The American South is not hot dog country. That isn't to say that nobody eats them, but there is no iconic Dixieland version of the tubular favorite (and no, West Virginia doesn't count, so slaw dogs are out.) New York is almost as synonymous with wieners as baseball; doubly so when you consider the influence Coney Island had on hot doggery. Then of course you've got the Chicago dog up in the Windy City. I've even read whole essays on chili dogs in New Jersey incomprehensibly called "Texas Wieners." Yet, the South never seems to have gotten entirely on board with cheap sausage sandwiches (unless you're talking about a sausage patty on a biscuit.)
Growing up in Savannah, we never went anywhere specifically to eat a hot dog. I don't know where, if anywhere, we could have gone. We had them at home from time to time, usually chopped up and cooked into Kraft Mac and Cheese. They of course made appearances at cookouts, but always playing second fiddle to burgers. I loved eating store-bought corndogs, toasted up and dipped in a mixture of mayo, ketchup, and mustard, during the summer when we would stay with my Grandma. That's about it.
I got my hot dog education abroad in places like Chicago, and even in Chile where hot dogs are ubiquitous. Called "completos," they were at their best dressed "Italiano" with equal stripes of chopped tomato, mayonnaise, and smashed avocado (like the Italian flag, cachai?) In Atlanta, if I had the craving, I could always pop into a QT and get a "country sausage" dog for a buck and slather it with every available topping because they were all free.
However, when we moved back to Savannah last summer, and I suddenly really, really wanted some dogs, I had no idea what to do. Thus, I did as I often do and turned to the internet. That's how we initially discovered the unparalleled excellence of Sly's Sliders and Fries. Had I not been specifcically searching for hot dogs, I might never have though to check out Sly's. It is nestled in an unassuming store front on Abercorn, sort of in no man's land gastromically speaking.
The restaurant was ranked very highly on Yelp and the like, and lots of reviews mentioned their tasty mini hot dog options. With little else going on in the city, hot dog-wise, we decided to check it out. After one feed, it topped our list of eateries in town. That was a year ago, and we have been back many times since. I would still place it in the top five of best places to grub in Savannah for its deliciousness, consistency, and value. They of course have sliders and fries, but also a whole host of slider-sized hot dogs that run the gamut of the classics, and throw a few twists at you as well.
They have a mini version of the king of hot dogs, the Chicago dog, and also other regional favorites like a Coney island dog, a NYC style dog, and a killer chili and slaw dog. Then there are the "Mexican" and "Cuban" variations. My wife's favorite is the high-brow "Les Pantalons de Fancie" that is topped with caramelized shallots, blue cheese, and Dijon. I, on the other hand, love the "Mustard Tiger." It's pretty basic: hot dog, fried egg, American cheese, and a mustard and tiger sauce mix. It looks and sounds like something a drunk, cash-strapped college student might throw together, but it is so much more. The egg is always perfectly over-medium so that the yolk oozes as you eat, and the Dijon-tiger sauce is a tangy, piquant mystery. Despite attempting research on the subject, I have no idea what "tiger sauce" is. It exists on Sly's menu, and also as a chicken wing flavor at Coach's Corner. They are both different, but equally delicious. Every dog is only three bucks.
I've been focusing on hot dogs, but the place is called Sly's Sliders and Fries for a reason. The sliders are all excellent, with the possible exception of the "Shroomwich" because I don't like mushrooms and I refuse to try it. The "Boardwalk" is the burger option, and if it wasn't a slider it would have to be crowned best burger in Savannah. It's really that good. A simple patty with cheese, ketchup, mustard, bacon, and pickles. It's a Ron Swanson-esque picture of simplicity and beauty. All of the other sliders are fun, small versions of something else: a jerk chicken sandwich, pulled pork, a shrimp bahn mi, falafel, even a Reuben. My wife's favorite is the "Soprano" which is a giant, juicy meatball smothered in marinera and mozzarella, nestled precariously on the same, light and toasty bun as the other sliders. They are fifty cents more than the dogs, but worth every cent.
If all that wasn't enough, they offer a big basket of fries for only two dollars. You can jazz them up in different ways for an up-charge and in theory could create a delicious pile of chili cheese fries topped with bacon and jalapenos. Our go-to is a slathering of the powerful garlic sauce, and sometimes a sprinkle of fresh jalapenos if we're feeling spicy. One basket is more than enough for two people when paired with the sliders and dogs.
With inexpensive options and a good bit of variety, you can mix and match any kind of feast you want for about twenty bucks. We have settled into a three slider/dog combo per person and a shared basket of fries. I'm on a diet so last time I just went with my superstars, the Boardwalk and the Mustard Tiger (and bites of all of my wife's sandwiches, of course.)
I hear tell of other dog purveyors popping up downtown, and I will be sure to follow up on the intel I've received, Nevertheless, Sly's will remain king of the hot dogs in our hearts and our bellies.