The Battle Between Two Hot Dog Joints: Hot Diggity and Underdogs

We ate 10 hot dogs from Hot Diggity and Underdogs in one night. (Shout out to Pepto!) Both joints brought it; one reigned supreme.

By Brian Freedman
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 24 | Posted May. 2, 2012

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Three dog night: (from left to right) Underdog’s My Tai, Pero Caliente and Chicago-style dogs.photos by felicia perretti

South-of-the-Border-style Dog

Underdogs: The “Pero Caliente” brought lots of explosive flavor, and was anchored by a nicely turned out guacamole and pico de gallo. I’m still not sure about the addition of chocolate cayenne mole, though the jalapeños cut it well.

Hot Diggity: The “Fiesta Dog” just made sense. Lettuce, guac, chopped red onion, sour cream, tomato and a lime wedge all played well together against the snappy frank here. The vivid colors and balance of flavors sang.

Advantage: Hot Diggity.

Asian-style Dog

Underdogs: The “My Thai” was built on a well-thought-out theme of spicy peanut sauce and a slaw of green papaya. Unfortunately, it didn’t bring the same level of excitement it should have, mainly because the peanut sauce tasted like little more than peanut butter. Good idea, not great execution.

Hot Diggity: “The Saigon Fusion” was a masterpiece, the dog resting on a tangle of thin-sliced, house-pickled cucumber and joined by carrots, cilantro, red onions, jalapeño, Sriracha and a Thai chili vinaigrette. Balanced and compulsively eatable.

Advantage: Hot Diggity.

Texas-style Dog

Underdogs: If it weren’t for the rubbery, tasteless cheese on top, the “Texas Tommy” would have been a highlight of the whole gluttonous undertaking. The dog itself, wrapped in bacon and fried, was a smoky, salty, joyously artery-clogging tour de force.

Hot Diggity: Like so many of us, I’m a firm believer that adding bacon to anything makes it better: hot dogs, fresh fruit, whatever. And while it wasn’t featured quite as prominently here as in the Underdogs version, I was nonetheless won over by the slathering of excellent Percy Street BBQ sauce, onions, hot sauce, cheese and a smart sprinkling of scallions.

Advantage: Hot Diggity.

Philly-style Dog

Underdogs: Though they do have a fish-cake-wrapped dog, I decided to try “The 9th Streeter,” a spicy Italian sausage from Fiorella’s topped with peppers and onions. More seasoning on the peppers would have helped, but this was a local classic done right.

Hot Diggity: “The Philly Surf & Turf” will likely terrify out-of-towners who have never had the combination before, but let me tell you: It works. The house-made fish cake coccooning the dog, the brown mustard, the pepper hash—flavorless filet and overcooked lobster have nothing on this.

Advantage: Tie.

Overall

Both Underdogs and Hot Diggity are much-needed additions to our city. And the fact that you can now get a good dog in Rittenhouse and on South Street is a great thing for us all. But if I had to choose one, I’d be stuffing my gullet at Hot Diggity.

Really, it all came down to two things: I preferred the snappier casing and the more thoroughly considered toppings at Hot Diggity. Also, Hot Diggity has an exciting selection of craft sodas. But again, these are two very different hot dog styles we’re dealing with here. I’d recommend trying them all.

Just maybe not 10 of them in a night.

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COMMENTS

Comments 1 - 24 of 24
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1. mazza313 said... on May 2, 2012 at 11:02AM

“ok, i hate to be this person - but the electric green relish on hot diggity's chicago dog is actually the real deal. that is exactly what they use there, and in this circumstance, underdogs should have penalized for not using it. BUT, if hot diggity didn't use the celery salt, then they lose points too.”

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2. paige said... on May 2, 2012 at 12:01PM

“hot diggity is the best by a long shot. for the food, for the staff, for the atmosphere, everything. hot diggity, you rock.”

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3. carlson1105 said... on May 2, 2012 at 12:29PM

“Had the Underdogs Chicago, was not authentic at all. The relish is supposed to be electric green. They used peperoncini instead of sport peppers, and no sign of the required poppyseed roll. Mine didn't come with any celery salt.”

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4. Anonymous said... on May 2, 2012 at 02:02PM

“Hot diggity uses electric relish AND celery salt. It's awesome!”

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5. Anonymous said... on May 2, 2012 at 04:04PM

“Neither of them use sport peppers or the poppyseed bun for the Chicago dog. You will have to go to Sonic for that. I love Hit Diggity despite the fact that I don't like the actual hot dogs they use, which are natural casing, but just taste wrong to me. I would prefer a classic pork-veal-beef natural casing dog (Vienna style flrank)”

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6. Anonymous said... on May 2, 2012 at 04:21PM

“Start with the DOG. toppings etc are secondary. Some dogs are better with some toppings then others. BUT start with the DOG”

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7. Anonymous said... on May 2, 2012 at 04:52PM

“Hmmm.... the Chicago dog I had at Underdogs seemed to have sport peppers. I thought it was excellent.”

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8. Mrs Canadia said... on May 2, 2012 at 04:56PM

“My vast hot dog experience lends me to believe that East Coast dogs cheap out on their wieners. For those of you who don't believe me, try Japadog in NYC (which originated in Vancouver, the little-known hot dog capital of N. America) and you will never want to eat Philly's wimpy wieners again.”

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9. Philly OldHead said... on May 2, 2012 at 05:01PM

“Those specialty hot dog shops are overpriced bullshit. Ain't nothing like a hot dog with mustard and cooked onions off a street vendor, period....”

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10. James said... on May 2, 2012 at 05:17PM

“I agree that Hot Diggity is putting out better product, but you should have at least acknowledged that their dogs are $6 or $7 to Underdogs' $3 or $4. The fact that I can walk out of Underdogs with a dog, fries, and soda for less than just a dog at Hot Diggity makes them the winner in my book.”

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11. Morgans said... on May 2, 2012 at 05:18PM

“I agree with Philly old head. Dogs from the vendors are the best. I will also add
That there is nothing like a hot dog at a baseball game, in the sun. With a beer in hand.”

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12. todd said... on May 2, 2012 at 05:50PM

“not even close....hot diggity is the bomb. we make the trip from king of prussia at least 2x a month, solely for their hot dogs.”

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13. John Fox said... on May 2, 2012 at 06:11PM

“How about a comparison with just the franks and maybe some mustard? All these toppings are unneccesary and many true hot dog connoiseurs feel they mask the flavor of the actual frank, which is what the focus should be on. Typical article about hot dogs that you see today that emphasizes the annoying "haute dog" trend and it's fascination with secondary factors like toppings and cute nicknames. How about giving the brand or source of the franks? How are they prepared? In water, on a grill. Are they all beef? Beef/pork? Casing or skinless? Much more important than what is written about in this article.

If you don't start with a quality dog, it doesn't matter what you do to it or throw on it. I'll do your homework for you. Hot Diggety uses a spicy natural casing Sabrett all beef frank that is prepared on a griddle. Underdogs serves a skinless milder all beef Dietz and Watson and heats it in water. Check out Hot Dog Nation on Facebook to learn more about hot dogs.”

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14. The Big Paesano said... on May 2, 2012 at 07:30PM

“Why do these Brooklyn hipster types insist on coming to Philly and peddle "Chicago" or "NYC" type hot dogs? At the very least, they should give a nod to local culture by adding a fish cake combo or add pepper cash as a condiment.”

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15. two pack shaker said... on May 2, 2012 at 08:09PM

“@big paesano

hot diggity does in fact have a fishcake dog. try call it the Philly surf and turf and they make it from scratch. they also carry champ cherry so you can get your levis' combo like you used to be able to back in the day”

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16. Brian McManus said... on May 3, 2012 at 08:42AM

“@John Fox. Would you like to be our official hot dog correspondent? Serious.”

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17. Anonymous said... on May 3, 2012 at 09:51AM

“Maui Dog at the bellevue beats both of these places. But i do love the fries at hot diggity”

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18. John Fox said... on May 3, 2012 at 02:03PM

“@Brian McManus. I'm from N.J. and run the Annual New Jersey Hot Dog Tour with my buddy. We limit it to 2 busloads of people from all over the country. We've had people from Canada, Ireland, and this year Australia attend. I have a lot of experience sampling hot dogs. I've been on TV many times and have been the subject of a feature article in the New York Times. I will be in the upcoming book Man Bites Dog. Also in the Great American Hot Dog Book. Contact me at salempost1@aol.com.”

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19. DLP Dog said... on May 4, 2012 at 08:34AM

“"If it weren’t for the rubbery, tasteless cheese on top"---you got that right. I had the plain cheese dog at Underdog---Cheese was awful and dog was fair at best. The review should also talk about the dogs themselves. The ones at Underdog are Under-whelming. Give me a nice garlicky Nathan's, Hebrew National or Sabbratt from the grill any day over what they serve up at UD. Will have to try Hot Diggity.”

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20. Anonymous said... on May 4, 2012 at 09:03AM

“hot diggity is slightly better in taste and cleanliness, but i'm surprised that the price point wasn't mentioned. they really gouge you there for a hot dog, fries, and a drink.”

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21. Anonymous said... on May 6, 2012 at 07:48AM

“Agree that the hot dog itself should be the focal point of the review. I always enjoy Texas Weiners on Snyder Ave. in S.Philly”

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22. jason f. said... on May 12, 2012 at 07:25PM

“This is the best review Brian Freedman has ever done, and that is pathetic. The high point of a restaurants critics career should not be a review of hot dogs. This pretentious a-hole needs to find another career.”

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23. John Fox said... on May 13, 2012 at 06:11AM

“I'm not a restaurant critic but I do review hot dogs. Brian seems to write well but anyone reviewing a particular food should have at least a minimum amount of knowledge about that food or at the very least give some important information. He left out what people who are serious about hot dogs look for. The type of frank (all beef or beef/pork), whether it is skinless or has a casing, size, source, and how it's prepared. Instead he focused on secondary things like the cute nicknames and topping combinations. Sadly this is common when people who know little about hot dogs are asked to review them.”

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24. hkrall said... on May 13, 2012 at 12:49PM

“@bigpaesano
Hot Diggity and Underdogs BOTH serve fish cakes as well as pepper hash, mentioned on page 2 of this very article.

@Mrs Canadia
I've been to Diggity as well as Japadog in NYC. Japadod's pork Aribiki sausages are good but their standard all-beef dog is skinless, and in my opinion inferior to Hot Diggity's natural casing Sabrett's dog.

@JohnFox @BrianMcManus
If the famous John Fox starts writing for PW I'm ready to start drawing anytime.......”

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