Honolulu and Lahaina, HawaiiHank’s, founded by a Hawaiian restaurateur who already conquered fine dining, has received plenty of acclaim, including shout-outs from Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” and the Travel Channel’s “Man vs. Food.” Gourmet twists are evident everywhere from the meat (wagyu and lobster dogs are sometimes on the menu) to sides and desserts (you can try a white-truffle mac and cheese or crème brûlée). Hot dogs include the Hawaiian, made with Portuguese sausage, mango mustard, and pineapple relish; and the Lobster Fat Boy, a bacon-wrapped lobster dog that’s deep-fried and topped with garlic aioli, tomato, and lettuce.
Related: 30 Strange But Surprisingly Tasty Local Foods to Try
Grand Forks, North DakotaIt would be easy to pass by this squat brick building, but DogMahal boasts some of the most creative hot dogs in the Dakotas. Though the menu looks relatively tame, flip it over to reveal “The Other Menu,” where the restaurant’s most creative choices lie in wait. You’re practically to Canada, so this is a fitting place to try the Poutine Weenie, a quarter-pound beef frank topped with fries, gravy, and cheddar cheese curds. There’s also the Chester Fester, topped with chili, mac and cheese, and “a heap of Cheetos.”
North Hollywood, CaliforniaIf the hot dogs at Pink’s just aren’t extreme enough for you, take a short trip north to Vicious Dogs. It might not be as famous, but this hot-dog shop makes up for it with a dizzying array of choices, whether you’re going to stick with the classics or go nuts with something new. Legend-making menu items have included the Krusty Crab Dog, a bacon-wrapped dog topped with a chili glaze, grilled onions and peppers, a crab patty, and tartar sauce, or the sweet-tooth-tickling Peanut Butter Dog, another bacon-wrapped dog but slathered in peanut butter and a choice of strawberry jelly, chocolate candies, or bananas and honey.
Related: 26 Amazing Bacon Dishes Across America
Littleton, ColoradoThis strip-mall joint proclaims a “hot dog revolution” with its made-to-order options. Not feeling a regular beef hot dog? You can also choose from andouille, Italian, or Polish sausage; and a chipotle buffalo brat, a veggie dog, or a chorizo dog. Get a taste of the Mediterranean in the Rockies with the Toga Dog, a beef hot dog topped with lamb, beef, gyro seasoning, lettuce, onion, tomato, and tzatziki sauce. Or opt for the Italian-inspired Eddie Spaghetti, an Italian sausage in a garlic bun topped with pasta, marinara, and mozzarella.
PittsburghThis Steel City favorite, open since 1999, began with a humble aim — to be the go-to neighborhood joint for a beer and a hot dog. It succeeded in a big way, selling more than 1,000 bottled beers and more than two dozen drafts, and a robust hot-dog menu with build-your-own and specialty options. The latter include the Hot Valentine, topped with sweet potato fries and sriracha slaw. Give it some extra zing by requesting a scorpion dog, made with cheddar, jalapeño, and kielbasa.
Anchorage, AlaskaThis modest trailer with outdoor seating is a beloved spot for a casual bite in chilly Anchorage, and as its name suggests, its menu draws inspiration from far-flung places. Still, it doesn’t completely abandon its roots: The Alaskan is a reindeer or buffalo dig with sautéed onions and chipotle sauce. The most adventurous option might be the Frankenstein, made with a bacon-wrapped beef dog that’s topped with cream cheese, sautéed onions, sautéed ham and bacon, pineapple, mustard, and chipotle crème.
Related: 27 Restaurants for Wild Game Across America
Mentor, OhioThough it has a menu with plenty more on it, including french fries and ice cream, Scooter’s World Famous Dawg House has more than two dozen dogs that are reason enough to stop by in season. There’s lots that’s hot, from the Extreme Dawg (“XXHot sauce,” bleu cheese, celery, jalapeños, and hot spices) and Flame Dawg (Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, cheese sauce, jalapeño peppers, and ranch dressing) to the Jalapeño Popper Dawg (ranch dressing, cheese sauce, and jalapeño peppers) and Cardinal Dawg (grilled onions and red peppers). Don’t like it hot? There are some 20 other dogs to explore.
Related: 17 Spicy Fast-Food Menu Items to Order If You’re Feeling Brave