Most American cities have at least one place that attracts hot dog connoisseurs. Some — like New York, Chicago, Newark, and Tucson — have many. I haven’t taken an inventory of the good weenies of Richmond, Virginia, but I can say with assurance that it has one of the finest hot dog joints anywhere: City Dogs.
As far as I know, there is no style of hot dog unique to this particular part of Virginia, but that’s OK, because City Dogs’ mission is to recreate the best hot dogs from all over the nation. For the Chicago dog, that means importing Vienna all-beef franks and neon-green relish and dragging it through the garden just like in the Second City, including hot sport peppers on top. The result is a fabulous facsimile of the real deal, including even a poppy-seeded bun. It’s a grand wiener-eating experience.
Five different kinds of hot dogs are used in City Dog’s kitchen. In addition to Vienna Beefs, there are Thumann’s, Sabretts, Hebrew National, and a soy option. If you want a chili dog, you have your pick from among Cincinnati-style chili, Richmond Original chili, and cauliflower-based vegan chili. That Richmond blend is a fine-grind, all-beef brew featured on a Richmond Original Dog, which is a Thumann’s frank that also is topped with mustard and chopped raw onions.
One of the most interesting creations is the Indy Dog, a Hebrew National frank topped with mustard, onions, sport peppers and a fistful of French fries. Other menu regulars include a Louisville Stag Dog featuring sauteed onions caramelized in Jim Beam Red Stag bourbon, a Wisconsin brat, a Houston Dog with BBQ sauce, and a Honolulu Dog with BBQ sauce, pineapple chunks, and melted provolone.
Beyond hot dogs, there are char-grilled burgers (including a black bean burger for vegetarians) and several other sandwiches, plus really good hand-cut French fries and made-to-order milk shakes.
City Dogs is a fairly small storefront in Richmond’s bustling Shackoe Slip. It can be a raucous place (there’s a full bar), and a sound system playing alternative rock fills the room.
A second City Dogs is located at 1309 W.Main Street in Richmond. (804-359-3647)