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In search of Columbia's best hot dogs

Main Street Bakery & Gift Shop’s “The Park Dog”

Main Street Bakery & Gift Shop’s “The Park Dog”

It’s easy to think with all of the closings in the past few years, from the New York Hot Dog Cart to Edna’s to the Sandy’s franchise, that hot dogs were a dying breed in the city. The truth is we’re a city filled to the brim with great hot dogs tucked in all corners of the city. In this feature we cover some of the best hot dogs the city has to offer, including a few nontraditional options that shake things up.

Jimmy’s Mart (9900 Two Notch Rd.) — “The Classic”

If you opened a dictionary in search of a definition for Carolina dog, it would have a picture of Jimmy’s version smacked right under it. When we talk about chili, there’s the kind of chili that we crank out and eat on cold winter days, and then there’s hot dog chili, a light, but dense and meaty concoction built for the sole purpose of playing a supporting role in a hot dog. Jimmy’s chili is always a pleasure. It’s extremely meaty and saucy, but still light enough to not overshadow the hot dog itself. A true Columbia institution.

Main Street Bakery & Gift Shop (3307 N Main St.) — “The Park Dog”

Tucked down North Main Street, it’s easy to drive by the bakery and shrug off the idea that they are serving lunch. Locals in the know, however, have been popping into this location daily for some of the best hot dogs in the area. Featuring a healthy sized hot dog with a great bite, you can tell they’ve made a lot of them by how perfectly balanced between the chili, slaw, and onions they are despite how fast whip them out of the kitchen. A slaw dog with a slice of cake in beautiful nearby Earlewood Park is not a bad way to spend a lunch hour.

Sweet Peas Ice Cream Parlor (412 McNulty St.) — “The Retro Stop”

Growing up in the Midwest, there was always for me an association between ice cream and fast food at the Dairy Queen or A&W restaurant (yes, the root beer makers have their own fast food chain). Stepping into Sweet Peas as a result is like a timewarp back into my childhood. Their hot dog is pretty simple and nostalgic, with a chili and slaw for all ages and fine, snappy dog. For those in Blythewood, there are few better ways to spend a quiet afternoon than a hot dog and a scoop of your favorite ice cream.

Devine Cinnamon Roll Deli (2617 Devine St.) — “The Deal”

Devine Cinnamon Roll Deli really gives you the bang for the buck with their hot dog special which comes not only with a specialty dog of your choice, but also crispy parmesan pita chips and a mini cinnamon bun for under $5. The dog is somewhat unconventional, served on toasted and folded piece of white sandwich bread which gives an extra layer of toastiness above its peers on the list. The dog is marvelously snappy and easily the star of the show. 

Crave Artisan Specialty Market (2843 Millwood Ave.) — “The Really Hagood”

While at the heart of Crave’s hot dog is a classic Carolina dog, Crave’s hot dog particularly stands out with its intensely meaty chili. For Midwesterners who have passed through a Maid-Rite, the chili here is reminiscent of the Iowan loose meat sandwich. While nontraditional, it’s absolutely wonderful piled on top of their snappy, delightfully beefy dog. With a sturdy, yet soft bun and a cool, crisp slaw to boot, it’s hard not to believe that Crave’s “Hagood” is an instant classic. 

Rippers (Inside Jake’s, 2112 Devine St.) — “The Jersey”

Tucked inside the long-running Five Points bar, Rippers delivers the Jersey take on the American classic. Essentially a deep fried hot dog, the name “ripper” comes from the way the hot dog’s skin crackles open in the hot oil. The dog transforms from the soft texture commonly associated with hot dogs into a chewier, textured bite. Stuffed into a soft poppy seed bun and loaded to the brim with a sweet “bread and butter” slaw, it’s a totally different, yet familiar and delicious way to experience the Carolina classic.

Henry’s Restaurant and Bar (2865 Devine St.) — “The Everything”

The speciality hot dog at Henry’s exemplifies the feeling of excess. Known as the “HankDawg,” it features a large all-beef dog stuffed with cheese and wrapped in bacon that’s fried until everything is crisp and sizzling. It’s then slathered with their thick chili and covered in pickled jalapenos to put it over the top. The bacon just adds a layer of crispiness and pork fat that raises the bar just a little higher than the rest.

Reservoir Dogs (725 Saluda Ave) — “The Premium”

With speciality combinations available at over $5, Reservoir does comes in at a higher price point than the rest, but with that price point comes incredibly delicious dogs. Their all-beef hot dog is top-notch; snappy, beefy, and packed with loads of flavor, it’s a dog that can actually stand alone and be perfectly good any day of the week. Reservoir Dogs also has excellent toppings to brighten up your dog in every way possible, from their take on a Carolina dog with housemade chili and hickory smoked cheddar to the excellent Mr. Pink, a chipotle bbq pulled pork hot dog finished with wild flower honey to give it that sweet and spicy balance. 

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