ve been dishing out goettawursts since Glier’s started making them 15 years ago. The standard goetta ingredients—pork, beef, steel cut oats—are all accounted for in the link, joined in a bun by a generous scoop of sauerkraut with a sidecar of Düsseldorf mustard. But it’s the added layer of texture from the sausage casing that breaks through the goetta glass ceiling. It adds just the right amount of fat and a welcome snap, making for—dare we say it?—an even better way to enjoy our favorite breakfast meat.
302 East University Ave., Corryville, mecklenburgs.com
13. Veggie Dawg
U-Lucky Dog Food Truck
In a town that in most ways has shaken off its limited-options past, a guy could starve for want of a veggie dog across Cincinnati. Thank the Sausage Gods for U-Lucky Dog, a food truck featuring an A-level, moist spicy meal for non-carnivores. They serve a quarter-pound Field Roast brand “artisan vegan” sausage by itself or as the base in any of their specialty dogs ($5), from Chicago and Memphis to Rueben and Tijuana.