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Susan Axelrod

Susan Axelrod's food writing career began in the kitchen; she owned a restaurant and catering business for 15 years before turning to journalism. By day, she is the social media editor for Portland Press Herald. To relax, she bakes, gardens and hikes with her husband and their two dogs, preferably followed by a cocktail or a Maine beer. Susan can be contacted at 791-6310 or saxelrod@mainetoday.com On Twitter: @susansaxelrod

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Posted: September 17, 2015

Dining Guide: 5 places for great hot dogs in and around Portland

Whether you prefer them plain or gussied up with inventive toppings, you’ll find top dogs at these Portland-area establishments.

Written by: Susan Axelrod

For full listings and more restaurants, see our searchable Restaurant & Bar Guide.

The Thirsty Pig

Apple chicken sausage with cheese at The Thirsty Pig. Press Herald file photo

Apple chicken sausage with cheese at The Thirsty Pig. Press Herald file photo

37 Exchange St., Portland | 207-773-2469 | thethirstypigportland.com | $$
The Thirsty Pig’s tagline is “hand-crafted links & drinks,” and that’s all there is to it at this iconoclastic, friendly Old Port pub. The links include sausages made in-house and locally sourced, all-beef hot dogs with a host of topping possibilities. Try The New Englander — topped with bacon, baked beans and coleslaw — the chili cheese bomb or the reuben dog.  The drinks: a rotating line-up of 10-plus beers on tap — with a focus on local — plus an impressive bottled beer selection and a small wine list.

Blue Rooster Food Co.

A bacon-wrapped dog at Blue Rooster. Press Herald file photo

A bacon-wrapped dog at Blue Rooster. Press Herald file photo

5 Dana St., Portland | 207-747-4157 | blueroosterfoodco.com | $
A sandwich shop on steroids, Blue Rooster offers locally sourced, creative takes on the classics, souped up hotdogs, tater-tbot poutine, and highly addictive deep-fried Brussels sprouts. Everything is crazy good, thanks to the deft hands of owner Damian Sansonetti, who was the executive chef at Bar Boulud in New York City before decamping to Maine. Dogs to try include the Seoul: house-made kimchee, garlic mayo and crushed peanuts, or if you’re really hungry, the Growly: deep fried bacon-wrapped dog with cheese curds, gravy, “boss sauce” and pickled jalapenos.

Chicago Dogs of Maine

The specialty of the house at Chicago Dogs. Press Herald file photo

The specialty of the house at Chicago Dogs. Press Herald file photo

285 Route 1, Scarborough | 207-510-6363 | chicagodogsofmaine.com | $$
Hot dogs aren’t the only thing on the menu at this sports-themed eatery, but they’re why you should go. There are 14 variations on the menu, all served on poppy-seed rolls in true Chicago style. The signature dog, named for the Windy City, is topped with tomatoes, pickles, onions, mustard, bright green relish, celery salt and hot peppers. Other specialties include the Dixie Dog, with cole slaw and “BBQ pixie dust,” and the Fiesta Dog with pepper-jack cheese, salsa, jalaphenos and fiesta chips.

Vivian’s Drive-In

A Maine red snapper is dressed at Vivian's Drive-In. Press Herald file photo

A Maine red snapper is dressed at Vivian’s Drive-In. Press Herald file photo

948 Forest Ave., Portland | 207-797-7077 | No website | $
What you see is what you get at Vivian’s, the antithesis of Portland’s hip food scene. There’s nothing gourmet or artisanal about the place, but that’s what fans love about it, so be prepared to go with the flow. Seating is minimal, but if you don’t want to take it with you, you can munch your plain, chili or sauerkraut dog standing at the counter. And those dogs? They’re the beloved New England red snappers — bright red with a casing that gives a slight crunch when you bite into them.

Mark’s Hotdogs

Gordon Chibroski, Staff Photographer. Wednesday, June 05, 2013. Mark Gatti, owner of the hot cart at the corner of Exchange and Middle St, has been in business for about 30 years.

Gordon Chibroski, Staff Photographer. Wednesday, June 05, 2013. Mark Gatti, owner of the hot cart at the corner of Exchange and Middle St, has been in business for about 30 years.ineTo

Middle Street at Tommy’s Park, Portland | 207-232-4620 | facebook.com/Marks-Hotdogs | $
Not a restaurant, but such a Portland institution it would be almost criminal not to include Mark Gatti’s 32-year-old hot dog empire. From his familiar red cart, Gatti serves natural-casing steamed hotdogs and Italian sausages — with traditional toppings and a few signature twists. The Old Porker features sour cream, bacon and sauteed onions, but you can get old-school sauerkraut and mustard too. Every dog comes with a side of Gatti’s bubbly personality.

Key to prices

The approximate cost of two breakfast entrees (not including drinks, tax and gratuity).
$ – $15 and under
$$ – $16 to $25
$$$ – $26 to $45
$$$$ – $46 and up

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