March 6, 2012

Battle of the Philly Hot Dogs: Underdogs vs. Hot Diggity

First post below. Update 8/27/12: We went back to Underdogs recently to try their sausage sandwiches as a late night snack. Despite underwhelming us with hot dogs the first time, the sausages were pretty darn good. Kristy loved The Chihuahua, with soft, smokey chorizo grilled just right and topped with sauteed onions, chipotle mayo and crumbled queso blanco. The onions were not overpowering and the well-planned mayo/queso combo coated every bite, just like you'd expect from a good cheesesteak. Bradd would recommend The 9th Streeter with spicy italian sausage, sauteed peppers and onions. We both agreed that the fries were just as great as on our first trip.

The 9th Streeter
The Chihuahua


Could an artisanal hot dog war be heating up in Philly?

Philly Eater presented this idea in a recent post after the opening of Underdogs at 17th and Sansom St. In the opposite corner is Hot Diggity, which opened at 6th and South St. last June.

Both are jumping on the new, gourmet hot dog trend that is riding the coattails of fancy burgers and pizza. As "haute dog" joints, they focus on fresh, quality dogs with chef-inspired toppings.

You can count us on Team Hot Diggity if we have to declare allegiances in this match up.

A quick look at the tale of the tape (dog and bun) showcases the main differences in preparation. Hot Diggity grills their long, thin Sabrett dogs, while Underdogs serves a thicker, boiled Dietz & Watson. The grilled Sabrett packed the flavor of a traditional NYC-style dog without overwhelming the other ingredients, and was just crispy enough to make you long for summertime barbecues. Meanwhile, the plump Dietz & Watson was served to us lukewarm and seemed more processed. Ballpark-style, in truth.

When it comes to the bun, Hot Diggity uses toasted rolls from Liscio’s while Underdogs goes for untoasted from Cacia's. Again, we appreciated the warm, toasted bread at Hot Diggity much more. Both of these style elements are really based on preference, so perhaps yours is different, but they are important details to know before you go to either joint.

Menu posters at Hot Diggity
Being a gourmet hot dog joint, each place has an array of creatively-named options such as The Windy City, Philly Surf & Turf, The Coney Classic and The Georgia Bulldog. Check out their menus for more.

In our dog duel we had the Texas Hold-Em and Seattle Grunge from Hot Diggity, and the Pero Caliente, California Dreamin and Penn Deutch from Underdogs.

Hot Diggity easily won this face off, with ingredients and presentation leading the way. Just look at the pics below. Each Hot Diggity dog was packed with fresh ingredients and looked the part of a chef-created dog.

The Texas Hold 'Em is a bacon-wrapped dog with melted cheddar, barbecue sauce and hot sauce. I wish it had more hot sauce, but it was otherwise perfect. The Seattle Grunge is buried in garlic cream cheese, red onions and chopped tomatoes. We both enjoyed the garlicky coolness of the cream cheese on the dog. I would have preferred chopped over stringy onions, though.

Seattle Grunge at Hot Diggity
Texas Hold 'Em at Hot Diggity

The three dogs we split at Underdogs were seriously underwhelming. While the names aimed to match Hot Diggity’s, the execution did not. We felt all three dogs were missing the fresh bite-me-now appeal of Hot Diggity and none had enough ingredients. We actually didn't finish any of them.

Of the three, the Pero Caliente with pico de gallo, chocolate cayenne mole, jalapenos and sour cream was the best, but could have used double the mole sauce. The house-made pepper hash on the Penn Deutch was dry and didn’t have much flavor. We’ll let the photo of the Californian Dreamin, with avocado, tomato and lemon mustard vinaigrette, do the talking.

Pero Caliente at Underdogs
Penn Deutch at Underdogs
California Dreamin at Underdogs

Where Underdogs and Hot Diggity tie is with the fries. Each place offers fresh cut fries with an array of specialty dipping sauces for 25 cents each. Think pineapple salsa, garlic aioli, thai peanut, sriracha ketchup, etc. On taste, both places were great, though it was a little more fun how Hot Diggity’s fries are served in a cone that slides into a hole in each high top table.

Underdogs Fries
Hot Diggity Fries

It’s those little details that also make the hipstery, South St. vibe at Hot Diggity standout. Easy-to-see cartoon posters of each dog are another example of the inviting decor. At Underdogs, you have to sort of awkwardly look over people while they're eating in order to review the wall menu.

Two things Underdogs does have over Hot Diggity is lower prices and locally-made sausages of all varieties - chicken, lamb, merguez, chorizo, kielbasa, you name it. We did not try any on our visit, but would be willing to go back for them after hearing positive reviews from foodie friends. For this review, we stuck with the traditional dogs. Underdogs also sells their dogs for $3.25 - $3.75. Hot Diggity charges $5.00 - $6.00 per dog. More expensive but better product, we think.

This war seems to more like David vs Goliath at this point. But, hey a true turf war like "Pat’s or Geno’s?" has to have its ardent supporters. Anyone taking Underdogs??? Apparently Moe's Hot Dog House at Washington Ave and Gray's Ferry is supposed to be good, too - anyone like them best?

In the end, we are all for any friendly food competition that stirs conversation and brings us food hunters out to try new things.

Hot Diggity! on Urbanspoon Underdogs on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

Actually Hot Diggity opened last June

Anonymous said...

Must try Moes! Deep fried dog topped with mozzarella sticks and bacon for under $4 and not hipster nonsense.

Anonymous said...

Hot Diggity also has veggie dogs which I don't think Underdogs does.

A and J said...

I love that we essentially have back to back posts on this! You make quite a compelling case for Hot Diggity-- but I think all your dogs from Underdogs at least LOOK good :)

Taylor said...

Moe's is great. They do more traditional hot dog toppings, although, they do have a mac and cheese topped dog!

Kristy @22ndandPhilly said...

the mac n' cheese dog on Moe's menu is what caught my eye. Is is GOOD mac? it's on the short term to-do list.

Anonymous said...

Underdogs does have a great veggie dog as well as fresh Gluten-free rolls.