Updated May 2015
Warmer weather is here (we think) and with that comes an almost zombie-like attraction to the various establishments in Western New York that serve hot dogs.
While most of us enjoy grilling up some wieners on our own using the trusty backyard grill, there is just something about the experience of heading to your favorite hot dog stand. It’s a tradition for many families, especially that very first visit of the season. While the hot dog is one of America’s simplest foods, the concept of taking a drive or bike ride or even walking to partake in a delicious and no-fuss meal that helps to celebrate the arrival of spring and a look ahead to summer.
Before we get to my list of the best of the best, a quick sidebar about one of the Buffalo area’s great debates when it comes to hot dogs – Wardynski’s or Sahlen’s. For some people, it makes a huge difference on how their hot dog dining experience will go based simply on what brand name wieners are cooked and consumed. I want to steer clear of any bickering about which is better because I have found in the past that this battle can reach levels of unprecedented passion based on taste, seasoning and natural casing. Add in fans of Zweigle’s, Hofmann, Hebrew National and Spar’s and you are just encouraging a great debate, which of course is not necessarily a bad thing.
My personal take is that the local variety of hot dogs is whether you prefer Sahlen’s or Wardynski’s or one of the other above mentioned brands, the bottom line is they are all readily available on store shelves and are better than the brands you will find in grocery stores outside of Western New York. If you have a preference, be sure that is made aware to others you may be dining with before you decide where to go eat, but at the same time, I encourage you to expand your horizons and not be afraid to consume a different brand wiener.
Now that we have that out of the way, it is on to my list of the best of the best when it comes to the entire hot dog dining experience. While obviously the quality of the food served and the price you pay are major factors, I approached this assignment with the concept of how the atmosphere and surroundings are also quite important when evaluating where to go for a hot dog.
Here is our list of the top 10 places for hot dogs in Western New York. As always, I encourage and do appreciate any feedback, which can include comments, questions, suggestions and criticism. Also please note that many of these establishments are seasonal, so it is recommended you call first to make sure they are open and in case there is any reason to believe weather may play a factor in whether or not they are open.
RELATED: Find The Right Hot Dog Stand For You
Connor’s Hot Dog Stand
8905 Lakeshore Road / Angola
(716) 549-1257 / SOB LISTING
A family owned and operated establishment since 1944 that is located a stone’s throw away from Mickey Rats/Captain Kidd’s, this is the ideal place to “take a drive out to the lake” and enjoy a casual lunch or dinner.
They serve Wardynski’s brand wieners that are cooked by some of the friendliest employees you will ever encounter at a local hot dog stand. I enjoy their “sauerkraut dog” with an order of fresh cut French fries and have never been known to pass on dessert, with my personal preference being a vanilla custard sundae with blueberries.
George’s Hot Dog Stand
5808 Herman Hill Road / Boston
(716) 648-0320 / SOB LISTING
Another fun and friendly family joint, they have been around since 1967, catering to thousands of Southtowns residents, although I have friends who annually “make the drive in from the city” to experience all that George’s has to offer. The property is always well maintained, with a playground for the little ones and plenty of seating both inside and out.
The unique system in which they take orders is one of the romantic quirks about the place. After you place your order and pay for your meal, your “slip” is whizzed down a zip line to the employees doing the cooking. You then shuffle on down the line and eventually pick up your tray and head to the condiment station to “dress your dog.”
I always take advantage of the opportunity to bite into a charbroiled Sahlen’s foot long hot dog and an order of sweet potato fries makes for a tasty lunch or dinner. And while this is a specific focus on hot dogs, I would be doing everyone a disservice if I didn’t at least mention their “Big George” quarter-pound burger. That can be enjoyed during another visit, especially if you follow my recommendation of the foot-long-and-sweet-potato-fries combo.
Louie’s Texas Red Hots
2811 Bailey Avenue / East Buffalo
(716) 835-8200 / SOB LISTING
There are five locations that are locally owned and operated, so for most there is no significant differences if you were to also dine at Louie’s in Depew, West Seneca, Orchard Park or their other city location on Delaware Avenue. I recently dined at the Bailey Avenue spot and was pleased with the experience. Their food is spectacular in that they serve up unmatched sauces and flavors when it comes to their famous “texas red hot.” In addition to their standard value meal (Sahlen’s hot dog, French fries and a drink) they have their long-standing takeout only special of buy-five-hot-dogs-and-get-the-sixth-one-free for those who are on the run and feeling particularly hungry.
Back to the texas red hot, which ranks right up there with barbecue chicken wings and beef on weck as Buffalo’s best signature foods. Served on a steamed roll with mustard, onions and their special “Greek sauce,” it a dynamite package of deliciousness, even if it can get a bit messy.
Old Man River
375 Niagara Street / Tonawanda
(716) 693-5558 / SOB LISTING
This is a place that fits my definition of a true “dining destination.” You know summer is in full swing along the Niagara Street waterfront when people are packed into an eatery that passers-by easily identify thanks to the rendition of a gigantic blue whale on the roof of the restaurant. They serve Sahlen’s hot dogs in a wide variety of ways. Having been there a few different times, I can give the two-thumbs-up salute to their “Big Foot Chi Che Dog” (foot-long chili and cheese hot dog), the “South Philly Dog” (hot dog with grilled onions and cheese) and the “Slaw Dog” (hot dog with mustard, chili, coleslaw and chopped onions.)
Red Top Hot Dogs
3360 Big Tree Road / Hamburg
(716) 627-5163 / SOB LISTING
Approaching 70 years of age, “Red Top” is a family tradition for many in the Southtowns. Located across the street from Hoak’s Restaurant, the close proximity to Lake Erie makes for the ideal setting for a casual meal. Please note that this is definitely an old fashioned hot dog stand. There is no dining room so plan appropriately as your seating options are outside cement tables/benches and a covered outdoor dining area with some picnic tables underneath. In addition, their cash register is one of those “old school” non-digital devices that really adds to the intimate feeling of the business. The menu is handwritten on a dry erase board and this is one of those “cash only” places so do not bring your credit cards.
They serve Wardynski’s hot dogs, which always go well with their onion rings and a handmade milkshake. Word of caution: on very rare occasions some sneaky seagulls have been known to swoop in and snatch patron’s food, so be sure to guard all of the deliciousness that you have on your tray.
150 Lake Avenue / Lockport
(716) 471-0701 / SOB LISTING
Another simple hot dog stand that will not blow you away with their décor, they serve up delicious food at an affordable price. Quite the popular place in the summer months as people stop for a bite to eat either before or after they visit the beach, Reid’s does it right, especially when it comes to their customer service. On the afternoon that I visited, a young man who his co-workers referred to as “Zippy” was just sensational and from what I gathered in talking to others sitting nearby he is always going above and beyond for his customers.
I recommend ordering a couple of hot dogs and some French fries that you can dip in vinegar. One of their specialties is a tasty sauce that many patrons like to enjoy with a hamburger or your hot dogs and I recently found out you can actually purchase the sauce by the quart, which apparently many folks from Lockport do, especially late in the season to get them through the winter months.
Sullivan’s Hot Dogs
501 Cayuga Drive / Niagara Falls
(716) 236-4119 / SOB LISTING
This is an establishment that over the past 15 years or so has become a summer tradition for hot dogs and ice cream enjoyed by residents and visitors to Niagara Falls. Their “family style” outside covered seating area makes it the ideal place to bring a large group to have a meal. Their prices are fair and the customer clearly comes first, making the entire experience an enjoyable one for all involved.
Having visited there just once, I cannot call myself an expert when it comes to their menu, but the grilled Sahlen’s foot long hot dog and cheese fries that I enjoyed there last summer caused me to plan a return trip there at some point this year.
Taffy’s Red Hots
3261 Orchard Park Road / Orchard Park
(716) 675-0264 / SOB LISTING
A Southtowns gem that has been in existence since 1949, there is little doubt that the reason they have been so successful over the years is because they have perfected the casual warm weather dining business. I give them extra credit for persevering for all these years because they have truly withstood the test of time by operating during uncertain economic time periods and overcoming challenges presented by what seems like constant commercial development (i.e. construction zones and traffic obstacles) in the neighborhood of a busy five lane intersection.
Onto the food. Anything and everything I have ever ordered from Taffy’s has exceeded my expectations, including their signature charbroiled hot dogs.
Another place that has mastered the proper technique of cooking a foot long hot dog, you really cannot go wrong with accompanying one of those with a milkshake from their list of over 100 different flavors. Taffy’s is a really fun and enjoyable place to enjoy a meal, especially if you can land a seat on one of their wooden glider tables.
Ted’s Hot Dogs
3193 Orchard Park Road / Orchard Park
(716) 675-4662 / SOB LISTING
A charcoal broiled family tradition that now boasts eight locations, they are proud of the fact that every one of their hot dogs is cooked over real hardwood charcoal. It is really a well-oiled machine no matter what location you visit, with the Orchard Park site in particular manned with professionals who know what they are doing.
You can’t talk about Ted’s without mentioning their homemade hot sauce, which is a secret family recipe that is closely guarded by all of their employees. Ordering a pair of hot dogs with that sauce along with an order of hand battered onion rings and a glass of ice cold loganberry makes an ideal meal for me. Don’t forget to check out their other locations in Amherst, Williamsville, and Tonawanda.
Theodore’s Red Hots
1752 Grand Island Boulevard / Grand Island
Owned by the former president of Ted’s Hot Dogs and grandson of the founder of that business, Theodore’s has three locations. The place on Grand Island has really great good and always provides service with a smile. Just a fun atmosphere as it is quite evident management stresses making each customer’s visit special.
The hot dogs I consumed were outstanding, but what I particularly enjoyed was an order of “frings,” which are half french fries and half onion rings. Trust me when I say this is a side order you must try at least once this spring or summer.
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