Hot Diggity Dog

The side of onion rings lay forgotten as I ate my lunch: a jumbo-sized hot dog in a soft white bun, barely containing its overabundance of relish, cheddar and onions. My mustard-stained hands tried to save every strand of shredded cheese and drop of sauce as I hastily and rapturously devoured one of several hot dogs that week. Sometimes, it was a 6-inch frankfurter; other times a foot-long pup. A bewildered onlooker may have wondered if I was in training for a hot dog eating competition on my two-dogs-in-a-row lunch breaks.

Consider this: In 2009, Joey Chestnut practically inhaled 68 hot dogs in less than 10 minutes. Last year, at the first Nathan’s Famous Female Hot Dog Eating Competition, Sonya Thomas cleaned up with 40 hot dogs within the same time. As for myself: a measly 10 hot dogs eaten over a week. Sure, my hot dog eating is less impressive, but I wasn’t driven by dreams of glory. I toiled dog after dog, all of a different breed, to find what I considered to be the eight top dogs in our area—and two outside—for a banquet of summer fun. Here’s to howling while your stomach’s growling…

Nothing Phony About This Coney

Lexy’s Coney Island Hot Dogs

418 S Pine Ave, Ocala

A little squirt in a sun bonnet grips her Coney in her chubby hand, beaming at the camera on a sunny beach day. Now a young woman, Lexy’s enthusiasm for hot dogs at infancy was what inspired her proud grandfather Dennis to open his restaurant in 2010, where he serves daily specials—sloppy joes, Polish sausages—and his famous all-beef Coney dogs. The Small Lexy is as authentic as they come: a Nathan’s Famous with homemade Coney sauce, mustard and aromatic onions from tip to tip. Still feeling hungry? Lexy’s is known as Home of the Big Dog. Dennis has Gulden mustard in the back if yellow mustard makes you quail, and you can also add on kraut, Texas chili, slaw, cheese and even mayo. Lexy’s is the mecca for non-native Floridians who crave their home state mutt.

Who Let The Dogs Out?

Dee Dee’s 

533 NE 1st Ave, Ocala

“Hot Dog!” is what you’ll shout when you order a Hell Dog from this little diner. Built in 1918 and originally a train depot, Dee Dee’s is a local favorite. The early lunch crowd wanders in around 11, and before you know it, servers are carrying as many plates as they possibly can while a toy train bordering the walls travels overhead as you dig into your meal. The quarter-pound hot dog in a soft-as-a-picnic-blanket roll can be ordered plain or with all the fixings, depending on your regional desire (Chicago? New York? Philly?) or tolerance for heat. The aforementioned Hell Dog is topped with chili, cheese and jalapenos. You can add extras at the topping station if you think you can fit anything more on this wiener.

Bringin’ Home The Bacon

Five Guys

9548 SW Highway 200, Ocala

Sure, the Washington Post has called Five Guys “the Willy Wonkas of burgercraft,” but how about “the Houdinis of hot dog haven”? Their kosher-style hot dogs are cut in half and sandwiched like a sub with the topping of your choice. All of the toppings you can get on a burger are available for those hot dog lovers who beat to their own drum. There’s a plain dog, a cheese dog and a bacon dog. Can’t decide? Order the bacon cheese dog. Problem solved. It’s OK to be a glutton and revel in the crispy bacon. And do you know how wonderful melted cheese is? Really, do you?

Steamy Dreamy Sonic Weenie

Sonic, America’s Drive-In

2401 SW 19th Ave Rd, Ocala
3450 SE Maricamp Rd, Ocala

In 2011, asked readers to weigh in on which hot dog ranks No. 1. Sonic was declared the top dog in the poll with fans praising the steamed hot dogs that “nearly melt in your mouth.” Were they exaggerating? My own investigation reached this verdict: They were absolutely, positively not.making.this.up. Sonic has five choices on their Coneys & Hot Dogs menu (not including the corn dog). Besides the Footlong Coney, the All-American hot dog is a drive-in favorite. Your dog will be delivered by a rollerskating server who’ll arrive at your car window to deliver your meal: a 100 percent pure beef hot dog on a fluffy bun, topped with relish, chopped onions, mustard and ketchup. Eat it while it’s warm.

The Sweet & Savory Fix

Krazy Kones

5801 W Highway 40, Ocala

You know the kind of pairing that just goes together because it’s so darn good? Hot dogs and ice cream are definitely one of those pairings. Why else are they summer staples? It’s no surprise July is both National Ice Cream Month and National Hot Dog Month. Get your hot dog and ice cream fix at Krazy Kones with its Vienna Beef hot dogs. The Chicago-style dog is a figurative and literal mouthful of ingredients: kosher dill, tomatoes, onions, Vienna relish, spicy or regular mustard, sports peppers and Vienna Beef, all on a poppy seed bun. It’s an explosion of sweet and spicy with a slightly thick-skinned dog you’ll devour in messy relish. Lingering burn in your tummy? There’s always room for a hot fudge sundae!

The Sloppy Slaw Dog

Hungry Bear Drive-In

420 SE Osceola Ave, Ocala

There are chilly sled dogs, and there are chili slaw dogs. You don’t have to brave arctic temps when you order the latter at Hungry Bear (unless there’s a cold snap). You’ll be wondering if the chili dog is sloppy Joe’s long lost brother when you bite into one from Hungry Bear. Quick confession: I hate cole slaw on my hot dog like I hate mayonnaise on my hamburger. But what of the chili slaw dog? Let’s just say this hater may tolerate her slaw on a frankfurter. Cheese lovers can also satisfy their lust with the chili slaw cheese dog. Crinkle cut French fries, sweet potato fries and banana, cherry or peanut butter shakes are all extras that’ll satisfy your inner bear while feasting on your sloppy dog.


Erase That Pout With Some Kraut

O’Malley’s Alley

24 S Magnolia Ave, Ocala

Is there any place in Ocala you can get a Nathan’s hot dog? How about a hot dog on the downtown square? And just what in the world happened to Judy the hot dog lady? Unfortunately, Judy has moved out of state, but don’t fret just yet! Your cure to hot dog deprivation lies in O’Malley’s on weekdays from 11am to 3pm. The pub invites you to the dog pound, where you can order a plain, chili or kraut dog with chips. A Nathan’s Famous loaded with sauerkraut and a squirt of mustard will make you chow down in salivation—er, salvation. Eat al fresco for a little people watching on the square. If they stop and stare, they’re just envious of your kraut dog. If they stop, stare and giggle: Wear that mustard stain with pride.

“It’s called Pudgee’s, not Skinny’s!”

Pudgee’s All American Hot Dogs

7240 S Florida Ave (Hwy 41 S.), Floral City

Hot dogs and hamburgers are synonymous with good ol’ Americana finger food, and Pudgee’s puts out the wildest incarnations for your belly’s pleasure. Helpful hint: Don’t put on your Sunday best! These babies are stuffed with love and will make you look like a kid eating his first hot dog at a ballpark. Speaking of ballpark hot dogs, Pudgee has the next best thing if you can’t make it to a game this summer with his Basic Ball Park Frank. Personal favorite: The Jen Po Boy Coney is a wholesome stack of fries with Pudgee’s original Coney sauce, onions, strands of melted cheese and mustard. It’s a saucy, gooey, gorgeous monstrosity of hot dog poetry. Here’s my inner Shakespeare: Sabrett, sausage, Coney dogs galore, the Pudgee is closed August, so what are you waiting for?

Hot & Cold

Ollie’s Frozen Custard

1572 Bella Cruz Dr (Spanish Plaines Shopping Center), The Villages

Nothing can stop you on your shopping excursion in The Villages! Nothing can stand in your way—except perhaps the beautiful words “frozen custard.” And it gets even more tempting when you approach Ollie’s entrance and see a Nathan’s Famous sign on the door. Order you hot dog, and then help yourself to relish, sauerkraut, onions, ketchup, mustard and spicy brown mustard at the side station. Eat it with a milkshake, malt, float, old-fashioned soda, egg cream or (please) ordinary soft drink. And what’s any meal without dessert? Ollie’s makes fresh frozen custard daily with a flavor of the day, as well as banana splits, sundaes, frozen custard pies—just try to stop me from going back there and trying them all!



Shake, Guac And Roll

Steak ’n Shake

3800 SW College Rd, Ocala

5180 NE 24th St, Ocala

Dine in or drive through, this chain is known for its juicy burgers and enticing milkshakes, but don’t miss out on the franks! The drive-thru only lists the Steak Frank and its Chicago-style counterpart. Both are delicious in their own right, yet it’d be a mistake to overlook the chili cheese and cheesy cheddar. Too much cheese for ya? Well then, holy guacamole!, order the guacamole steak frank, instead. The sliced hot dog rests in a slightly toasted roll covered in creamy guacamole and sweet salsa with a little kick. To be frank (pun shamelessly intended), it’s a meal you shouldn’t pass up. Chase it with a hand-dipped milkshake in case it bites. Woof! Woof!

Posted in Ocala Style Features

Share this post


What's New at Ocala Style

Read These Writers

Our area has an abundance of authors. Check out some...

‘Water Shapes Florida’

The new exhibit at the Florida Museum of Natural History...

Mastering Your Garden

The dog days of summer can be a good time...

Alligator Allegory

My grandparents were the first to build a home along...

Making Moves

Meet the Ocala-based casting director who has steadily been building...

From France to Ocala

Dr. Jose Gaudier will lecture about the Olympic Games Paris...