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5 Best Fast-Food Hot Dogs, According to Chefs

From the iconic Nathan’s hot dog chain to regional favorites.

Did you know that Americans consume approximately 20 billion hot dogs per year? Topped with sauerkraut or relish, and drizzled with ketchup and mustard, hot dogs are one of the most famous comfort foods out there. Plus, they are an easy lat-snack for some of the busiest people on earth: chefs. We wanted to find out what fast-food chains they'll stop at for a hot dog when the cravings strike.

Because even though hot dogs are often associated with sporting events and summer barbecues, some of the tastiest hot dogs can be picked up year-round at fast-food chains. Whether you like your hot dog served with all the fixings or prefer them plain, a juicy dog is usually never more than a short drive away.

From the iconic Nathan's hot dog chain to regional favorites, here are 5 fast-food spots where chefs get their favorite hot dogs.

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nathan's famous hot dog and fries
Nathan's Famous / Facebook

Chef Jonathan Scinto shares that Nathan's is one of his favorite spots to eat hot dogs. "When I'm feeling that nostalgic vibe, I get their hot dog with mustard and sauerkraut," says Scinto. "It's always that spicy mustard and kraut taste that does it for me."

The iconic hot dog chain, which started over 100 years ago, sells upwards of 700 million hot dogs each year. Founded in Brooklyn, the restaurant now has nearly 200 global locations, and also carries its products in grocery stores.

Scinto shares that Nathan's brings him back to childhood memories of going on family trips and stopping at rest stops to pick up Nathan's hot dog and crinkle-cut fries. "It just hits home!" he says.

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Sonic Drive-In

sonic drive in hot dogs
Sonic Drive-In / Facebook

Scinto points out that Sonic is another favorite of his. A favorite of Chef Vishwesh Bhatt also, Scinto's go-to order is Sonic's All-American hot dog served with basic toppings and some chili and cheese. "Can't forget those golden tots to complete my craving," he says. He also likes to order a banana shake to wash it all down. "It just gives me that comfort feeling that I'm on Main Street America in a classic drive-in," he adds.

Sonic, which began in Oklahoma in the 1950s, currently has over 3,500 locations throughout the United States. Beyond its tasty hot dogs, people also love Sonic's popular toaster sandwiches and cherry limeade.


Portillo's hot dog

Portillo's, a chain that is well-known for its hot dogs, beef burgers, and salads, is also a favorite among chefs. The beloved Midwest chain currently has 70 locations in nine states, with 45 of those locations in Chicago.

"My favorite hot dogs are from Portillo's, a chain that originated in Chicago with locations across the U.S.," shares K.C. Gulbro, chef, restaurateur, and chef ambassador for Certified Angus Beef. He's also the owner of FoxFire and Copper Fox in Geneva, Ill. Gulbro shares that his go-to order is a Maxwell Street Polish Dog served with extra onions and cheese fries.

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Dairy Queen

dairy queen hot dogs
Dairy Queen / Facebook

Robbie Shoults, celebrity chef and owner of the award-winning restaurant Bear Creek Smokehouse in Marshall, Texas, shares that Dairy Queen is his go-to for hot dogs.

"My favorite hot dog comes from DQ, as we call it in Texas, which is none other than Dairy Queen," says Shoults. Started in 1940, Dairy Queen went from a small neighborhood restaurant to a cultural phenomenon—it now has over 6,800 locations throughout the world. Besides hot dogs, people also rave about Dairy Queen's iconic Blizzards, which is soft-serve ice cream with delicious toppings mixed in.

Shoults' usual order is a hot dog with extra chili, cheese, onions, and plenty of jalapenos. "The only way to eat this one is with a fork!" he adds.


pinks hot dogs
Pink's Hot Dogs / Facebook

Chef Aron Schwartz of Ranch 45 explains that Pink's, the West Coast hot dog chain, is one of his favorite hot dog restaurants. "Eating a legendary LA Pink's Hot Dog is like tasting the past," says Schwartz. "They are iconic because the hot dog hasn't changed—they snap when you bite them. Schwartz also mentions that, as a chef, he appreciates the continuity of the product, as well as the creativity of Pink's topping choices.

Brittany Natale
Brittany Natale is a food and lifestyle writer. Read more about Brittany