Food & Drink

Toronto’s Top Dogs: when street meat gets dolled up

Published On 11/27/2013 Published On 11/27/2013
Fancy Franks Toronto
Renée S. Suen

It’s almost as recognizably Toronto as the CN Tower, and found on virtually every street corner downtown. It is the noble hot dog. And for the most part, the popularity of these guys has been driven -- let’s be honest -- by the fact that the curbside vendors are the only guaranteed thing open in the post-bar, standards-dropping small hours. But recently, some Torontonians have taken it upon themselves to give meat in a tube a good name, to strive to be crowned Sausage King (no, seriously. Each summer, Marben Restaurant pits the city’s hottest chefs in a bracket-style tournament that’s aptly named the Sausage League), and to create a gourmet frank. Here are those wieners.

Renée S. Suen

WVRST
Entertainment District
What you’re ordering: Bison sausage w/ blueberry & maple
Wvrst’s unpretentious mix-and-match menu gives you the choice to stuff a toasted airy white bun with everything from traditional bratwursts to fancy kangaroo, pheasant, or elk varieties, and toppings like sautéed onions and sweet peppers. You however, want their weiner-de-resistance: the very Canadian bison-blueberry-maple sausage, and you want to pair it with a pint (this is a beer hall, you know) and a side of Belgian-style duck fat fries. Note: a tomato-y currywurst upgrade is also available, but not recommended with the game sausages. Trust.

Renée S. Suen

Fancy Franks
Harbord Village
What you’re ordering: Frankie Goes to Buffalo
This year-old gourmet hot dog shop serves a host of non-traditional toppings over plump all-beef shoulder franks. Pick from PB&J, Korean beef ribs and kimchi (Franks got Seoul), or even mashed potatoes, smashed peas, and gravy (Fancy Britt). But the winner is the Frankie Goes to Buffalo (fried panko-breaded wiener, w/ blue cheese dressing, Buffalo wing sauce, chicken bacon, slivered carrots, and celery), a frank that taste exactly like a 6in boneless chicken wing. On a bun. Yeah.

Renée S. Suen

DonDon Izakaya
Bay Street Corridor
What you’re ordering: Tokyo-style hot dog with kimchi
It’s a riff on the Japadog -- a Japanese-style hot dog that originated in Vancouver -- that’s a mash up of the humble dog and the hottest condiment of the year: kimchi. DonDon’s version takes a creamy and slightly tart slaw (made from a blend of shredded carrots, crisp napa cabbage, and chili that gives it a Sriracha-like kick) and sandwiches it between a grilled soft bun and a half-grilled wiener that’s generously drizzled with Kewpie mayo. Then it’s cut into four portions that you can eat with chopsticks. The only resemblance it has to the ballpark staple is the paper sleeve it’s served in.

Renée S. Suen

Real Sports Bar & Grill
Waterfront
What you’re ordering: foot-long bacon-wrapped hot dog
Quite frankly (!) the only thing you really need to know about this beast is the name. Foot-long bacon-wrapped hotdog. Further, superfluous details include the fact that it has mustard, sautéed onions, cheddar cheese, and a basket of house-cut fries. 

Renée S. Suen

The Dog House at the Air Canada Centre or Footy’s Footlongs at BMO Field
Waterfront/Niagara
What you’re ordering: Butter Chicken Dog
Sports fans have one more thing to root for when they head to the ACC or BMO Field for a game. That’s right, you can now get a Nathan’s wiener topped w/ gravy-slicked butter chicken. The meat-on-meat combo is broken by airy crisp papadum wafers and fresh cilantro, which tastes surprisingly good.

Renée S. Suen

Little Dog
Little Italy
What you’re ordering: all-dressed original Montreal-style steamie
This traditional snack bar’s, and maybe even the city’s, favorite dog is probably this simple steamed number (hence the name). It’s cheap, juicy, and made with pork, beef, and chicken. Go for the all-dressed version, where the 5in Lester dog is served under a blanket of coleslaw, mustard, and onions. It may not be all fancy, but it's as close to perfect as you can get.

Renée S. Suen

The Saint Tavern
Trinity Bellwoods
What you’re ordering: Reuben sausage
Being named Sausage League champion is a typical middle school insult sure indication that Chef Jesse Vallins is doing something super-right. His playful spin on the Reuben sando is a case in point -- he takes everything that’s found in a Reuben (corned brisket, sauerkraut, rye bread crumbs, Swiss cheese, and beef suet) and stuffs them in tube form, then artfully plates the cooked sausage w/ everything that goes with a Reuben (maple mustard, sauerkraut-like onions choucroute, a huge dollop of Russian dressing-crème fraiche that’s studded with Kosher pickles, and more rye bread crumbs). 

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1. WVRST 609 King St W, Toronto, M5V 1M5 (Niagara)

Located in the Entertainment District, WVRST serves a wide variety of dogs and sausages, from traditional bratwursts to fancy kangaroo, pheasant or elk varieties, with toppings such as sautéed onions and sweet peppers. The space likens a traditional German beer hall, with wide communal tables, dim lighting, and of course, plenty of bottled, canned, and on tap beer.

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2. Fancy Franks 326 College St, Toronto, (Harbord Village)

This gourmet hot dog shop dishes out a myriad of out-of-the-ordinary dogs, including those with PB&J, Korean beef ribs and kimchi, and even mashed potatoes, smashed peas, and gravy.

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3. Don Don Izakaya 130 Dundas St W, Toronto, M7A 2C7

Located on Dundas St W, this hot doggery serves up a Japanese-style hot dog that originated in Vancouver.

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4. Real Sports Bar & Grill 15 York St, Toronto, M5J 0A3

A haven for all things Jays, Leafs, and Raptors, this Entertainment District sports bar has you covered with classic bar bites -- such as the popular foot-long hot dog wrapped in bacon -- a 39-foot HD big screen, and over 126 draught taps. A list of cocktails is also available, but we suggest the Puck Bunny -- a mix of raspberry vodka, cassis, pomegranate juice, lemonade, and soda.

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5. The Dog House 40 Bay St, Toronto, M5J 2X2

Located inside the Air Canada Centre, The Dog House serves up quality Nathan’s dogs to hungry sports fans and concert goers.

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6. Footy’s Footlongs 170 Princes Blvd, Toronto, M6K 3C3

Footy's serves up some hot and steamin' dogs to hungry soccer fans at BMO Field.

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7. The Little Dog 367 Manning, Toronto, (Little Italy)

These guys serve up your classic Montreal-style steamie, made with pork, beef and chicken, and topped with a blanket of coleslaw, mustard and onions.

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8. The Saint Tavern 227 Ossington Ave, Toronto, M6J 2Z8

This gastropub and steakhouse also features a raw bar, plates to share, and late night and brunch menus that can satisfy even the most picky of palates.

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