Ranking 12 Fast Food Hot Dogs From Worst To Best

Hot dogs are an iconic American food. The sausage sandwich has loomed large in the hearts of Americans since the mid-1800s, per CNN. Why? Because they are ridiculously delicious and, frankly (pun intended), oh-so-satisfying.

That's why you'll always catch us at the cook-out with a red hot in hand. But sometimes, we have a hankering for a frank in the off-barbecue season. Thankfully, plenty of fast food joints are in the hot dog game. It's a blessing to those of us who have already had our fair share of burgers and chicken sandwiches for the week. 

Unfortunately, not all fast food hot dogs are created equal. And there are few things worse, when it comes to food, than a really bad wiener. We found that the fast food chains with the best hot dogs use high-quality ingredients or have perfected their recipes to offer a salty snap with every bite. Here's our list of who gets cheers and who gets jeers when it comes to fast food hot dogs. 

12. Dairy Queen

Dairy Queen is known for its curly-topped cones. The first Dairy Queen opened in Joliet, Illinois, in 1940. Over the years, it added to its ice cream offerings and started selling hot food in 1957. These restaurants were known as Dairy Queen Braziers and sold hot dogs and hamburgers.

Now, Dairy Queen does a lot of things well — we are up for a Blizzard any time! But its hot dogs are not our favorite. And you don't need to eat one to find out. Dairy Queen's beef wieners come boiled on steamed buns. These soft, flavorless meat tubes lack the burst you get when you chomp into a good hot dog. 

You can order the hot dog with cheese, which helps a bit, but we'd rather just pass. There are also some former employees who had less than favorable things to say about how their local Dairy Queen handled its franks on Reddit. Other employees said these offenses didn't happen at their restaurants, but we're still not rushing out for a Dairy Queen hot dog.

11. Portillo's

Portillo's started as a hot dog stand in Villa Park, Illinois. Dick Portillo bought a small trailer for $1,100 in 1963 and called it "The Dog House." Portillo's received a name change and became a well-known brand in Chicago. The chain now serves burgers, fries, and shakes, as well as beef, sausage, and chicken sandwiches. You'll even find pasta at its more than 70 locations in Arizona, Florida, California, Texas, Illinois, and several states surrounding Illinois. 

But the chain is most known for its Chicago-style hot dogs. The natural casing, beef hot dogs come in four varieties with different toppings; a plant-based hot dog and Polish sausage are also available. All of them are served on a steamed poppy seed bun. While this may be standard in Chicago, that's a deal breaker right there for us. But Portillo's offends a second time with the overly-vegetated hot dogs, which come with mustard, relish, chopped onions, red ripe tomatoes, kosher pickles, and peppers. Chicagoans call it "dragging the dog through the garden." We call it too much on one hot dog. Imagine how soggy those tomatoes make the bun. No, thank you!

Even if you can get around the bun and having more vegetables than necessary, people on Reddit say the quality at Portillo's has gone downhill. They report that the jumbo hot dog has "lost its snap" though they did say that its regular hot dog is still good. Redditors pointed to the company's change in ownership as the reason for the decline in quality.

10. Checkers and Rally's

Checkers has been serving up burgers, fries, hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, wings, and ice cream since the first restaurant opened in Mobile, Alabama, in 1986, per QSR. The company joined forces with Rally's in 1999.

Though the company has been dishing up dogs for three decades, its franks just aren't our favorite. While it at least has the decency to grill the 100% beef dogs and toast the buns, Checkers and Rally's red hots are still subpar in flavor. A good grilled hot dog has a nice reddish color, indicating a crisp casing. Checkers and Rally's hot dogs are pinker in color and just limp. But that hasn't stopped the chains from peacocking them. In fact, the brands are pretty cocky about them. They even tried to start a war with Burger King over the links. Checkers and Rally's launched a measuring contest to "compare wieners" with Burger King calling it a #WienerSmackdown. QSRWEB reports that Checkers and Rally's took out a full-page ad in USA Today after Burger King started selling a $1.99 hot dog, declaring that they would undercut the regal chain's costs by offering its franks for just $.79. If you ask us, it's a war that was never won.

9. Sam's Club

We love that we can grab a nosh before rolling those massive shopping carts into Sam's Club to stock up on toilet paper and fulfill all our club membership needs. And Sam's Club's Café menu offers prices that are just as unbeatable as its in-store offerings. You can grab yourself a slice of pizza, a pizza pretzel (we're drooling), churros, frozen yogurt, and salads.

Sam's Club Café also has a quarter-pound hot dog on its menu. These wieners are the same all-beef Members' Mark franks you can buy in packs inside the store. In the café, you can get a hot dog and a 30-ounce soda for just under $1.50. When it comes to cost, you cannot beat this deal. Member's Mark hot dogs are made without by-products, MSG, and artificial flavors or coloring. While Sam's Club hot dogs are probably a bit higher in quality than other hot dogs, they definitely leave something to be desired when it comes to taste.

Sam's Club is another big-headed brand when it comes to boasting about its frankfurters. It launched a price-off with Costco to make its hot dog combo even cheaper by lowering the price by 10% from $1.50. According to the company, it lowered the price to help make, "Sam's Club the most valuable subscription you have." It's a good thing its goal wasn't to prove that its franks were tastier than the competition because that just isn't the case.

8. Swensons Drive-In Restaurants

Swensons Drive-In Restaurants was started in Ohio in 1934 by Wesley "Pop" Swenson. Swenson dreamnt of creating the highest-quality burgers around, which resulted in the creation of the award-winning Galley Boy. This double cheeseburger comes on a toasted bun and is topped with two special sauces and a green olive. Swensons touts the Galley Boy as "America's Best Cheeseburger." Even NBA superstar LeBron James considers Swensons burgers as his favorite, according to WKYC Studios

Unfortunately, when it comes to being the best, the same can't really be said about Swensons' seared hot dogs. You'll find them under the sandwiches menu with two options: a plain hot dog and a hot dog with coney sauce. The chain's Coney Sauce is a saucy meat sauce made from the same American beef used in the burgers. So, basically, a chili dog.

Swensons is very secretive when it comes to its special ingredients, however, Another Food Critic reports that the sliced hot dog comes on a buttered and grilled bun. As for the actual taste of the hot dog, it's a bit bland.

7. Sonic

We usually don't love boiled hot dogs; we prefer our wieners to be grilled. But Sonic manages to make a good impression with its all-beef, boiled dogs served on a steamed bakery bun. It has a good crack when you bite into the casing, but the franks aren't bursting with high-quality spices. It offers a decent flavor profile but nothing to write home about.

Sonic makes up for this with its toppings. The fast food chain's hot dogs come in four styles: a corn dog, footlong quarter-pound coney, an All-American dog, and the chili cheese coney. The corn dog is wrapped in a sweet corn fritter batter. The footlong and chili dogs are topped with chili and melted cheese, and the All-American boasts ketchup, mustard, relish, and diced onions. Some locations also offer sauerkraut as a topping, and you can get creative by adding tater tots to your dog.

6. Mooyah Burgers, Fries & Shakes

Hot dogs don't come first at Mooyah Burgers, Fries & Shakes, but they certainly don't come last. That's because the chain serves 100% all-beef, Hebrew National dogs. Still, there's a lot you can still screw up when working with a good base, however, Mooyah Burgers, Fries & Shakes doesn't let that happen. It serves its franks split in two on a hoagie-sized, in-house baked, non-GMO potato bun that is toasted to perfection.

Mooyah Burgers, Fries & Shakes hot dogs are so good that it even puts two on a burger and calls it "The Hamburdog" as part of the build-your-own hamburger option. The hot dog menu also has a build-your-own option. The Diablo Dog comes with pepper jack cheese, bacon, jalapenos, Cholula hot sauce, and mayonnaise. Or you can opt for The Full Count, a Hebrew National wiener with bacon, American cheese, onions, relish, ketchup, and mustard.

5. Wienerschnitzel

Wienerschnitzel has touted itself as the world's largest hot dog chain, slinging franks since 1961. With 50 years of hot dog-making under its belt, those franks have no excuse not to be delicious. And they must be, because Wienerschnitzel sells 120 million of them each year. The brand says its hot dogs are made with seasoned, USDA-approved cuts of quality meats.

These red hots come grilled on either a standard or pretzel bun and are available in 11 different variations. The Junkyard Dog has chili sauce, cheese, grilled onions, and mustard, and the Texas BBQ dog features bacon, grilled onions, cheese, and barbecue sauce. For a classic style, order the Chicago dog with tomatoes, onions, pickles, peppers, and mustard. But what Wienerschnitzel is most famous for is its chili dog, with chili made from a "secret recipe." These are some top-quality franks with many options to make everyone in your crew happy.

4. Costco

The all-beef hot dogs at the Costco food court are simply legendary. It sells 135 million hot dogs per year, according to 425 Business. Not only are they amazingly delicious in their own right, but they are super cheap at just $1.50 for a frank and a 20-ounce soda that comes with a refill. The cost may make them subconsciously tastier. Still, it's hard to deny how good these red hots are with their perfectly-caramelized casing.

The Costco hot dog deal was first introduced in 1985, and the price has always stayed the same. In fact, Costco co-founder Jim Sinegal even threatened CEO W. Craig Jelinek with death if he raised the cost of the hot dog combo, as he said, "If you raise (the price of the) effing hot dog, I will kill you. Figure it out,'" Jelinek said. So, the company opened two plants to manufacture its own hot dogs for the café to keep the price right (and its CEO alive). Costco hot dogs are actually Kirkland Signature hot dogs, which you can also buy per pack in-store.

3. Five Guys

Burgers and fries aren't the only things that Five Guys freezer-free restaurants do well; its wieners are also superb. It's because they haven't tried to reinvent the wheel or, in this case, the hot dog. Like Mooyah Burgers, Fries & Shakes, Five Guys also serves Hebrew National hot dogs. Five Guys grills its franks lengthwise, giving it that sink your teeth in crunch before the salty goodness invades your mouth. Its buns are fresh and soft on the inside and nicely toasted on the outside.

The menu includes four different hot dogs. They come plain, with American cheese, with apple-wood smoked bacon, or with bacon and cheese. You can also add classic toppings to your Five Guys hot dog, like ketchup, mustard, relish, and chopped onion. We aren't fans of how the "American-style" slice of cheese is slapped on the hot dog and melted into the bun, still, it's hard to deny how crave-able these franks are, so, we'll just be skipping the cheese.

2. Shake Shack

Shake Shack began its fast-casual journey as a hot dog cart called I Heart Taxi. The New York Post reports that the cart was part of NYC restauranteur Danny Meyer's Public Art Fund project in Madison Square Park to raise funds for the park's art installation. The Chicago-style hot dog stand didn't make much money, and in fact, it lost money. But after three years, Meyer convinced the city to let him build a permanent stand. That stand became the first Shake Shack and was a wild success.

Shake Shack definitely knows how to do hot dogs, and its commitment to quality extends to its menu. Shake Shack franks are 100% beef manufactured by the Chicago-based company Vienna Beef, which specializes in Chicago-style hot dogs. What makes a Shake Shack hot dog so amazingly delectable is the combination of the juicy link soaking into the freshly-grilled, buttery, non-GMO potato bun. Shake Shack's flat-top dogs can come in true Chicago fashion, "dragged through the garden" with lots of veggies but minus the poppy seed bun. You can also grab a Shake Shack hot dog with Shack cheese sauce on top.

1. Nathan's Famous

This one should be obvious, probably because Nathan's Famous has been honing its hot dogs for more than a century. How could it not be the reigning hot dog champ? Nathan Handwerker, a Polish immigrant, started selling hot dogs for a nickel at Coney Island in 1916. The company went on to become a "New York institution."

The Daily News reports that Nathan's hot dog recipe is a heavily-guarded secret from Handwerker's wife's grandmother. Company employees did say the hot dogs contain a hint of garlic, which is one of the ingredients that make each bite of a Nathan's frank euphoric. Nathans's still makes its 100% beef hot dogs with basically the same recipe that grandma came up with a century ago. The only difference is that its dogs are now gluten-free. Nathan's also sells its hot dogs at its restaurants and in grocery stores. Its website reports that it sells about 700 million hot dogs every year to satisfy America's craving for its favorite frank.