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Best of the Big A: Atlanta’s best hot dogs

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Well, it finally happened. After three months of writing for the AJC, I got my first piece of hate mail.

When Gene, Jenny, and I were hired for this job, I looked at our respective beats and realized that, of the three of us, I was probably going to provoke he most people. I’m tasked with finding the best pizza, burgers, BBQ, etc., and all of these elicit powerful reactions. It is nearly impossible to please everyone on these topics. No matter how much I believe that barbecue joint “X” is the best in town, there will be 10 people that think that I’m a moron for believing so. But my job isn’t to keep people happy.

So, when Shane Harrison tapped me to help with the Best of the Big A’s search for the best hot dogs in town, I embarked on a hot dog eating tour that would make even Anthony Bourdain grow sick of his beloved tubed meat. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t love this task, or that I didn’t gain 5 lbs doing research for it. But I wasn’t looking forward to actually ranking some of these, because the race was extremely close.

So, after eating hot dogs for almost every meal for over a week, and spending at least 5+ hours driving around metro Atlanta just to try some of the best dogs in town, I came up with this list. I stand by my rankings, though any hot dog lover won’t go wrong with any of these Top 5 choices.

However, someone out there (who chose not to include their name) disagreed with me, as I’m sure that some of you will too. Fortunately, I have thick skin.

#5 – The Varsity – Atlanta

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Being an Atlanta native, I’m sure that some nostalgia played a part in including The Varsity chili dog on this list. On paper, these shouldn’t be that good. The hot dogs themselves aren’t particularly impressive, the buns feel a little cheap, and the chili isn’t the best in town. But there is something undeniably “Atlanta” about the Varsity dogs, and I will still line up any day to suck down three of these with a side of onion rings and an FO. Purists may knock their dogs for being low quality, but where is it written that a hot dog has to be fancy to be good? They are greasy and delicious, and I’ll always love these dogs.

#4 – America’s Top Dog – Chamblee

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At America’s Top Dog in Chamblee, it is all about the toppings. With a topping bar offering over 35 choices, customers can customize a Sabrett’s all beef hot dog, a spicy red hot, or a half-smoke to construct their perfect dog. I recommend trying the Georgia dog, topped with chow chow, chili, pimento cheese, and cole slaw.





#3 – Barker’s Red Hots – MariettaIMG_0299

This one was a very popular choice, and one that friends recommended to me more than once. In fact, Barker’s won the reader’s poll for best dog in town. Serving Sahlen’s dogs grilled over a charcoal fire for that backyard taste, Barker’s makes a fantastic hot dog. My favorite is their “signature” dog, topped with onions, pickles, and Barker’s hot sauce, which is really more of a sweet and spicy relish.


#2 – Holeman & Finch – Atlanta

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Going into this, I honestly expected that Holeman & Finch would come out the winner. They are the only restaurant in town (that I’m aware of) that makes every component in house, including the bun, pickled jalapenos, and the wiener itself. Priced at $10, this is the most expensive hot dog in town, but you definitely get what you pay for. I won’t say that it came down to a coin flip between this and #1, but it was just about that close.

So which hot dog took the top spot?

#1 – Brandi’s World Famous Hot Dogs – Marietta

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Opened over 30 years ago as Betty’s, Brandi took over about 10 years ago and changed only the name. Thankfully, the new owner didn’t mess with the biggest reason why these hot dogs are so delicious – the chili. The chili that tops all of their dogs – it comes standard on all of their dogs, unless you specify otherwise – packs a lot of flavor, and a lot of heat. Brandi’s hot dogs are everything that a great dog should be: sloppy, greasy, and downright delicious.

If you can’t handle spicy, then you might want to reconsider getting their chili, but without it, I can’t say that it would be the best dog in town. I recommend getting the slaw dog, which comes with their signature chili, onions, mustard, and creamy slaw. Open only for lunch on weekdays, expect to find a line of regulars no matter when you arrive. And for good reason, because Brandi makes a hell of a dog.

So, there it is. No doubt, this list won’t please everyone, and it is really just one man’s opinion. But after embarking on this task, no one can convince me that Atlanta doesn’t serve any great hot dogs. You just have to know where to look.

UPDATE: I didn’t include any address/contact info for the Top 5. Sorry about that. Info is below, except for the Varsity, because you all know where it is.

America’s Top Dog

3352 Chamblee-Tucker Rd, Chamblee, (770) 771-3823, americastopdog.net

Barker’s Red Hots

3000 Windy Hill Rd, Marietta, (770) 272-0407, www.barkersredhots.com

Holeman & Finch

2277 Peachtree Road Northeast, Buckhead, (404) 948-1175, www.holeman-finch.com

Brandi’s World Famous Hot Dogs

1377 Church St Ext, Marietta, (770) 422-3681

–  By Jon Watson, Food and More Blog

- Jon Watson writes about Popular Eats for the AJC Dining Team. He also publishes his own blog, Live To Feast

128 comments Add your comment

Peche

January 12th, 2011
2:16 pm

Why, oh why am I reading this on the third day that I am stuck in the house because of icy roads? Craving now….

Mark

January 12th, 2011
2:16 pm

Add The V’s homemade pimento cheese to your next hot dog there. It’ll be even better!

Academic Socialite

January 12th, 2011
2:45 pm

Jon – why would ANYONE send you hate mail? You’re a sweetie!

Jon Watson

January 12th, 2011
3:02 pm

@Academic Socialite – It seems that someone STRONGLY disagreed with my selection of Brandi’s as #1. He didn’t say why, and it read like he hadn’t ever tried them, but it was enough for him to now believe that I am “a back woods Georgia red neck with absolutely no good taste”. Methinks he has some connections to a hot dog joint that didn’t make the list…

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Caroline Sanfilippo, Sarah-Ann Soffer. Sarah-Ann Soffer said: Nicely done to our friends @HotDogTopper RT @AJCFoodandMore: Best of the Big A: Atlanta’s best hot dogs http://bit.ly/ebO8wk [...]

Bob from Accounttemps

January 12th, 2011
4:06 pm

Nathan’s – with nothin’ but spicy brown mustard. I enjoy a good Chicago Dog at Mike’s in Sandy Springs, but you can’t taste the dog with all that stuff on board.

jasonthecloser

January 12th, 2011
4:11 pm

Barkers is just not that good. They try to pattern it after Teds in Buffalo, which is great. But barkers just isn’t that good. Sorry. I try to make it good, but I just can’t.

DM0240

January 12th, 2011
4:17 pm

Jon, you got it right…I totally agree with you, Brandi’s is the BEST!!!

Sven

January 12th, 2011
4:22 pm

OK, here’s some hate mail. Nostalgia makes no good excuse. The Varsity dog could not win a taste contest outside of the V. anywhere on any day, ever. It’s small, boiled, ordinary, less flavorful than any QuickieMart dog in town, on soggy buns so cheap that even my skinflint Aunt Ethel would not purchase them on half off half off at the dollar store. Why not have nostalgia for when the bigger kids harassed you in mid-school and took away your lunch money and made you eat dirt? Now that’s the kind of fond memory that compares favorably with eating a Varsity dog – without the three hours of indigestion. Svenzo

MarieLetsEat

January 12th, 2011
4:22 pm

That’s a fine list, not at all worthy of generating hate mail. I think I’d rearrange the order and put Barker’s above Holeman & Finch, but those certainly look like the five best hot dog shops in the area to me.

Steve

January 12th, 2011
4:23 pm

Apparently the Dogs at Elliott Street Deli & Pub didn’t make this list. I can’t imagine why, because I love them & they are delicious. Elliott Street Deli & Pub also have the best sandwiches in town, too !!

Vienna Fan

January 12th, 2011
4:24 pm

No Mike’s Hot Dogs in Sandy Springs? Still, a strong list. Will have to try Holeman & Finch …

djt

January 12th, 2011
4:25 pm

so Jon, the address for Brandi’s would be nice…..

Buzz

January 12th, 2011
4:32 pm

Did you try the Chicago style Vienna Beef dogs at Hot Dog Heaven in Kennesaw? Mighty good!

Chris F

January 12th, 2011
4:33 pm

never had Brandi’s but by the looks of that picture, I will be trying soon. Anyone who sends you hate mail over a hot dog joint is retarded.

RK

January 12th, 2011
4:34 pm

“Nostalgia” is the reason that some people claim that Jalisco is good, when it is just as bad as every other Americanized Mexican place.

Mattie

January 12th, 2011
4:34 pm

Does anybody in Atlanta serve a deep fried all beef hot dog? Varsity hot dogs are gross. The only reason to eat them is because they are an institution, and you simply must say you gave them a shot.

I have eaten some fine, fine fried dogs up north a ways, that tasted better than any filet mignon. Grilled until blackened and split is a close second.

Good List

January 12th, 2011
4:36 pm

I am a fan of Barker’s, but cannot imagine how the Varsity dog can make the list under any circumstances (although I admit to eating a couple on occasion). I will certainly make it a point to try the other three on the list, all of them sound great.

Cump Sherman

January 12th, 2011
4:37 pm

Varsity hot dogs have gristle, which is disgusting. I wouldn’t feed them to my dog. Anyone who places them on any list (except the garbage pile) can’t have much judgment.

Mike

January 12th, 2011
4:38 pm

No Skip’s in Avondale Estates == travesty

PAMELA DOTSON

January 12th, 2011
4:41 pm

I love Miss Ann’s ghetto chilli slaw dogs. They are the best. You should try the with the best fries.

barkers rocks

January 12th, 2011
4:44 pm

ain’t nothing better for my money – mustard and relish only please.

no chili or ketchup (gasp) or slaw to cover up the taste

Bride of Puerquito

January 12th, 2011
4:48 pm

Definitely splitting hairs here, but H&F does not make everything in house. The bread is made around the corner in a different facility (owned by them as well). Just sayin’…

Brian

January 12th, 2011
4:49 pm

One of the reasons Mike Vick got taken down was because he was serving Varsity hot dogs at his dog fights. Someone got pissed and called the cops.

earl

January 12th, 2011
4:50 pm

Saddened that my beloved (1) Dairy Queen is always the bridesmaid, never the bride. I love that girl, she hung the moon for me. (2) Krystal Pup, she looks good late in the eve. (3) Famous Joe’s, ugliest waitresses this side of Alabama. (4) Five Guys and (5) Circle K.

artyC

January 12th, 2011
4:56 pm

Mike’s in sandy springs is the best for over 10 years. they have a snap like a hot dog should
the bun is seeded and they do not skimp on toppings. enjoy

Martha Jackson

January 12th, 2011
4:58 pm

As I was reading your list and saw the first place you mentioned in Marietta, I was hoping Brandi’s would be #1!!! If I’m in that area anytime during their open hours, I HAVE to have one…or two.

Martha Jackson

January 12th, 2011
5:00 pm

oh and i second Mike’s in sandy springs for a great chicago dog!

HT

January 12th, 2011
5:02 pm

Address for any/all would be greatly appreciated by the readers and by the restuarants as well!!!

Aubrey

January 12th, 2011
5:05 pm

Brandi’s World Famous Hot Dogs –
1377 Church Street Ext NE, Marietta, GA (770) 422-3681

Chazamataz

January 12th, 2011
5:06 pm

I’ve eaten Betty’s and Brandi’s hot dogs for at least 13 years. I am retired but still drive to Marietta just for a little bite of Heaven.

David Galloway

January 12th, 2011
5:08 pm

You clearly understand the pool in which you are swimming. Anything with this much opinion and loyalty will garnish some hate mail. I think you choices make sense and I have not been to Brandi’s, so I will be definitely headed there when the frozen tundra recedes, How bout an address. Also have to add the props given to Mike’s. And my cardiologist really likes the Varsity.
Thanks for the review, and tip.

John Yarbrough

January 12th, 2011
5:11 pm

I now live near Charlotte, but I still miss Betty’s (now Brandi’s) hot dogs. I drove down that street on the way to and from work for a few years, and I often stopped by for a dog. I was in Atlanta a year ago, and I hit Brandi’s, Williamson Bros, the Varsity, and La Madeleine for breakfast. It was a good trip.

Uncle Rico

January 12th, 2011
5:16 pm

I’ve had lots of so-called “best chili dogs”, but hands-down, the best chili dog in the world used to be at the PoolRoom in Cordele, GA….man, I wished it were still there!

thyra

January 12th, 2011
5:17 pm

I am so glad they haven’t closed (Brandi/Betty). I haven’t been in years and I knew the original owners before I changed jobs. They were the sweetest people EVER. Their hot dogs were divine. I will have to make a special trip there soon.

kmb

January 12th, 2011
5:18 pm

Sabrett’s all beef hot dog is also Kosher. Short of the Kroger’s in Toco Hills, America’s Top Dog is the only restaurant that sells Kosher hot dogs in Atlanta.

Dog Lover

January 12th, 2011
5:22 pm

Taste of Chicago on Powder Springs Rd in Marietta has the Vienna Beef, true Chicago garnishes, and even Chili and Slaw for “Da Dose not from Chicago”. Best Polish and Brats, too.

To even call the Varsity’s offering a hot dog is ridiculous!! My granddaughter (age 8) had more taste than to eat a second bite.
If you are really rating food, get serious. This is NOT hate mail, only basic advice.

LuckyDog

January 12th, 2011
5:27 pm

I tried the Varsity twice, never got it, just bad food.

Just Saying

January 12th, 2011
5:38 pm

This is out of the Atlanta market – but if you are ever in LaGrange, GA or heading south down I-85 toward the beach the Dogs at Charlie Joseph’s is definitely worth the stop!!!

AD

January 12th, 2011
5:39 pm

Dogzilla at Manuel’s?

HotDogFan

January 12th, 2011
5:42 pm

Whatever happened to Lum’s?

Kapoonka

January 12th, 2011
5:50 pm

Bogus!! No Chicago style Vienna beef hot dogs with onion, relish, mustard, tomato, hot peppers and cucumber on a black seeded steamed bun? Now that’s a friggin hot dog!!!

popeye

January 12th, 2011
5:51 pm

Where’s the directions? Oh, you make everything soooooo hard!

Hey chuckleheads ever heard of goggle.com, I’m sure if you enter the name of the joint, they will not only provide the telephone #, hours, and you’ll be also be able to map quest it.

Is that simple enough for you?

dogsyeah

January 12th, 2011
5:56 pm

You got it right with Brandi’s. There is a line out the door at 10am when they open. So addictive. Love them. Thanks

hot doggery

January 12th, 2011
5:56 pm

If you go to LaGrange, be sure to go to Charlie Joseph’s just off the square.

Mitchell

January 12th, 2011
6:07 pm

When I came to Atlanta I had to try The Varsity and that was in 1993, that was the worst hot dog I have ever tried. I understand that you had to give the Varsity a home town vote, but there is nothing a dog from the Windy City, but I will check out the other 4 spots on your list.

Burman Fisher

January 12th, 2011
6:10 pm

I became aware of Brandi’s about three years ago. I’m there at least once per week. Chilli dog and onion rings! Excellent choice. I plan to try the others on the list. Thanks. Selah!

Ed

January 12th, 2011
6:13 pm

the only thing Varsity truly wins is the “Most Hyped For No Valid Reason” award. How people can eat that stuff and claim it is the “best” makes me seriously doubt any opinion they have on anything else.

dogsyeah

January 12th, 2011
6:19 pm

It is sooooo addictive. I have been singing their praises for years. The chili is to die for if you can handle it. WOW!!!

Jon Watson

January 12th, 2011
6:23 pm

@Steve – I’ve never been to the Elliot Street Deli & Pub, and I never got any recommendations to try it, but I definitely will now. Thanks for the heads up.

@ Everyone that mentioned Mike’s – Unfortunately, I had to limit my choices to 5, and Mike’s was number 6 by a tight margin. I’ll be the first to admit that The Varsity had an unfair edge because I grew up eating them. But Mike’s definitely makes a great hot dog.

@Bride of Puerquito – I completely agree. You are splitting hairs.