It's National Hot Dog Month, and if you thought Bay area restaurants weren't putting scrumptious spins on that picnic table comfort food, think again. Dogs have gone full-on gourmet, and deliciously artisanal. That said, not all of the eateries on this list are crafting wacky recipes; some are simply serving up regional favorites worth tasting. Here's where to score inexpensive franks with twists and toppers.
Americanwiener Modern franks and sausages — such as the Asian Dog (Japanese mayo, grilled onions, teriyaki sauce, pickled ginger, nori seaweed and furikake seasoning) — created with local, fresh ingredients. Run by Amy and Ben Laffey, this food truck dresses up hand-cut fries and breakfast, too. Follow Americanwiener on Facebook to see which locale it hits next. Wesley Chapel, 813-720-7692.
Bono's Salads & Sandwiches A Largo staple serving Windy City eats, including classic Vienna beef dogs between steamed poppy-seed buns, for about 31 years. The family-owned restaurant also prepares Italian beef and sausage subs with a side of spicy house-made giardiniera. Cash only. 6721 Ulmerton Road, Largo, 727-535-1111, bonoslargo.com.
Bruce's Chicago Grill & Dog House Owned by Bruce Karlin, this is another mouth-watering spot in Largo for Chicago-style dog seekers. The Reuben Dog, pastrami sammies and more delectables accompany the loaded Chicago wiener (mustard, relish, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, celery salt, sport peppers and a dill pickle slice). 7733 Ulmerton Road, Largo, 727-524-1146.
Burger 21 Try a gourmet dog from this upscale burger chain on your next visit. Try the grilled Great Dane frank with pickled cukes, chopped tomatoes, strings of onion and remoulade sauce. There's another location in Westchase, and one in New Tampa. 11777 N. Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa, 813-405-3595, burger21.com.
Burger Monger The Monger Dog is a split 1/4-pound frank cradled in a garlic-buttered challah bun and topped with whatever dressings you like. This fast-casual chain can also be found on North Dale Mabry, or along Bruce B. Downs. 903 E. Bloomingdale Ave., Brandon, 813-684-7982, burgermonger.com.
Chic Doggie This destination hot-doggery won a Best of the Bay a few years back for "Best lunch with a side of home supplies," and it's worth a trip to Home Depot even if you're not shopping for nuts and bolts. Fine Chicago dogs with all the fixins, plus brats and sausages served with evident care, and you can eat them right there at the picnic tables alongside the hot-dog stand. Chic Doggie at Home Depot, 2300 22nd Ave. N., St. Petersburg.
Coney Island Sandwich Shop Tampa has Mel's, and St. Pete's got Coney Island. Covered in Coney sauce (chili, mustard and onions), these true-to-Michigan wieners have been satisfying stomachs since the Barlas family opened the shop in 1926. 250 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N., St. Petersburg, 727-822-4493.
The Dog House and More This trailer-turned-restaurant offers five kinds of all-beef links that range from plain to kraut-topped to loaded. Diners order from a window and eat picnic table-style under an awning. 204 W. Shell Point Road, Ruskin, 813-419-4325.
Elias Deli & Produce Market Boar's Head franks and knockwursts (a garlicky pork-veal sausage that snaps) are deliciously buried below a number of trimmings and served from this spot's deli counter. One rendition gets you ketchup, mustard, tomatoes, onions, pickles and sport peppers, while the other boasts traditional Coney sauce. 3200 34th St. N., St. Petersburg, 727-526-6436, eliasdeli.com.
Engine No. 9 Engine burgers already make for seriously good in-between-cocktails grub, but have you tasted the 9-inch dogs? Chicago-bred owner and chef Jason Esposito lets diners choose between dressings like grilled onions and mushrooms, sharp cheddar and kraut. 56 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N., St. Petersburg, 727-623-0938, no9burgers.com.
Henry's Chicago Style Palm Harbor's destination for Chicagoan cuisine. There are Vienna dogs, Polish sausage, Italian beef sammies, pizza and way more. 33135 U.S. Highway 19 N., Palm Harbor, 727-785-7300.
Hot Dogs on Main Nick Annenos and Susan Norton, the minds behind this downtown joint, provide Reuben, Greek and other twisted dogs packed in poppy-seed buns. The restaurant carries vegetarian franks, gluten-free turkey links and kosher Hebrew Nationals, too. 505 Main St., Dunedin, 727-408-5103.
Kooky Coconut A cozy beachside stop for take-away dogs if you're heading to or from the sand. Kooky Coconut has additional hand-held fare like ice cream cones, burgers and quesadillas, and most of the offerings can be made gluten-free. 760 Gulf Blvd., Indian Rocks Beach, 727-517-1300, kookycoconutcafe.com.
Meaner Wiener This SoHo noshery gets busier once the sun sets, whether you're in the mood for a kraut and spicy mustard dog, or one that's deep-fried with chili and slaw (holy yum). 500 S. Howard Ave., Tampa, 813-251-0214, meanerwienertampa.com.
Mel's Hot Dogs Serving for more than 40 years, Mel's has 20 types of dogs, including a bratwurst and Polish sausage variety. The links come on steamed buns smothered in toppings and have plenty of snap. 4136 E. Busch Blvd., Tampa, 813-985-8000, melshotdogs.com.
Nathan's Famous This fast-food chain's authentic all-beef frank styles delight die-hard Northerners. Purveyors of the signature hot dog eating competition, Nathan's even gets its buns delivered from New York. 200 N. Tampa St., Tampa, 813-225-2007, nathansfamous.com.
Yummy's A homey, easygoing restaurant bungalow that's fit for kicking back with an order of Chicago-influenced fare. From the Slaw Dog to the Polish sausage, Vienna beef is used for links and sammies. 2914 Beach Blvd. S., Gulfport, 727-321-9869.