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Hot Dog Hall of Fame at Universal’s CityWalk

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Ten days before my trip to the Universal theme parks in Orlando, Lebeau posted a preview of a new dessertery coming to Universal called the “Toothsome Chocolate Factory” which will feature crazy varieties of ice cream sundaes. Unfortunately, it is not scheduled to open until long after my return from Universal. We did discuss some of the things I might see that Lebeau and family didn’t have a chance to experience in their visit to Orlando back in June. One thing that came up was the CityWalk Hot Dog Hall of Fame and the menu did manage to elicit some enthusiasm for some of us, so I figured why not give it a look-see and report back to you guys?

the Hot Dog Hall of Fame is located on Universal’s CityWalk, which is sort of the complex’s answer to Downtown Disney, with a wide array of restaurants, shops, and entertainments. One advantage CityWalk has over its Disney counterpart is that it is located right next to the parks. It is, in fact, stretched along a corridor between the two parks and you cannot enter either the Universal Studios theme park or Islands of Adventure without first walking through part of CityWalk. The offerings and proximity of CityWalk help to cement Universal’s status as the spot for young adults who think they might have outgrown Disney. The focus is heavy on drinking, dancing, pop music, and higher end dining.

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Indicative of this more young adult-centered emphasis is the high-profile location of Jimmy Buffet’s bar/restaurant/retail store Margaritaville, named after his most famous song which is an ode to hanging out in a tropical location drinking away your concerns. Such populist sentiments have made Buffet a very rich man and the good time aesthetic carries over to the bar which you really can’t help but notice as you walk to Islands of Adventure. Hot Dog Hall of Fame does not share this advantageous location adjacent to heavy foot traffic. In fact, I was initially wondering if I’d made a mistake in thinking it was located on CityWalk at all. After all, CityWalk is designed to make most of its tenants very visible to the passing crowds. So when I found myself sitting in Margaritaville enjoying a drink (the rest of my family had headed back to the Tampa suburbs the night before) and found it was lunchtime it would have been easy to just set up camp there and try one of their reliably acceptable dishes. But I wanted to sample someplace new, so I closed out my tab and set out to find Hot Dog Hall of Fame.

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As you can see on this map of CityWalk, Hot Dog Hall of Fame is sort of tucked behind Emeril’s and Rising Star. I’ve circled it in red. When visitors enter CityWalk, they come in up at the top of this picture down an incline between the cineplex and Bubba Gump and empty out near the Red Oven Pizza Bakery. Universal Studios theme park is a right turn (on our left) over near Blue Man Group, while Islands of Adventure is to the left (our right) just across the bridge from Margaritaville. Unless you wander into the space to the rear of Emeril’s you may never see Hot Dog Hall of Fame at all. That would be too bad for families or those who are big fans of baseball…or hot dogs.

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The place hangs its hat on two things: good hot dogs and baseball theming. It does a pretty good, if not brilliant, job on both counts. As you can see here, the visuals include baseball memorabilia in glass cases near the line up to the windows where you can order your food.

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The queue winds over a cement recreation of a baseball diamond.

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You can even sit in fold down seats acquired from real major league baseball stadiums while you eat and watch the big screen television (seen in the top photo) which was featuring coverage of spring training on the MLB network when I was there. I can only assume that once the baseball season begins in earnest, that fans who need a break from the theme parks will be able to enjoy live televised games along with iconic stadium food. This thematically appropriate seating was too much for me to resist, so I took up residence in one of those orange chairs with my lunch…which brings up the other more obvious focus of the spot.

The food.

Hot Dog Hall of Fame bills itself as having “frankly the best hot dogs…in the world,” which is making a pretty bold claim. As someone who lived in Chicago, where there is seemingly a sausage stand around every other corner (the hot dogs at Wrigley Field were notoriously the worst in the city during my stay in the Windy City), I can’t quite give what I had on Monday that kind of title. The menu is pretty tempting if you’re into this type of fare.

Hot Dogs
Chicago
Vienna All-Beef Hotdog, Poppy-Seed Bun, Neon Relish, Sport Peppers, Diced Onions and Tomatoes, Pickle, Celery Salt. Served with Fries
$9.99
Colorado
Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog, Grilled Peppers & Onions, Saurkraut. Served with Fries
$8.99
Kansas City
Vienna All-Beef Hotdog, Pulled Pork, Coleslaw, Pickles, Barbecue Sauce. Served with Fries
$9.99
Boston
Kayem All-Beef Hotdog, Toasted New England-Style Bun, Spicy Brown Mustard, Diced Onions, Relish. Served with Fries
$8.99
Los Angeles
Farmer’s John’s Foot Long Hotdog, Mustard, Relish. Served with Fries
$9.99
New York
Sabrett All-Beef Hotdog, Sauerkraut, Mustard. Served with Fries
$8.99
Arizona
Vienna All-Beef Hotdog, Smoked Bacon, Pinto Beans, Grilled Onions & Peppers, Cheese. Served with Fries
$9.99
Milwaukee
Bratwurst Sausage, Hoagie Roll, Grilled Onions, Spicy Brown Mustard. Served with Fries
$8.99
Detroit
Koegel Hotdog, Abbott’s Coney Chili, Diced Onions. Served with Fries.
$9.99
Foot Long Dog
Vienna All Beef Hotdog, Foot Long Bun, Choice of Two Toppings. Served with Fries
$12.99
Two Foot Dog
Vienna All-Beef Hotdog, Baguette, Choice of Two Toppings
$14.99
Italian Sausage
Provolone Cheese, Grilled Onions, and Peppers. Served with Fries
$8.99
Sides & Snacks
Shoestring French Fries $2.99
Roasted Peanuts $3.49
Cracker Jacks $3.49
Beverages
Coke, Diet Coke, Coke Zero, Sprite, Pink Lemonade, Root Beer $3.19
Iced Teas
Green, Sweet, Unsweet, Raspberry $3.19
Resource Natural Spring Water $4.00
Beer
Blue Moon $7.50
Budweiser, Bud Light, Miller Lite, Yuengling $6.50
Sam Adams $7.75

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Yes, that’s a “Two Foot Dog” you see on the menu. It’s the sort of on-a-dare bit of food that may not be very practical for most visitors, but also the kind of thing a person who is on vacation might just take on. Not me, but there are enough photos on line of people holding these things to make me think they are popular enough to earn their place on the menu. Despite my years in Chicago, I’ve never been a fan of the fully loaded hot dog they favor there, either. I don’t want tomatoes, relish, or a large pickle getting in the way of the main sausage. In my time there I developed a taste for Italian sausage instead, so I jumped at the chance to try one at Hot Dog Hall of Fame. Paired with french fries and a cola, my lunch cost just under $13.

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They gave me my receipt and a metal device that allowed them to locate me in my stadium seat with my lunch when it was ready. This worked well enough and they had no problem finding me, but from my point of view I would have been more than happy to stand and wait for my Italian sausage and then go sit down. Why? Well, as a single customer who wanted to eat in the stadium seating, I found that if I wanted more napkins or ketchup I had to either carry my dog down the stairs to the condiments bar or leave it where it was while I made the trip…and there were birds hovering around the outdoor site just waiting for a chance at a stray french fry or bit of leftover bun. I took the chance and ventured down, but kept my eyes on my vulnerable lunch the whole time. Yes, I guess I could have retrieved this stuff prior to sitting down, but without my food in front of me I really had no idea what I would want and what would be automatically provided for me.

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The food was about what I’d expected: good, but a little short of what I’d call the best ever. The coke was Coke. The fries were fries. Crisp and hot in a standard size that is pretty typical for most fast food restaurants. But these items were always going to be considered ancillary to the Italian sausage at the center of the meal. Unfortunately, it was a mild disappointment when held to the standard not just of “best in the world” as the company’s website declares, but also when compared to the Italian sausage dogs I got used to while living in Chicago. The sausage I ate on Monday had a decent taste, but was not quite as spicy as I’ve grown to expect and its consistency was a little off too, with the meat crumbling in spots rather than tearing or shearing and retaining its overall shape. The bun was warmed and had a baked rather than store-bought quality, which was good, but was already broken along the seam when it arrived. In contrast, the onions and provolone cheese were satisfying and tasty toppings.

Despite the overall mild negative review I’m giving my meal here, I’d personally want to give one of the other hot dogs on the menu a try before assigning any sort of definitive judgement of Hot Dog Hall of Fame. It could be that a dog with a more standard sausage would be closer to their wheelhouse. Perhaps something like the Kansas City dog or just a regular foot long would have made me happier on this particular day. I’d love for a simple, but well-themed spot offering mainstream American junk food like Hot Dog Hall of Fame aspires to be to find a place at CityWalk. It would be nice to have a place to enjoy a dog and watch some baseball during peak park hours in the summertime when everyone else is crammed into Hogsmeade.

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Posted on March 29, 2016, in reviews, theme parks, travel, Universal Studios and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.

  1. Great review. I chuckled at your thoughtful assessment of an Italian sausage. I must admit that I have never given fast food anywhere near that much consideration. You take your franks seriously!

    The theme of the place looks terrific. But as someone who doesn’t care for baseball or hotdogs, I don’t expect the Hotdog Hall of Fame to be a priority whenever we get back to Universal. I am glad I got to experience it through your lens though!

    Looking forward to reading more about your trip! Keep it coming.

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    • Hey, you call your dogs the ‘best in the world’ and you’re going to open up skepticism.

      I’m going to take my time with the rest of my trip articles, probably covering individual subjects and avoiding a complete trip report. I’m looking back over what you wrote back in the summertime and it’s pretty impressive how much you covered from a relatively short time at the resort and the parks. I’ll try to fill in the blanks and offer my own take on some stuff.

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      • I may be jaded, but I tend to ignore superlatives. At Kings Island, there is a funnel cake place called World’s Best Funnel Cakes. This isn’t a slogan. It’s their name! The funnel cakes are fine, but in no way better than any other funnel cake I have ever eaten. And I have eaten my fair share. In college, there was a burrito place near campus. I don’t even remember it’s name. But their slogan painted on the wall behind the counter was “Burritos as big as your head.” They doubled down on this concept with a disturbing mural of UK basketball players and fans with burritos for heads. The burritos were admittedly large, but nowhere near the size of a human head. When I see “best hot dogs in the world” I read that as “we sell hot dogs.”

        I actually had a hot dog in Universal once in 2008. It was just a plain theme park hot dog. But I was hungry, it was cheap and hot. And damn if it didn’t hit the spot. And I don’t even like hot dogs very much. But if I find myself craving a hot dog in City Walk, I will be sure to check out the Hot Dog Hall of Fame.

        Thanks! When we take trips to places like Universal, I tell the wife and kids that this is partially a research project. I actually do take that pretty seriously. I set out to cover certain things in my trip reports. For our day in Universal, there were obvious constraints. Beyond just time limits, I was traveling with family which included young kids. Kara in particular is very timid. So that imposes certain restraints. Sometimes, I will choose to experience something on my own rather than omit it from the blog. Other times, I just decide to present the experience of a dad with young kids who may not get to do everything the park has to offer. One thing I wanted to show was that Universal actually had a lot to see and do beyond coasters and thrill rides.

        That still leaves a lot of blanks to fill in. We never saw a single show. We barely explored City Walk. Our meals were limited to in park fast food and the hotel food court. And we steered clear of a lot of Universal’s headline attractions while trying to at least give a taste of each area. And of course I am looking forward to hearing your take on things we did experience.

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    • Lebeau doesn’t like baseball or hot dogs. Translation: Lebeau hates America.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Does liking Superman score me any points?

        I don’t dislike hot dogs. But given options, I would probably pick something else the majority of the time. Especially at a restaurant. I can make hot dogs at home with minimum fuss.

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  2. Smashing… good… trip intel!
    Yes, there are degrees of appreciation, when it comes to the hot dog, as there are so many factors that affect the basic, processed meat and…. what you choose to top it with.
    To me, a quality dog is best enjoyed with bread of equal good quality…. and mustard.
    Nothing else, as that would distract from the most delectable, not to mention, healthy… condiment out there.
    Classic vacation fare, and still eyeing a June getaway in Orlando. so thanks again!!

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    • Maybe it’s my German and Polish heritage, but mustard pairs so well with sauerkraut. But I prefer them on a good bratwurst. In Cincinnati, we eat out hot dogs topped with chili (Cincinnati chili is more sweet than spicy and has a runny consistency with no beans), mounds of cheese (more than I care for to be honest), mustard and onions. The dog itself is more for texture than flavor.

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    • Thanks RB! Unfortunately you won’t get any good mustard info from me because I typically avoid it whenever I can. I mostly want to experience the sausage and the bread, but can appreciate some toppings. A good Italian sausage is one of my favorites, but a classic Vienna or Nathan’s dog is usually pretty good. An extremely average sausage can only be redeemed by being made into a chill dog with diced onions (No cheese).

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      • We’ll have to get you some Skyline sometime.

        The only hot dogs I will buy are Nathan’s all beef.

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        • yeah you’re right. That’s WAY too much cheese. I can tolerate a little bit of cheese on a chili dog, but the chili, the dog, and the bun should be the dominant players in that particular story. Also, I want diced onions.

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        • The diced onions are buried beneath the cheese. But they are there.

          Mindy orders her sans mustard and onions which is just wrong. I’ll stop short of calling it an abomination. Out loud anyway. But I am thinking it.

          A Cincinnati coney is a very different animal from a chili dog. What we call “chili” is really more of a meat sauce. One of the primary ingredients is cinnamon although there are so many spices most people never notice it. The dish is derived from a Greek recipe.

          We will also serve the stuff over pasta. Spaghetti, chili and cheese is a 3-way. Add onions for a 4-way. Add beans and it’s a five way. Oyster crackers are served as a side, but I don’t partake. Hot sauce is a must on the pasta dishes. I’ll add some to the cheese coneys on occasion.

          If the coney is properly made, the chili, cheese, mustard and onions marry very well. But the mix is often off. If you wind up with a mouthful of cheese, that’s no good in my book. I love cheese as much as the next guy, but I will frequently knock some off my coneys. As a promotion, Skyline will sometimes sell what they call sky high coneys where they double the stack of cheese on top.

          Cincinnatians take their chili very seriously. There are fiercely divided factions regarding which chili is best. I have worked for both Skyline and their competitor, Gold Star. So I know a bit on the subject. As far as I am concerned, both products are nearly identical. And frankly kind of gross. I think you have to have grown up here to eat the stuff.

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        • I usually find it funny when people get angry about what version of a food is the ‘real’ kind. While I may prefer one over the other, most of it is good.

          I’ve had Cincinnati chili and liked it. It is very much like what I want on my hot dog, but sometimes too soupy. I want the chili to stay on my dog and not leak down onto my hands. I’ve also had chilis from Kansas City, Texas, and other locations which are also very good. They usually have beans in them.

          Locally, the big issue is usually about barbecue. In eastern North Carolina, when you say “barbecue” what you’re talking about is a pulled pork dish with a vinegar base that is often smoked and then either served in a mound or on a bun. It is a noun that refers to the specific food. It is not a verb describing what you are doing to the food or a noun talking about the grill you use to cook the food or a word to describe what kind of party you’re having. People around here will fight you over this. In other places the word can mean any one of these things and the food can be very very different. Sometimes all it means is that you’ve heated some meat and you’re going to put some spicy sauce on it. It’s all good. Just tell me what kind of barbecue you’re serving and I may ask you some questions about it. In the end I will eat it and like it.

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        • That’s one of the issues with Cincy chili. It’s prepared in a giant vat by adding the meat and spice mixture with water. If you order your chili at the wrong time, it can be too runny or too thick. I don’t so much mind when it’s overly think. But when it’s a watery mess, that’s no good.

          Cincy chili is a very regional dish. Companies have tried and failed to expand outside of the Greater Cincinnati area. For a while, I worked at a Gold Star Chili in Lexington which is just over an hour South of Cincy. People would order bowls of chili expecting Tex Mex with beans and all that. We’d try to explain to them that wasn’t what Cincinnati chili was, but you know people. They would order it anyway and then complain about it and ask for a refund.

          I like a good bowl of chili. Truth is I prefer it to our local cuisine. But I don’t want Tex Mex chili (or beans) on a hot dog.

          I am aware of the BBQ wars having watched lots of Travel Channel and Food Network. But I don’t have a dog in that fight (pun intended?).

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        • I’m from North Carolina originally, but I like all kinds of barbeque. Sauce is where I have problems. I hate mustardy barbeque sauce. In fact, if the barbeque is good and moist and flavorful enough, I’ll often not even use sauce, so having sauce slathered all over something is a no-no for me.

          Chili should never have beans, whether it’s on hot dogs (especially not) or in a bowl. Real, authentic chili has no beans. In fact, many chili cook-offs around the country don’t allow beans in the entries.

          It bothers me when people refer to a cookout as a “barbeque”. If you’re grilling burgers and dogs, that ain’t barbeque!

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  3. I am a picky eater, and like only simple toppings on my dogs. Cheese is never an option for me on a hot dog. I eat hot dogs one of two way: with mustard, ketchup, and onions, or with chili and onions. I’m from the South, so ketchup is acceptable. I can do without it and just get mustard and onions too.

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  4. My daughter is a ketchup aficionado. No other condiments. And she hates cheese. She will take vegetable toppings on burgers or dogs, such as tomatoes and lettuce – cucumbers yes, pickles no – with just the right amount of chopped onion. (I’m always amazed when ordering for her, if the order actually turns out right).
    Son eats no condiments whatsoever. Just the meat, cheese and bread. Not inspired, true, but it’s real easy to make a lunch for him.
    Now talking BBQ cooking methods… it’s taken me an embarrassing number of decades to get the cooking technique down, and I’m not even up to the actual saucing. Just the way to bring the meat to that delectable stage of pulled goodness with no off tastes, gristle or fat. Apparently the secret really is in the cooking time. Low temps. After 3 hours, depending on the cut of meat you might have something edible, but don’t bank on it. After 5 hours the magic starts to happen where the collagen breaks down and the flavors start to transform. Longer than that? I’ve had the most stubborn cuts of tough round turn into delectable pulled meat at around the 7 hour stage. Once the magic happens, it’s up to you whether it becomes BBQ…. tacos or nachos… sandwiches… or in a rice dish.

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