Designer Dogs

As the product of a lawyer-turned restaurateur, Designer Dogs offers gourmet hot dog options for the diners of the Mall at Fairfield Commons. A food court is a simple place to start something great, and this little stand definitely delivers something really fun on the front end. Gourmet hot dogs are a tricky thing to pull of and be worth the money, but this place does them in a very memorable way, I have to say I am impressed by what I have tried.

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Swenson’s Drive-In

A drive-in chain popular in the Akron area in northeast Ohio, Swenson’s is a relic of an older era, a drive-in where you park your car, hit the lights, and a runner comes to your door with a menu full of classic American cuisine. Burgers, hot dogs, the kinds of convenient foods that evoke the golden days of the manufacturing roots of the city. Those days have passed, but the food has remained a mainstay here, with the popularity of the place bringing people back on weekends, no matter the weather.

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The Varsity

The Varsity: this massive diner in midtown Atlanta has been a high-profile name both in Georgia’s growing dining world and across the U.S. for decades, and especially lately, having secured a spot among The Daily Meal’s list of the top 100 burgers in the U.S. as well as a shout-out for its chili dogs in Travel Channel’s “Hot Dog Paradise.” You’ll instantly be drawn into the spot for its massive red sign, and once you set foot in the halls of the converted school building, you’ll quickly find yourself hooked. The Varsity is many things, a car-friendly drive in in the midst of a crowded inner city and a converted school building that can handle a massive number of customers. The experience is simply addicting.

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Franktuary

Now with two spots and a food truck in the Pittsburgh area, Franktuary is sort of a funny concept. It’s the idea of a few Pittsburgh folks who decided it would be just splendid to have a church-themed bar. The menu is near-impossible to describe, thanks in part to the fact that they change the menu every day. What you can be sure of, though, is that you’ll find some really great hot dog options on the menu, and Sundays are a must-do for great brunch.

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Chicago Gyros & Dogs

There’s a sizeable and devoted population in Southwest Ohio who are expatriates from Chicago. And whether you’re from the South Side or Arlington Heights, or you just paid a visit to the loop, one thing is clear: People who leave Windy City miss the place. Fortunately, Ohio is peppered with little spots like this one, where Vienna Sausage is a gold standard, and where photos of John Hancock Tower are required. Chicago Gyros and Dogs does Chicago street food in a way that few other places can emulate.

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B K Root Beer

It’s just about impossible to tell since they have almost no online presence to speak of, but B-K Root Beer, also known as B&K Rootbeer, has been a large Midwestern chain for several decades, having apparently risen in the 1950s and 1960s with car culture as a drive-in diner. At its height, Wikipedia tells me, the Indiana-centered chain had close to 240 locations. Now? I have no idea. All I know is that there are a few surviving stands in some of the small towns around Ohio, mostly centered in rural areas and with only a few having a presence on Facebook, devoid of any higher branding effort.

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Zombie Dogz

Another of the many food trucks which have popped up in Dayton over the past few months, Zombie Dogz specializes in some very elaborate hot dog creations. It’s sort of a hard food truck to come by, they appear occasionally on the weekends at local bars and public places, and then you’ll see them at big events. But you give this food truck on try and it will be the kind of place you want to make a special trip to try. It’s the kind of cool, creative and unique fare that’s just a little addicting.

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Root Beer Stande (Dayton, OH)

People love the old-fashioned favorites, and the Root Beer Stande on Woodman drive in central Dayton is about as old-fashioned as it gets. The humble little dive offers service directly to your car with a mess of timeless fast food faves. I have to imagine countless memories have been made here; people who grew up stopping in summer nights. People who cam here for dates. This is the kind of gem that an outsider would find mundane but that a local resident would really and truly come to love after many years of memories.

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Scruffy’s Hot Dogs

The product of a Chicago native and 2010 graduate of the “Hot Dog University” in Chicago, Scruffy’s Hot Dogs opened in 2011 with a tasty and much needed idea: bring the Windy City’s best dishes to Dayton. The restaurant’s interior is filled with all things Chicago, from the namesake band to the typical posters espousing the use of Ketchup on a hot dog, which is tantamount to a desecration of the famous dish.

For all of the great places I’ve visited, this one is a little bit different. It’s not the food that makes this place truly outstanding. It’s the genuinely superb service that makes me want to come back.

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Max’s Take Out

Chicago: the capitol of the Midwest. With almost 10 million residents, the Windy City thrives on countless dives like Max’s Take Out to feed its working men downtown. The little shop looks barely enough to contain a dozen people, but nonetheless pumps out burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches and gyros like nobody’s business in a fast-paced grab-and-go concept true to the rush and frenzy of the city. The Loop in downtown has plenty of flashier and larger places to grab lunch, but once you get a bite of what they’re serving here, it will be hard to forget.

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