A recent trend of putting bells and whistles on plain dogs means the choices of toppings are plentiful, and you also can find more quality dogs: all-beef, sometimes locally made, on good buns.
It might take you a while to get around to the hot dogs at this beloved barbecue joint. You have to first work your way through the pulled pork, the smoked turkey and the ribs. But the hot dogs have much to recommend them, as well. You get two in an order, both smoked, briefly fried, then grilled. They're smothered in smoky sweet barbecue sauce and topped with slaw and little pork cracklings. Yes, there is a hot dog in there somewhere. ($5.75 or $8 for a platter.) 3313 Riverside Drive, East End. 513-307-8318
The theme here is everything Chicago: not just dogs, but also Italian beef and Maxwell Polish sausages, plus gyros and pita sandwiches. Their dog menu includes an authentic Chicago-style dog on a poppy seed bun. There's also a "Dayton" dog with some of the Chicago embellishments like relish and sports peppers, a chili cheese dog, slaw dog, kraut dog, and The Fedyk with chili, cheese, mustard, onions, slaw and fries. 201 W. McMillan St., Clifton Heights. 513-621-3828
They call it burgers and fries, but they also have kosher-style hot dogs on the menu, and you can put any of the free toppings on them, giving you a large palette of bacon, cheese, grilled onions and mushrooms, steak sauce, barbecue sauce, relish, pickles, etc. Multiple area locations.
Yes, obviously Mad Mike's is known for its burgers — and good, cheap burgers they are — but they do hot dogs, too. All-beef dogs in an old-fashioned, soft hot dog bun. They stick with the conventional toppings, but you can ask to have them loaded up. A plain dog is $2.99; the bacon cheese dog is $4.39. Good house-cut fries on the side are hard to resist. Multiple area locations.
You can go to Mr. Gene or Mr. Gene will come to you. The original stand serves traditional hot dogs, hot or mild metts and coneys, plus wings and beef barbecue. The truck offers dogs dressed with chili, mustard, cheese and onions in various combinations, plus a Chicago dog and an Italian sausage (all around $3). Open seasonally. 3703 Beekman St., South Cumminsville. 513-541-7636
It's not that the hot dogs at Jolly's in Hamilton come with exotic toppings or are way better than other hot dogs. It's that they're served to you by carhops on little trays hooked onto your window. 165 N. Brookwood Ave., Hamilton, 513-863-4191; 210 N. Erie Blvd., Hamilton, 513-894-7541.
This is where the concept of fancy dogs that make an entire meal and cost $9-$10 was introduced to Cincinnati. They elevate the simple dog to a gourmet meal. There have been hundreds of dogs offered at Senate since it opened, many of them named for local and national celebrities and topped with everything from béarnaise sauce to Grippo's potato chips to Asian slaw. On the menu, you can find the Korean hot dog with kimchi, braised short rib and pickled cucumber. 1212 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine. 513-421-2020
This hard-working bar and restaurant in Blue Ash serves a diverse clientele of folks from the offices and industrial parks in their neighborhood. Known first for burgers, Sammy's also has a line of hot dogs. They start with a Nathan's dog and add a variety of toppings. The Caribbean Dog ($5.99) is topped with a sweet and spicy Caribbean slaw. Other dogs include Hawaiian, Tex-Mex and more. 4767 Creek Road, Blue Ash. 513-745-9484
This sliver of a bar/restaurant on Mount Lookout Square serves an imaginative menu of dogs, appetizers and cocktails. The Hans Gruber ($9) is an evil mastermind of a brat with a nice grilled char, with peppers, onions and Dusseldorf mustard. There are also chili dogs, Chicago-style dogs and other sausages from linguica to andouille. Make your own from the "Klaussen's Choice" menu. 3204 Linwood Ave., Mount Lookout. 513-321-0615
Written by Polly Campbell, Food & Dining writer at Cincinnati Enquirer.