8 wildly creative Bay Area hot dogs to enjoy in 2024

Could there be a simpler dish than a classic hot dog? You take some bread, slap some meat and condiments into it — some might call that a sandwich — and voila, you’ve got yourself the perfect basic snack.

But not all hot dogs are simple, not in this complicated year of 2024. To suss out what’s happening on the vanguard of weenie tech, we fanned out far and wide to taste Cubist Korean sugar-coated corn dogs, Hawaiian bacon and glazed-pineapple dogs, gourmet cheese dogs to pair with craft beer and wild vegan dogs with James Beard-award cred. Forthwith, here are eight spots that are worth visiting if you want to broaden your hot-dog horizons

Two Hands Corn Dogs, Dublin

The corn dogs at Two Hands Corn Dogs in Dublin come in a variety of flavors; this one is wrapped in fried potato cubes, then topped with sauce and and FLAMIN’ HOT® Cheetos powder. (Kate Bradshaw/Bay Area News Group) 

Korean-style corn dogs – and slushies – are the specialties at the only Bay Area location of this growing national chain, situated in Dublin’s Fallon Gateway shopping center.

Customization is the name of the game at this fast-casual operation. First, you’ll pick from one of seven different corn dog coatings – from the standard American state-fair style with corn batter, ketchup and mustard to the sweeter injeolmi option, featuring a bean powder coating and a sweetened condensed milk-based sauce. The potato coating option ($5.79), for example, is crispy, savory and not too spicy, topped with sauce and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos powder.

As for the corn dog filling, there’s the standard beef sausage, but also variations like spicy sausage, cheese or a plant-based sausage. Or go half-and-half, mixing sausage and cheese, or a blend of two cheeses with the half-cheddar, half-mozzarella option, which can add an extra 50 cents to $1.50, depending on what you choose.

Pair it with: Kimchi seasoned fries ($5.29), a slushy ($4.79) or both! The kimchi fries are crispy and more sweet than spicy, while the slushies come in a variety of flavors, including a sweet, refreshing pineapple slushy. And the milk teas include rose, taro and matcha flavors.

Details: Open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. at 3742 Fallon Road in Dublin; twohandsus.com.

RELATED: 4 classic Bay Area hot dogs for the mustard and relish crowd

Frank & Furter’s, San Jose (Berryessa, Valley Fair, Oakridge)

This locally based favorite, formerly known as Umai Savory Hot Dogs, was way ahead of the fusion hot dog trend, having introduced them to the South Bay years ago. Credit current owner Dat Thieu for some of the wild newer concoctions.

Popular choices include the Truffle Dog ($10.99), a beef-brisket frank with shiitake mushrooms, caramelized onions, truffle aioli and a teriyaki glaze; the Kyoto Heat ($8.99), which dials up the volume with jalapeños, red pepper flakes and a “dynamite sauce” on top of crispy onions; and Bulgogi Sizzle ($11.99), a double-the-savory combination of frank and marinated Korean beef,
kimchi relish, Gochujang sauce and both black and white sesame seeds.

We love the build-it-yourself option ($7.99 base price), which allows you to jazz up the dog any way you want. How about New York-style pushcart onion sauce, Chicago-style sport peppers and a teriyaki glaze atop a frank in a hoagie roll?

Pair it with: The hand-cut, skin-on, fresh-out-of-the-fryer French fries are great dipped in the F&F sauce. And you’ve got to end the meal with their Pineapple Upside Down soft-serve cup ($3.99) — it’s pucker-tart and super refreshing.

Details: 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. daily at 1158 N. Capitol Ave.; 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. daily at Westfield Oakridge; and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily at Westfield Valley Fair; https://frank-furters.com/

Tallboy, Oakland

C-Y Chia and Shane Stanbridge with some of their vegan hotdogs at Tallboy on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday, June 18, 2024. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group) 

The closing of the vegan and James Beard award-winning Lion Dance Cafe earlier this spring sent minor shock waves through the East Bay food community. But now chefs C-Y Chia and Shane Stanbridge are back in the unlikeliest of ways: designing the weenie-centric menu at Oakland’s new martini dive bar, Tallboy.

“Hot dogs are not only approachable to customers and a realistic dish for a very limited bar kitchen, but lend themselves well to a welcoming price point – something that matters a lot to (owner Den Stephens),” says Chia. “They’re also such a fun canvas with infinite possibilities.”

Tallboy is reportedly the first place in the East Bay to serve Impossible Foods’ new vegan hot dogs. The five on the menu include a Korean dog with melted cheese and local Volcano Kimchi ($14), a Buffalo dog with creamy-crunchy slaw and vinegary hot sauce ($12) and the unapologetically spicy Lion Dancing Dog with sambal mayo, crunchy peanuts and pickled chili ($14). They’re snappy and smoky, tangy and thought-provoking and without fail (or meat) all delicious.

Pair it with: Other snacks on the menu are inspired by steakhouse sides – try the chorizo-spiced Chex Mix (made in-house, $5) or the wedge salad with smoked almonds from Winters Fruit Tree ($12). Then down it with a dirty martini or, if you’re feeling low-brow, a martini Jell-O shot.

Details: Open 2 p.m.-late daily at 4210 Telegraph Ave., Oakland; tallboy.bar

Myungrang Hot Dogs, Cupertino, Dublin

Two of the most popular Myungrang offerings are the crunchy Mozzarella and Sausage (top), with mustard, and the Potato HotDog, drizzled with chili sauce. (Linda Zavoral/Bay Area News Group) 

It’s pretty easy to spot Myungrang at Main Street Cupertino, a busy complex that combines restaurants, housing and retail: Look for the line of young customers who flock here for the array of savory, filling, budget-friendly Korean dogs. No surprise that Myungrang means “cheerful.”

The beef hot dogs and sausages (they use the names interchangeably) on sticks are coated in a special rice flour batter, deep-fried to order and handed to you piping hot. Prices start at $4.49 for the Original. The top-selling Mozzarella & Sausage Dog ($5.49) is half wonderfully stretchy mozzarella and half hotdog. Feel like French fries? Order the Potato Hotdog ($6.49), with its potato cube coating.

Mix and match the five sauces — ketchup, sweet chili, honey mustard, cheese mustard and cheddar cheese — or have your dog rolled in sugar to create a taste sensation to your liking.

Details: Open at noon weekdays, 11 a.m. weekends, until 9 p.m., at 19540 Vallco Parkway in the Main Street Cupertino complex. In Dublin, open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily at 3994 Summit Road.

Seoul Hotdog, Berkeley

A fried potato-crusted corn dog that has been dipped in white sugar from Seoul Hotdog in Berkeley, Calif. (John Metcalfe/Bay Area News Group) 

Looking like a Cubist painting, used fried potatoes as a medium, the corn dogs at Seoul Hotdog ($4.79-$7.29) might seem a little… different. But this style is quite common in South Korea: Each chef adds their own spin to the batter, then — sometimes — injects it with cheese and rolls it in sugar.

This establishment in an alley of Asian restaurants across from UC Berkeley uses all-beef hot dogs from Miller’s in Lodi and offers five rice flour-based crusts: original, potato, sweet potato, hot Cheetos and ramen. The batter can be made spicy or ube-flavored. You can also get your corn dog filled with whole-milk mozzarella and dipped in white sugar. (Strange as that sounds, do it.) Sauces are dispensed via rubber udders and include honey mustard and spicy Sriracha, and sprinkle-on toppings feature Parmesan, honey butter and, uh, Ghirardelli white chocolate. For fans of bold flavors and endless customization, this is food heaven.

Pair it with: Some Haitai honey-butter potato chips, perhaps, or a Korean mango smoothie from the fridge whose can is shaped like a cute bunny.

Details: Open 11 a.m.-7 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Saturday at 2505D Hearst Ave., Berkeley; 510-766-8182

Dog Haus, Fremont, Belmont, Berkeley

One of the Dog Haus specialties in Fremont is an all-beef skinless hot dog topped with smoked bacon, garlic aioli, cheese and caramelized onions. (Anda Chu/Staff archives) 

This gourmet weenie joint and beer garden offers heartily-topped hot dogs and sausages alongside a wide selection of local craft beers. And with three Bay Area locations, visitors shouldn’t have to travel too far for any one of these spots. The vibe is, in the words of the owners, “craft casual,” offering made-to-order dishes in a laid-back environment.

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Hello Kitty Cafe rolling into Walnut Creek, San Jose, Pleasanton

When it comes to the dogs, one highlight here is the buns. Rather than sitting atop standard elongated white bread buns that can lack flavor, these hot dogs are served on top of buttery, sweet, toasted King’s Hawaiian rolls that add a delightful, pillowy dimension to each bite.

The menu offers both standard all-beef hot dogs as well as specialty sausages, including plant-based Beyond sausage options. The Beyond Brat is served with sauerkraut, caramelized onions and spicy brown mustard, while the Sooo Veggie Beyond sausage option is served with arugula, avocado, tomato, crispy onions and basil aioli.

Its Belmont location, at the corner of Ralston Avenue and El Camino Real, has both indoor and outdoor seating. Three friends, Hagop Giragossian, Quasim Riaz and Andre Vener, launched the brand back in Pasadena in 2010.

Meanwhile, in addition to craft beers, wine and micheladas, the brand’s biergarten locations (which include Belmont and Berkeley but not Fremont) also offer a cocktail selection curated by mixology consultant and “Bar Rescue” co-host Phil Wills. They’ve also got soft-serve, shakes and floats for cooling off on hot summer days.

Pair it with: Despite its name, Dog Haus offers plenty more than hot dogs. They’ve got an array of hearty breakfast burritos, plus a strong selection of burgers, sliders and chicken sandwiches, including a Nashville hot  chicken option and one called “Bad Mutha Clucka,” which sandwiches crispy chicken tenders with lettuce, pickles and miso ranch inside Hawaiian roll buns. And on the side… chili cheese tots, anyone?

Details: Open daily 11 a.m.-10 p.m. at 1000 El Camino Real in Belmont, and 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday at 1407 San Pablo Ave Suite A in Berkeley and 43456 Boscell Road in Fremont; doghaus.com. Prices vary by location.

Hillside Tap Room & Eatery, Martinez

Hillside Tap Room and Eatery offers gourmet hot dogs, frozé and beer in downtown Martinez. (Kate Bradshaw/Bay Area News Group) 

The sense of hometown Martinez pride is on display the moment you walk through the doors of the Hillside Tap Room and Eatery. Old photos of the bayside town line the walls, and a neon sign bears the slogan “A drinking town with a fishing problem” in glowing yellow cursive. It seems like the perfect spot to escape the Contra Costa County heat, watch a game and catch up with friends over a hunky hot dog paired with a beer or slushy, boozy or not.

The slaw dog from Hillside Tap Room and Eatery in Martinez is a beef frankfurter topped with chili and coleslaw. (Kate Bradshaw/Bay Area News Group) 

Consider the Hawaiian hot dog ($15), featuring a quarter-pound pineapple sausage, sweet relish, salsa, melted cheese, bacon and guacamole. Or the SF Street dog ($14), a beef frankfurter topped with grilled onions and peppers, bacon, nacho cheese and pickled jalapeños. Or the Martinez dog ($12), a Cajun sausage topped with fresh jalapeños, barbecue sauce and grilled onions.

“Lowkey fire” was a phrase we overheard from a recent visitor describing the Slaw dog ($12), a beef frankfurter topped with chili, mustard and coleslaw.

The only downside on a recent visit was that the plant-based options were sold out, making dining difficult for the vegetarian in our group. But cheese fries and coleslaw made for a tasty, if not entirely filling, alternative.

Pair it with: Cheese fries, coleslaw and slushy drinks. The lemonade and peach-mango non-alcoholic options were the perfect antidote to the summer heat, and the frozen sangria was awfully tempting.

Details: Open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday at 400 Ferry St. in Martinez; hillsidemartinez.com.

Endless Summer Sweets, Berkeley

A hot dog with fries at Endless Summer Sweets, a carnival-themed restaurant in Berkeley, Calif. (Courtesy of Endless Summer Sweets) 

It’s not so much the hot dogs at Endless Summer Sweets that are so creative, but the whole concept. It’s a restaurant themed around the carnival. No, we’re not talking scary clowns, but fun stuff like corn dogs, funnel cakes, soft serve and deep-fried Twinkies. Walking in the door you almost want to shout, “Wheeeeee!”

There are several types of dogs, available grilled ($7) or as hand-dipped corn dogs ($6), including chicken apple, Louisiana hot link, mild link and pineapple sausage. The buns are buttered King’s Hawaiian Bread, and the standard all-beef frank is from Courage Production in Fairfield – it’s Schwarz Meat’s 49er Hot Dogs. The grilled dogs – served with caramelized onions, roasted bell pepper and shredded cheddar jack – are supremely juicy, snappy and kissed with the right amount of smoke.

“For our ‘grilled’ hot dogs, we cut them down the middle, butterfly-style, and use a charbroiler to cook them – which gives it that nice grilled look and a barbecue-like taste and feel,” says owner Antoinette Sanchez. “There are very few, if any, places that grill their hot dogs like this. Most boil or steam or have them on rollers, kind of 7-Eleven style.”

Pair it with: Other yummy carnival food here includes decadently topped funnel cakes, dipped strawberries, corn on the cob, churros and bags of kettle corn sold by sizes corresponding to carnival rides. The Roller Coaster costs $24.99, but is big enough to last a month.

Details: Open from noon to 10 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday at 2358 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley; endlesssummersweets.com.

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