Dollar-Wise does hot dogs every so often, and with good reason. What else can you eat for around $4 and call it a meal? Returning to a couple of places I’d tried before and adding a few new spots to the mix, I wondered: Will I favor the new or the tried-and-true? Call me stubborn, but the oldies but goodies prevailed.
FIRST PLACE (tie): Capitol Dawg
Capitol Dawg is just pure fun, with a retro vibe and tasty dogs that go down easy. My River Dawg ($3.89), with mustard, onions and a heap of coleslaw, was superb, with beautiful black grill marks on the dog and delightfully crispy slaw. (I devoured it in seconds.)
The menu is creative, with Sacramento-specific names (Tower Dawg, Sutter’s Fort Dawg) and an arresting array of combinations. (How about crushed pineapple and teriyaki, or guac and salsa?) You can get your dog grilled or deep-fried, and there’s patio seating for those warm summer nights.
Dollar-Wise note: $2 Tuesdays offer the best deals, but only from 4 to 8 p.m.
1226 20th St., Sacramento; capitoldawg.com
FIRST PLACE (tie): The Hotdogger
At The Hotdogger, it’s all about the buns. Sure, this tiny shack also has the advantage of being smack dab in the middle of charming downtown Davis. But it’s those Village Bakery buns—fantastically fresh, chewy with texture and toasted to perfection—that make these dogs howl. For something deliciously different, try the Ortega Dog ($4.75), with mayo, mustard, mild chilies and pepper Jack cheese. Another plus: There are nine mustards to choose from—everything from basic Gulden’s to Maui Onion & Garlic.
Dollar-Wise note: Tax is included in the price.
129 E St., Davis; thehotdogger.com
SECOND PLACE: Parker’s Hot Dogs
Foot-long hot dogs, prepared with care, are the name of the game at Parker’s, a small, friendly spot with a mural of the Santa Cruz beach and boardwalk stretched across one wall. (Duh: Parker’s began in Santa Cruz back in ’55.) Despite the long line of customers, my Cheese Dog ($3.99) was handled with TLC, with an evenhanded balance of toppings (mustard, relish, tomato and onion) and a nice pile of finely shredded cheddar. The dog’s natural casing had a nice, subtle crunch. Also observed and overheard: an incredible-looking chili dog platter that had people raving.
Dollar-Wise note: For coupons, go to its website.
1605 Douglas Blvd., Roseville; parkershotdogs.com
THIRD PLACE (tie): Heavenly Dog
Any place with the cojones to serve a dog with peanut butter (the Skippy Dog) has gotta have something going on, right? Heavenly Dog is an adorable little place with a clever menu, and the dogs are decent enough. But my Reuben Dog ($4.50) didn’t live up to expectations. The sauerkraut was strangely bland, and the thick layer of melted Swiss on top overpowered the dog. My gal pal, however, declared her Chicago Dog (also $4.50) “delicious,” albeit a bit bun-heavy, so you should try it for yourself.
Dollar-Wise note: “Like” Heavenly Dog on Facebook and receive updates, specials and discounts.
9160 E. Stockton Blvd., Elk Grove; heavenlydoghotdogs.com
THIRD PLACE (tie): Urban Dog & Sausage
Urban Dog and Sausage is Chicago all the way, from the White Sox T-shirt displayed on the wall to the Vienna Beef dogs from the Windy City itself. And what about those dogs? I liked my Chicago Dog ($3.69) just fine; the dog was plump and slightly crunchy, and the neon-green relish added visual va-va-voom. (Also featured: mustard, onions, tomatoes, peppers, celery salt and a dill pickle spear.) But The Boyfriend wasn’t as pleased with his Da Capone ($3.89), which he complained had “more pastrami than dog.” We’ll both like this place better when it gets its liquor license.
Dollar-Wise note: Urban Dog has multiple locations, including Folsom and East Sac.
7855 Madison Ave., Citrus Heights; urbandogandsausage.com