The hot dogs here just might be worth worshipping.
Customers’ first instincts are, of course, to walk right up to the food truck. But a sign directs them downstairs. This is an underground hot dog joint. That is, it’s in the basement – of a church.
There no hot dogs on Sunday. But there is a service.
The best hot dogs in Spokane might just come from a place you’ve never heard of – or, at least, wouldn’t expect.
Take Big Red’s. It specializes in Chicago-style franks, which are prepared inside a food truck, parked just outside Restoration Church, a nondenominational Christian church located along West Sunset Highway. But customers order inside.
It’s not as confusing as it sounds.
And, despite all of the toppings and variations, the hot dog itself remains humble fare.
Without gourmet accoutrements, hot dogs are cheap. And, while they might trace their roots to Europe – both Vienna and its wieners and Frankfurt and its frankfurters claim to be the birthplace of the hot dog – they are quintessentially American.
They pair perfectly with hot summer days, outdoor grills, beach cook-outs, Scout camp-outs and, of course, baseball. Sometimes, they even get you to go to church.
All-beef franks snug in natural casings that give a satisfying snap on the first bite are best. Others are housed in a manufactured casing, typically made of cellulose. There’s nothing really wrong with that, either.
Each region in the U.S. has its signature style – from Seattle, with cream cheese and grilled onions, to Chicago with yellow mustard, relish, onion, tomato, pickle, sport pepper and celery salt on a poppy seed bun. Michigan’s Coney Island-style means chili, onion and mustard. In Kansas City, expect sauerkraut and melted Swiss cheese on a sesame bun.
Lucky for Spokane dwellers, hot dog proprietors here offer all sorts of styles and toppings. So folks can keep their hot dogs humble – completely undressed or garnished only with mustard, relish, maybe chopped onion or jalapeño and – although it’s sacrilegious to some – ketchup.
Or, they can go for loaded options, like the ones Wild Dawgs does in downtown Spokane.
Here are a bunch of the best hot dogs in the Spokane area.
Big Red’s – Big Red’s, the speakeasy of local hot dog joints, is located in a church basement, but the dining area doesn’t feel churchy. It’s decorated with old copies of Mad magazine. And vinyl records adorn the counter where customers place orders – for the Chicago Classic, with cucumbers, tomatoes, celery salt, relish, onion, pickles, sport peppers and mustard; the Bacon Dog, with cream cheese, caramelized onion, bacon and barbecue sauce; or the Cream Cheese Dog, with cream cheese, caramelized onion, celery salt and mustard. A couple of other hot dogs come with sauerkraut. “We have a large menu for a food truck,” said manager Mike Oster, 49. And, “I think we’re the only (food truck) with indoor seating. We’re open year round.” Hot dogs here are all-beef with natural casings, Oster said, noting it can be difficult to get here from downtown Spokane. “The intersection’s a pain in the butt.” Pro tip: “Turn left at the gas station and come around behind the hotel.” Hot dogs run from $7 to $10. There are burgers, fries, sausages and cheese steaks, too. Hours are limited. You have to come for lunch. That’s 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily except for Monday. There are no hot dogs on Sunday when there is a church service. 2815 W. Sunset Blvd. Call (509) 991-2359. On the web: www.facebook.com/bigredsspokane.
Spokane Dogs – This seasonal stand, a summertime fixture next to Boo Radley’s across from Riverfront Park, comes with a side of Hot Dog Bob and his famous hat in the shape of his signature menu item. Bob Hetnar only wears it when he’s working. And sometimes work – that is, slinging hot dogs in downtown Spokane – includes posing for selfies with customers and folks who just like the floppy chapeau. Hetnar sees himself as an unofficial ambassador for downtown Spokane, giving directions and restaurant recommendations, posing for pictures and sharing day-old dogs with those on a leash. Business depends on the weather. Customers won’t find him out here if it rains. The rest of the time – Wednesday through Monday from March through October – he’s open for business from 11 a.m. to 3 or 4 p.m. Hetnar sells all-beef hot dogs that are boiled in beef broth made more fragrant with onions, garlic and secret spices. He carries 16 condiments, including 11 mustards, plus another 23 toppings such as onions, peppers, pickles and cream cheese. He started his cart in 2013 shortly after retiring from the city of Spokane. The Spokane Dog comes with coleslaw and bacon. The Reuben features sauerkraut. The jumbo is a quarter-pounder. A regular, his No. 1 seller, is half that size. He sells German and Polish sausages, too. At the corner of Howard Street and Spokane Falls Boulevard. Call (509) 994-5768. On the web: www.facebook.com/SpokaneDogs.
D & D Dogs – The self-proclaimed “Dog Father” serves lunch to the likes of the sheriff and county commissioners, judges, jurors, lawyers, law clerks, law breakers, and court reporters, police officers, pedestrians, veterans and secretaries. His perch makes it possible. Doug Bickford runs the hot dog stand in front of the Spokane County Courthouse. Since 2009, he’s dished dogs to all kinds of folks who have business in the castle-like courthouse. He just might serenade them, too. Bickford often plays guitar and sings original bluesy tunes while waiting for customers to order his all-beef hot dogs that get steamed, then grilled. 1116 W. Broadway Ave.
Wild Dawgs – This hole-in-the-wall shotgun joint in downtown Spokane caters to the late-night as well as lunch crowds. There are daily drink specials as well as a Dawg of the Month. Most of the hot dogs here are $7.50. And. They. Are. Loaded. They also have fun names. Anthony Wiener comes with mozzarella, ham, onion, ketchup, and pineapple and dip sauces. Funky Mama is topped with jalapeños, pineapple and dip sauces, onion, tomato and mozzarella. The Good Mama has all of those toppings, too – minus the pineapple sauce and jalapenos – plus ketchup. Dawgs Gone Wild comes with mozzarella, ham, bacon, onion, ketchup, and pineapple, spicy and dip sauces. “It’s Complicated” includes cilantro. “I Love Spokane” has cream cheese, grilled onions, mushrooms, bacon, ketchup, dip and pineapple sauces, mozzarella and potato chip crumbles. Get that one. And don’t be surprised if a cook from one of your favorite fine-dining restaurants in downtown Spokane comes in for a quick shot before – during? – a shift. It’s that kind of place. Some customers might wish they could un-see the suggestive advertising poster in the spot’s one restroom. There’s flatbread here, too, and a full bar. 102 N. Howard St. Call (509) 255-3688. On the web: wilddawgs.com.
Franko’s Dog House – This mom-and-pop shop opened in a Post Falls strip mall not quite a year ago as a retirement project for Bruce and Kathy Pagano. “I was born in Brooklyn, New York, and they have really good hot dogs there. There really wasn’t a good (hot dog spot) around in Post Falls and Coeur d’Alene, and I was retiring so we thought we’d give this a go,” said Bruce Pagano. Frank is his middle name. That’s where Franko comes from. He retired from the water department at the city of Post Falls, where he worked for “20 years and two months” and opened his dog house about 11 months ago. “My wife and I wanted something we could do together,” he said. He steams his all-beef dogs and offers unbeatable prices – $3.75 to $5.50 for hot dogs from the regular menu. The special Dog of the Month can run a bit more – $6 to $6.75 – and can include, if it’s in season, elk or buffalo sausage from Tim’s Special Cut Meats in Coeur d’Alene. Top-sellers are the Yorkie, a $5 Chicago-style dog with tomato, pickle, mustard, relish, celery salt, onion and sport peppers on a poppy seed bun; the $5.50 Italian Hound with sausage, pesto, mozzarella, pepperoncini and tomato; and the $4.50 Dachshund with chili, cheese and onion. That’s Pagano’s favorite. But, doctor’s orders, he’s trying to cut back. Milkshakes here are $2.75. That bears repeating: $2.75. The Naked Dog, any dog without the bun, is $1 off. The $4 Bird Dog is made with turkey instead of beef. The Cat’s Meow is a veggie version: “There’s no dog in it,” Pagano said. Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. 2700 E. Seltice Way, Suite 6. Call (208) 964-5489. On the web: frankosdh.com.
Waddell’s Neighborhood Pub and Grille – At $11 each, these are the priciest hot dogs on the list. But they come with a side and they exclusively use Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs, a fixture on the American frankfurter scene since opening on Coney Island in 1916. There are more than a dozen pub dogs to choose from at Waddell’s, including the Backdraft Dog with barbecue sauce, chipotle mayo, smoked Gouda cheese, bacon, caramelized onions and a smoked barbecue brisket. The Island Dog features ham, grilled pineapple, provolone cheese, caramelized onions and island sauce, a combination of teriyaki and mayo. Cougar Gold cheese puts the cat, so to speak, in the Meow Meow Dog, which also comes with ham and mayo. The Rookie Runt Dog is one of the most popular – with jalapeños, housemade sauce, cheddar cheese, bacon, grilled ham, pepper jack cheese and an onion ring. The Vampire Slayer Dog isn’t for the faint of heart – with caramelized onions, fire-roasted red peppers, Swiss cheese loaded, roasted garlic and horseradish aioli. 4318 S. Regal St. Call (509) 443-6500. On the web: waddellspubandgrill.com.
Avista Stadium – Root, root, root for the home team – and have a hot dog or two while you’re at it. At $3.50 each, you could afford to have two. A pair of hot dogs costs just over the price of a basic adult ticket to see the Spokane Indians. Tickets to baseball games start at $6 for adults. Hot dogs here are prepared on an old-fashioned hot-dog roller, and they’re made of a mixture of beef and pork. You also get your choice of condiments: ketchup, mustard, relish, onion, sauerkraut, chili, cheese. 602 N. Havana St. On the web: www.milb.com.