The humble hot dog can be enjoyed in and around Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton at dozens of locally-owned establishments, some of which have been slinging superior dogs for decades.
Philadelphia has cheesesteaks, Pittsburgh has french fries on sandwiches, and the Lehigh Valley has…hot dogs?
That’s right, the humble hot dog can be enjoyed in and around Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton at dozens of locally-owned establishments all touting some variation of “Best dog in The Lehigh Valley.”
Hot dogs are a cultural import from Germany, as “frankfurter” refers to the German city of Frankfurt. They became especially popular in the US when hot dog stands popped up to serve franks to hungry workers, and by the early 20th century hot dogs were associated with ball games, summer days, and thus, Americana.
Sure, hot dogs are important to US cuisine as a whole, but they’re central to the culinary history of the Lehigh Valley, too. And in the region, no one makes a hot dog quite like these places.
Yocco’s Hot Dogs – Allentown, Trexlertown, Emmaus
This historic hot dog shop, more than a century old, has been satisfying the Lehigh Valley’s hunger for hot dogs for as long as anyone can remember. The shop was opened in 1922 by an Italian immigrant, Theodore Iacocca, who had a name few community members could pronounce. It wasn’t long before the eatery became known as Yocco’s Hot Dogs, as “Yocco’s” was how customers pronounced “Iacocca’s.” Today, the shop is still in the family, managed by the third generation, with prices not quite as low as they were 100 years ago but still pretty inexpensive, with dogs starting at $1.99. And the legendary hot dogs are still served with the “secret” chili sauce concocted by Theodore in the 1920s. Yocco’s has six locations around the Valley.
Potts’ Hot Dogs – Bethlehem, Allentown, Emmaus, and more
This Lehigh Valley hot dog staple, established in Bethlehem, has been serving the area with its classic frankfurters for more than 50 years. The menu at Potts’ Hot Dogs, which has many locations, is small but mighty. Here, you can build your own dog with the usual toppings like mustard, onions, chili, sauerkraut, pickles, and cheese. Bonus: At some locations, Potts’ sautés up pierogies for you to munch on the side — or you can add them to the top of your hot dog. We don’t judge.
Downtown Dawgs – Easton
Downtown Dawgs can be found in the charming historic district of Easton, surrounded by downtown shops and galleries. But importantly, it’s home to some of the best hot dogs in Easton. The shop may be named after their signature dawgs, but you can also find a bevy of other comfort food options like burgers, fries, cheesesteaks, and more. As for the hot dogs, you can order them with the usual suspects like chili, cheese, and pickles, as well as a number of sauces, on top.
Jimmy’s Hot Dogs – Palmer Township
This Lehigh Valley staple originally began as a cart owned by Jimmy Makrus on the streets of Easton in 1908. Today, Jimmy’s Hot Dogs is located in Palmer Township, and is the definition of “no frills.” No other menu items are served at Jimmy’s except for the exquisite, crispy hot dog, the brand and seasoning of which is kept under wraps. Order a dog with everything on it, which means mustard, onions, and a crunchy pickle spear.
Rod’s Dogs – Easton
Rod’s Dogs is a hot dog stand located in the community institution that is the Easton Public Market. Unlike many Lehigh Valley hot dog eateries, Rod’s also serves a vegan version. The menu also includes burgers, fries, pierogies, and even dessert, meaning you can wash down your hot dog with a milkshake or ice cream soda.
Van Pelt Hot Dog Company – various locations
Van Pelt Hot Dog Company won’t be found in any one spot, as it’s a food truck frequenting different community events, breweries, and festivals. And OK, it’s not technically a Lehigh Valley truck. Van Pelt is a food truck that travels across the Greater Philly area, but regularly heads north to Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton, and elsewhere. Van Pelt describes their hot dogs as “artisanal” and “handcrafted,” and their hot dog menu changes regularly. They recently offered a “Philly, Philly Dog” which is topped with chipped steak, caramelized onions, and homemade “whiz.” More classic dogs are also available, as is a veggie dog and gluten free rolls. Check their Facebook page for updates on the menu and to see where Van Pelt is headed next.
MadDogs HotDogs & Sugar Shack – Macungie
While MadDogs Hot Dogs & Sugar Shack clearly serves up hot dogs and sweet treats based on its name, you can find so much more at this Macungie restaurant, like burgers, potato salad, onion rings, and other greasy meals and snacks. But particularly of note is the hot dog toppings. At MadDogs, the topping selection is both wide and wild. More than a dozen flavor combinations make up the regular menu, with options like the “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” which is a dog topped with scrambled eggs, potatoes, bacon, and cheese. Any of these dogs can also be made with a veggie dog. If you’d rather build your own hot dog, some of the more interesting toppings include — get ready — baked beans, chili sauce, coleslaw, avocado, pineapple, jelly, cream cheese, and peanut butter. Or, of course, you can simply choose mustard and onions.