The Best Corn Dogs In The US
Jul 23, 2023
Where there's a Ferris wheel to ride or giant teddy bears to win, we can expect to gobble down a deep-fried corn dog. It's a staple at every carnival, and a nostalgic treat that's synonymous with sticky summer days and the rapture of childhood freedom. Because skewering batter-dipped sausages is such a simple and delicious concept, many folks from various far-flung locales over the years have taken credit for inventing the sausage on a stick, with a lineage spanning the Oregon Coast and Lone Star State.
Just as we can't pin down a particular mastermind, we can at least showcase the wide array of confections deep-frying throughout the country. Because let's face it: Americans are a corn dog-eating people. As evidence of this, we've curated a handful of excellent options to tide you over during your next road trip or beach getaway. Whether it's mustard-saddled sausages or brats coated in bacon or ramen noodles, they're coming in hot from the expected theme parks along with gastropubs, food trucks, and roadside stands brimming with history. Napkins at the ready, let's explore the best corn dogs in the U.S.
If there's a bigger Texas tradition than the State Fair, then we haven't heard of it. Unless, of course, it's Fletcher's Original Corny Dogs. For a quick history lesson: At the height of World War II, siblings Neil and Carl Fletcher crafted their own battered sausage, tweaking the concoction to withstand frying in oil rather than the common method of oven-baking. When they unveiled their invention at the aforementioned fair, they served their dogs on sticks to provide customers with portability. Thus, the Corny Dog was born.
Carnival-goers extol the virtues of the "Corny Dog," and there's much to be said about the recipe. The cornmeal mix required over a decade of experimentation to get right, and the frank (a mix of beef and pork) is top shelf, reminding us that good things take time. Condiments are also significant in dictating the flavor. To see why hundreds of thousands of folks attend the fair annually, it's wise to start with the classics. The Original Corny Dog, drizzled in yellow mustard (no ketchup) is the picture-perfect idea of a state-wide tradition.
Route 66 hosts plentiful weenie vendors, some of which draw visitors traveling by car or plane to see what the fuss is about. The Cozy Dog Drive In emerged from similar circumstances to Fletcher's Corny Dogs, as its founder, Ed Waldmire, sought a speedier solution to cooking brats in batter. With spurts of development in military kitchens, the "Cozy Dog" eventually found its way along the great American highway in Springfield, Illinois, where it's served to new generations passing on through.
The Cozy Dog features a savory breading, so these dogs aren't going to have that honeyed sweetness normally associated with corn dogs at the carnival. In fact, even calling them "corn dogs" is technically a misnomer locals are bound to call out. In any case, the restaurant's recipe is special, and has been preserved since its inception in 1949. While it's a fantastic quick snack, weary travelers can justify a longer sit thanks to the heap of skin-on fries you get with your order and plethora of vintage relics decorating the walls.
In some circles, Pronto Pup is the battered hot dog of choice. It also bears a trademark. For that reason, you can visit an eatery at Oregon's Rockaway Beach as well as the Grand Haven Boardwalk in Michigan, where franks are fried from summer to back-to-school season. George Boyington's crispy delicacy, invented circa 1939, made a splash at the Minnesota State Fair before percolating to opposite regions of the country.
Many Midwesterners make a point of coming here every season, not only out of tradition, but because the hot dogs on sticks truly carry their weight. On the surface, it seems like there's no verifiable difference between a corn dog and a Pronto Pup. Look closely to the batter though, and it's evident the two treats are worlds apart. The Pronto Pup features a thinner batter that's crunchy on the inside and forgoes that cakey crust embraced in the freezer aisle, and the freshness is out the roof. The old-school joint is one of the city's proud highlights, and a shining star in fast food history. Bring cash and dig in.
In the buzzy sprawl of Wicker Park, Bangers & Lace grills up beefy dogs. But it's beer that reigns supreme, boasting an international range of suds that bubbled into roundups from Draft Magazine and Thrillist. That being said, locals are just as keen on the brats menu. Although the selection is slim, it bursts with originality. Toppings like Mexican-style street corn and pimento cheese fit in with the industrialized yet comforting feel of the dining room.
A corn dog here sets you back $7, so it's far from the frugal sticks potentially hawked at boardwalks. Then again, most aren't fried in a heavenly brioche batter and stuffed with quality links sourced from Chicagoland's time-honored supplier, Vienna Beef. The fairground staple is prepared the traditional way, with an old-school taste that transports tastebuds to the roadside gems of our youth. One Yelp reviewer declared it to be the best dog ever dipped in cornbread, and we know how dedicated the Windy City is to its franks. So, polish one off with a refreshing brew and feast on greatness.
Corkscrewed beef is a sacred Texan pursuit, right up there with barbecue and chili cookoffs. In Austin, Moonshine Patio Bar & Grill specializes in an offbeat version of classic Southern cuisine, and it's downright mouthwatering. The restaurant opened for business in 2003, but the building itself has been around far longer, at least since the 19th century where it acted as a watering hole for local domino players.
Small enough for hand-held consumption and ripe for dipping, corn dog bites make terrific appetizers. Right from the start, this gastropub's version rethinks the finger food for adult palates. They aren't typical corn dog bites; in fact, there's no corn dog to speak of. Corn Dog Shrimp, one of the signature cuts, feature curled prawns encased in a coat of cornmeal that's airy, crunchy, and not too sweet. Even the dip, a honey mustard zig-zagged with tart blueberry, defies expectation.
The starter, at the time of publication, costs $12. It's pricey, but snack food this sophisticated is worth it. It's so tasty one person issued a warning: "You might not want to share it!"
It's no mystery that many restaurants around the nation crank out excellent corn dogs. But does the U.S. contain the best corn dogs in the world? That's what this food truck out of Utah claims, and judging by its following, it's easily a fair takeaway. The husband-and-wife team behind World's Best Corn Dogs parks its cart throughout the Southwest, feeding school fairs and office parties fried-from-scratch franks since 2013. Although the mobile vendor is based in Provo (Chartway Federal Credit Union designated it the state's best food truck), it's been plenty busy serving its neighbors in Nevada and Idaho.
Staying true to the snack's sideshow roots, every sausage (pure beef, of course) is browned in canola oil to a crispy, golden hue. The main offering is the Footlong Corndog, while Halfsies are just that — half the amount of a regular delicious weenie. Additionally, clientele adore the cheddar-stuffed pork dog as well as a meatless stick oozing out Tillamook Colby Jack Cheese. Ketchup and mustard are bona fide classics; however, the truck's website is adamant on slathering sticky honey to really knock you off of your feet.
Carnivalesque whimsy whirls year-round at Fannie Farkle's, a place where entertainment and greasy eats collide in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The amusement destination entices locals and tourists with non-stop games, and like any fairground setting, that's a good sign that a colossal corn dog is in reach. Introducing the fun zone's top attraction: The Ogle Dog. Even though the name recalls an early group of settlers, the over-the-top proportions certainly match the moniker — it measures a whole foot in diameter, and the stick is impaled with not one, but two juicy beef links.
Out of any fairground concession we've chowed on in our lifetime, Fannie Farkle's arguably takes home the prize in terms of joyful execution. While on the expensive side, it's undoubtedly massive. The cornbread coating, which is the result of a carefully guarded recipe the business is mum to discuss, is the real winner, as dozens of happy eaters confirm the batter is fluffy and crunchy. In review after review, it's apparent how adored the authentic fried-to-order treat is. "Literally the best corn dog I've ever had," one Yelp user gushed.
It seems thrill-seekers throng Disneyland for the rides as much as the on-theme snacks scattered throughout the park. And at the Happiest Place On Earth, fueling up at Little Red Wagon is an indulgence you can't miss. The most obvious reason these corn dogs rule boils down to the scratch-made batter. You'll encounter a dense crunch up top with a doughiness that clings to the salted meat.
Considering these corn dogs are dipped to order at one of the hottest amusement sites on the planet, don't expect the kind of budget-friendly dogs you could score from the beach. But when they've been called everything from "superb" to "heaven on a stick," it's clear the hype is well-earned to justify a couple extra dollars spent. After all, the vendor possesses a four-star rating on Yelp with over 800 reviews – most of which are passionately positive. Track down the original caboose on Main Street, U.S.A., When lines are down the block, you've got a Plan B: Stagecoach Cafe or Corn Dog Cafe at the ever-popular California Adventure.
Pinky's Westside Grill oozes pure kitsch, both inside and out. Where else will you see a patriotically painted vintage car on the roof and a sandwich called the White Trash Burger? The casual space is eccentric but welcoming for a belt-loosening meal. Guy Fieri is on the books for making repeat visits on "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives," giving the Charlotte stop some much-needed exposure during the show's first season.
There's plenty to love about Pinky's traditional corn dog. The Viking Corn Dog is just a fantastic concession, with Nathan's beef links sizzled on the grill before plunging headfirst into cornmeal and then the fryer. The real star of the show though is the Corn Dog Shrimp: Plump prawns, battered and fried in an identically crisp coating, give popcorn shrimp a texture boost you've been begging for all your life. Dip them in one of many sauces, including Buffalo and Wasabi Ranch. Abstaining from meat? The vegetarian corn dog ("The One And Only") is notable for being the city's first offering of its type, and it's delicious, though it'll cost a dollar more.
Korean-style corn dogs are abundant in multitudes. One bite of this unique snack weaves gummy, crunchy, sweet, and savory sensations together. Stix is credited for kicking off the trend in Northern California. The basic foundation for its batter is rice flour dusted with sugar; from there you'll see concoctions rolled in everything but the kitchen sink — ramen, corn flakes, and Flamin' Hot Cheetos represent a smidgen of the possibilities.
This is a proper street food, as well as an adventurous option for hot dog lovers who are otherwise burned-out swirling on French's and calling it a day. Unsure of where to start? Order the Potato dog for a sense of what the public loves about this inventive snack. The go-to filling that defines the street food is a beef frank with mozzarella, but customers can even skip the protein for pure molten cheese at its core. One of the best corn dogs in the U.S. can also be paired with liquid refreshments. Boba tea is a creamy sipper, while the fruit coolers — the crowd favorite being Pink Guava — are all excellent.
Like Little Red Wagon, The Viking Truck is also stationed in Anaheim. However, the overlords at Disneyland require a day pass to patronize Little Red Wagon, whereas the barbarian-themed car brandishes meaty goodness across Orange County, no admission necessary. One of the menu's standouts, The Nemesis Corndog, could rival the wares of any average hot dog stand. For one, customers can watch their order come to life from the fryer. Each stick is impaled with a smoky sausage — a thicker style of link than the usual ballpark frank — which is then coated by hand in the truck's hearty "sweetcorn batter." Served with your pick of sauces, obviously.
Since the bulk of The Viking Truck's wares are weenie-centric — including vegetarian-friendly substitutes — nothing sits at the sidelines, so to speak. Every dog emerges from the oil golden-brown and bubbling hot. Admittedly, these aren't the most budget friendly dogs out there. But for a filling meal that's made fresh at every step, it's hard to complain. The Death By Garlic Fries and Odin hot dog are also stellar, and the "Viking Ketchup" remains a fool-proof dipper.
Froot Loops, peanut butter, and chocolate sauce? Sounds more like a fro-yo counter than a hot dog stand. Yet Clowndog Hot Dog Parlor gives permission to unleash your inner freakazoid, and we love it for that. The eatery's playful take never overwhelms the tried-and-true weenie on a stick, and the build-your-own format is the stuff of carnivorous fever dreams. One fun fact to know about this New Mexico treasure? Guinness World Records once swung by its Albuquerque shop to oversee — most fittingly — a corn dog eating contest.
Kooky funhouse decor is the perfect setting to craft the corn dog of your dreams. It'll come at a $1.50 surcharge, but there's no doubt that you will have made the right call upon biting into that snap of browned crust. German brats aren't available to turn into a corn dog, but the beef, turkey, and plant-based wieners won't lack in blissful juiciness. Squiggle on the mustard if you must, but the toppings — nacho cheese and Chipotle maple sauce are just a few options — justify leaving your comfort zone for good.
For fans of the chili dog, Arbetter's Hot Dogs is legendary. The no-frills establishment opened in 1959 by the Arbetter family is considered a Miami institution, and living relatives continue hawking hot dogs worthy of the nation's ballparks. They also specialize in tater tots, fries, and onion rings. There's an old-school air when you walk through the door, and that's equally true for the menu that features boiled links and sizzling sausages (courtesy of Sabrett, a common brand sold at hot dog stands).
There's much to say about this wiener purveyor — toppings are free of charge; soda refills are granted by uttering praise for a certain ballplayer — not to mention the house specialty. But the fact that many praise the corn dog speaks volumes. Indeed, Arbetter's isn't flashy about its impaled franks, but they're served fast and fresh at a price that has no business being so cheap. Another point in its favor is the batter, which boasts crispness and a fluffy interior. "Hot dogs are good but it's the corn dogs that are a must!" a Tripadvisor user raved.
Considering its fans at multiple Columbus-based media outlets, we couldn't leave out this hidden gem from the Buckeye State. Dirty Frank's Hot Dog Palace is certainly known for its kaleidoscopic array of weenies and fixings — beef franks are the typical pick, but you can also request a Polish brat, veggie dog, or bacon-wrapped link. But opting for the battered concession is never a bad move. Even better, arriving hungry will award insatiable appetites thanks to a discount difficult to counter: Your pick of two breaded dogs at $3.50, or $6.50 for a trio.
Long waits are inevitable for this neighborly Midwestern joint — it's cozy on the inside — but reviewers don't mind when the food coming out is so fantastic. For example, one commenter was shocked by how similar they tasted to wieners churned at the carnival and the authenticity, as another user pointed out, definitely came through by proxy of being breaded — and fried — to order. Did we mention that you can get sriracha mustard and cheese dip slung on the side?
Remember the Fletchers behind Texas Corny Dogs? This eatery was started by a member of the famed Dallas clan, but these battered bites are nothing like the kind immortalized at the state fair decades ago. Rather, CornDog With No Name dabbles in "fine stick food" prizing upscale ingredients with a gastronomical bent. Experimenting with fillings like breakfast sausage and bison, in addition to tweaking the batter, has given the newcomer a competitive edge. When local press outlets are designating it as an essential, then you know something exciting is going on.
As drama swirls around the start-up's proximity to the business that (arguably) started it all, it's important to point out the menu's differences. It's extremely rich and indulgent, even by the fryer's standards. One offering called The Bacon is tossed in a sheath of crunchy bacon, containing a sausage combining cheese and jalapeño pepper. Another concoction, The Pickle, is a must-try infusing vinegary zing. You can seemingly take the carnival out of the corn dog, but as funnel cakes and dipped dogs show, the fairground is never far away.