Food Quest! Finding the Best Hot Dog in Las Vegas

Las Vegas, Gordon Ramsay, hot dog
 When I travel I often give myself a theme or a quest to follow. It gives me something to focus on, even in cities where I’ve run out of things to do. Las Vegas is not a city where you’re apt to be bored – honestly, if you’re bored in Vegas the problem is you – but just in case, picking a food quest will make things a little bit more interesting. It also answers the question, “what are we having for lunch?”

I talked Angela into joining me on a quest to find Sin City’s finest hot dog. Before this trip I hadn’t had a ‘dog in more than two years. I’ve been on a health kick and hot dogs rarely top the list of healthy meal options. But we were in Vegas, I had been disciplined for long enough, and I figured that if any city in the world would have a great hot dog, Vegas would be it.

Any food quest begins with research. I jumped online and wrote down the names of a few places that had some online love for their quality ‘dogs. Some were tough to get to as we didn’t have a car for most of the trip, so we were sticking to places on the Strip, and in the downtown / Fremont Street areas.

I also asked the concierge at the hotel for his thoughts. A Vegas native, he knew his hot dog spots. He lobbied hard for Pink’s at Planet Hollywood and mentioned a spot out on the Fremont Street Experience known for its Coney Island style dogs. I added them to the list, and we began our quest.

The first stop was Pink’s at Planet Hollywood. Pink’s is a well known Los Angeles hot dog joint, boasting that they’ve been a “Hollywood legend since 1939”. Their location at Planet Hollywood faces the Strip, with most of the seating outdoors. A breakdancing group was busting a move outside, so we thought we would get to watch a show while we ate, but as a crowd gathered it became evident we would be looking at the backs of dozens of mildly interested tourists. No matter, the hot dogs were the stars of our afternoon anyway.

The signature ‘dog at Pink’s is the Chili Dog, but I went another way. I like a hot dog that has some bite to it, so I opted for the Spicy Mojave Dog. This epic piece of culinary awesomeness boasts Polish sausage (I substituted a regular hot dog wiener), jalapeno peppers, grilled onions, guacamole, nacho cheese, and tomatoes. I left the tomatoes off because tomatoes are disgusting and they have an identity crisis. Is it a fruit? Is it a vegetable? Nobody knows. Let’s face it – tomatoes can’t be trusted, and I don’t have time to engage shifty produce in my life.

Along with the Spicy Mojave Dog I went with fries and a Brooklyn lager. We had walked fourteen kilometres that morning, so I felt justified. Angela opted for a plain dog with ketchup and pickles. They both looked great.

When you read about hot dogs, people always talk about ‘snap’, meaning the bite that occurs when you break the skin, and the subsequent releasing of juices. It’s something that’s easier to experience than explain, but suffice it to say these hot dogs had a very nice snap to them. The Spicy Mojave Dog was messy, and although I made an effort I couldn’t get through the whole thing without using my knife and fork at the end. The toppings were just too thick and I had to use more napkins than I care to admit.

This was an exceptional hot dog, one that I rate highly and would recommend to anyone looking for a great ‘dog on the Strip. Mine was reasonably priced at $8.49 (mid-Strip and loaded with toppings, this was a fair price) while Angela’s was an affordable $4.79. Overall, an excellent hot dog experience, and a solid contender, but for us it didn’t quite take the title of “Best Hot Dog in Vegas (According to Paul)”.

The next day we hit up our second hot dog joint. Our concierge had raved about the Coney Island style hot dogs at American Coney Island, a Detroit institution since 1917. It seems a bit incongruous to have a Detroit eatery owning Coney Island style in the middle of the Nevada desert, but it seems to work well for everyone there, so I decided to go with the flow. Located on the Fremont Street Experience, it made sense for us to visit after a great time exploring the Neon Boneyard just up the street.

A Coney Island ‘dog is a chili dog that comes with mustard, or onions, or both. Anything else is unacceptable, and if you ask for ketchup you’ll be mocked, disowned, and very possibly ejected from the premises. So Angela avoided the ketchup request and we enjoyed our meals unscathed.

The chili topping tasted nice, and we enjoyed the experience. The atmosphere in the restaurant was fun and upbeat, the cooks hustling behind the counter, plenty of activity to watch.

The hot dog itself was not quite as impressive as the ones we had tried at Pink’s – it wasn’t as big, didn’t quite have the same snap, and wasn’t as filling. To be fair, it was cheaper ($3.85), and it was definitely tasty, so as far as value goes I think American Coney Island stacks up well. A good hot dog at a fair price, but not “Best Hot Dog in Vegas (According to Paul)”.

The last place on the hot dog journey was Gordon Ramsay’s BurGR, also located at Planet Hollywood. It’s a gourmet burger place, but I was told by a local that they have the best hot dogs in town. BurGR makes an impression as soon as you walk up to the entrance, the front windows encasing rivers of fire.

We were a bit early for the dinner rush on the day we went, so we avoided the long lines that can sometimes form outside the wall of fire. We were seated immediately and served by a very nice waitress who presented us with an iPad that outlined the craft beers on offer. Aside from worrying about Gordon bursting out of the kitchen to yell at me for no apparent reason, I knew I would like this place.

When our hot dogs came it caused a stir at nearby tables. People stopped looking at their phones. The guys next to us took pictures of our food. It’s the only time I’ve had someone at a nearby table wanting a selfie with our orders. And these were hot dogs. Say what you will about Gordon Ramsay, but the man knows how to make a hot dog.

I had the Fresh Roasted Chili Dawg, an all-natural beef snap dog simmered in what they call “hellfire sauce” and grilled over apple and alder wood. Toppings included roasted fresno pepper, jalapenos, cheddar cheese, avocado, red onion, and chipotle ketchup.  Angela opted for the Standard Dawg, which was equally as impressive as mine, but not standard at all when compared to hot dogs at other places. Her toppings were mustard, ketchup, pickle, and onion.

From an artistic standpoint, these are the finest hot dogs I have ever seen. I’m not kidding about the reaction from other diners – people were gawking at our table, and I’m sure it wasn’t just for my winning smile. To win the title of “Best Hot Dog in Vegas (According to Paul)” however, a hot dog has to do more than just look good. I can’t be won over by some tight buns and flashy toppings. It has to taste good.

I bit into what I can only characterize as weenie perfection. Beautiful snap, great spice, tasty bun, and the mixture of toppings was right up my alley. The avocado offset the jalapenos perfectly, and I can say with confidence that this is the finest hot dog I have ever eaten. It’s not cheap – at $13 just for the ‘dog (the fries were $8 extra, but the side of fries was more than enough for Angela and I to split) – it’s the most expensive hot dog I’ve ever bought anywhere. But it’s also the only one I’ve had neigbouring tables take pictures of. I should also say, if the picture doesn’t do it justice, this thing was huge. The Fresh Roasted Chili Dawg is more than enough for a meal.

The fries were outstanding, perfectly cooked and complemented with both curry and chipotle ketchup. Marrying these fries with the epic hot dog on my plate was a dining experience I didn’t expect when I began this quest. When you go on a hot dog quest you think you’ll have a few okay meals (and probably a few bad ones). But this was different. This was an experience.

So as you might have guessed, the title of “Best Hot Dog in Las Vegas (According to Paul)” goes to Gordon Ramsay’s Fresh Roasted Chili Dawg. I’ll save up and plan to have it the next time I’m back in Vegas, and until then I’ll just have to live with the fire roasted memories.

How about you? Have you ever been on a food quest? Leave your comments below, and thanks for reading! Cheers –

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