The Great Chili Dog Taste Test

jesstifer went the chili dog distance, and carefully compared the three claimants to the Los Angeles chili dog throne: the two classics, Pink's and Carney's, and a new hot-blooded competitor, Coney Dog.

Coney Dog's bun is steamed and soft, not squishy. The sausage is casing-on, and a tasty blend of beef and pork. As for snap, Coney Dog's is considerable, says jesstifer. "The dog itself is not-unpleasantly chewy; one fears there might be a structural integrity issue, but there is not. It is possible to get through one without getting mustard and chili stains on your shirt." And the chili is "rich, savory, just the right thickness to provide creaminess without falling off the dog." There is an organ meat note to it, a very particular savoriness that you will either love or hate. Coney Dog claims that beef heart is the traditional secret ingredient to this sort of chili.

Meanwhile, the frankfurter at Pink's is all-beef, with a casing, with a bun that's fractionally more firm than Coney Dog's. "The chili dog ($3.45) is also fractionally more toothsome (a word that I use, incorrectly, as a synonym for 'chewy'; I'm a novelist so I'm allowed): getting through the bottom casing without pulling out the dog or some chili is somewhat more of a challenge," says jesstifer. The dog is delicious, and "the chili is definitive, perfectly creamy, perfectly spicy, perfectly salty."

Carney's is the reasonable alternative to Pink's, with less of a line. "The guy behind the counter is invariably efficient, slightly gruff, but then personable and funny," says jesstifer. The bun is exactly the consistency of Coney Dog's: "steamed soft, but with reliable integrity. ... But the all-beef dog's snap is just right, popping juicily but not interfering with the bite; it is plump, slightly charred at the very tip, and delicious." The chili is a lot like Pink's. "This dog sings four-part harmony; bun, chili, mustard and onions are a perfectly composed quartet; the whole merges gracefully into a sum greater than its parts, and its parts are damn good."

Final conclusion: While they're all great, for a simple chili dog, Carney's comes out on top.

Pink's [Mid-City]
709 N. La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles
323-931-4223

Carney's [San Fernando Valley - East]
12601 Ventura Boulevard, Studio City
818-761-8300

Coney Dog [West Hollywood]
8873 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood
310-854-1172

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