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Last Updated on June 18, 2022
Ted’s Hot Dogs in Phoenix (well, technically Tempe) is the lone western outpost of a legendary Buffalo, New York hot dog empire. We’re big fans, so when we learned there was a Ted’s in Arizona we just had to give it a try. Could the classic Buffalo dog make the journey to the southwest?
Wait, what? Hot dogs in Buffalo? What about Phoenix?
(We’ll get to the hot dogs in Phoenix in a bit, bear with us. ) Most people think of chicken wings when they think of Buffalo. But the city on lake Erie may also be the hot dog capital of America. One of the things that makes Buffalo hot dogs special is that they are chargrilled over real hardwood charcoal to give them a crisp smoky taste. Imagine being able to get that awesome 4th-of-July-backyard-barbecue flavor whenever you want . . . sign us up! When we mention to Buffalonians how lucky they are to get chargrilled hot dogs all over town they just shrug their shoulders: that’s how they’ve always eaten their hot dogs.
A little context: the history of Buffalo hot dogs
One of the most popular spots for hot dogs in Buffalo is Ted’s Hot Dogs. Founded in 1927 by Greek immigrant Theodore Spiro Liaros, the restaurant was an upgrade from the cart he had used to sell his dogs. It wasn’t until 1948 that Ted’s opened their second location in the Buffalo area and have now expanded to nine locations in Western New York.
The menu is a simple one consisting of chargrilled hot dogs, burgers, chicken and sausage. Sides include french fries and onion rings with a range of sauces including Ted’s cheddar, chipotle ranch and creamy horseradish. If you have room for it, you can add a milkshake made with real ice cream, not a mix like other fast food joints. Although all the food is good, we really come for the chargrilled hot dogs.
Another thing we like about Buffalo hot dogs is that you can have it how you want it. We were once almost kicked out of a dog house in Chicago when we dared ask for ketchup (a big NO-NO on a Chicago dawg). Buffalonians have a more “live and let live attitude” with how you decorate your dog. Some people put the fries or onion rings directly on top, while others are more content with a squirt of ketchup and mustard with a bit of relish. You might try adding Ted’s signature Hot Sauce, which appears to be a sweet-spicy ketchup-based red relish mixed with a secret blend of spices
PRO TIP: If you like a nice crispy hot dog, (like us!) be sure to ask for it “well done”! (Just sayin’)
A bit of hot dog “science”
A few years ago we wrote about Buffalo hot dogs for USA Today 10Best. We learned one of the tricks is using only Sahlen’s hot dogs, lovingly made (natch) in Buffalo, NY. Sahlen’s hot dogs are a combination of pork and beef that are produced by the 5th generation of the Sahlen family. But wait . . . there’s more! It turns out it’s not just the brand that makes the difference.
Sahlen’s produces both natural casing and skinless hot dogs. According to company spokesperson Jeff Vance, hot dogs that are grilled over charcoal should have a natural casing, which is better for the high heat of an open flame grill. The natural casing hot dog will split as it cooks, heating up the interior while still providing a signature bubbly browned exterior, that many people, including us crave. Vance says, “Skinless franks are wasted on a charcoal grill – they don’t split and just turn black.” (On the other hand, Sonoran Hot Dogs in Tucson are cooked on a flat-top griddle; skinless is best in that case.)
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Hot dogs in Phoenix: Why did Ted’s open there?
With such a loyal fan base in Buffalo, how did this lone outpost of Ted’s Hot Dogs end up in the Phoenix area? Well, have you ever been to Buffalo in the winter? It’s freezing and the lake effect snow wafting off of frigid Lake Erie can build up tall enough to cover an NBA center (Seriously. Buffalo gets an average of 7 feet of snow per year.) It turns out many Buffalonian snowbirds make their way to Arizona for the winter and what they really miss is a taste of home. Which is why in the 80s Ted’s opened their Arizona location in Tempe.
(This is a similar story of how Chris Bianco, founder of the famous Pizzeria Bianco, came to Phoenix . . . only he came to escape the humidity (and cold) of New York City.)
Hot dogs in Phoenix: Does Ted’s measure up?
We’re happy to say that it does. We were nervous before we got there. Would they stick with their signature hardwood charcoal, or simplify the process, making hot dogs in Phoenix on a flat-top griddle? Nope. The signature aroma of burning charcoal that met us told us we were about to have the real thing.
Fortunately, Ted’s is not a one-trick pony; the side of onion rings along with a loganberry milk shake (another Buffalo local flavor) lived up to the quality of the hot dog. The food is also reasonably priced for what you are getting. It’s wonderful to see that a Buffalo New York legend has made the transition to Arizona. New generations will get to savor hot dogs in Phoenix as they were meant to be, grilled over hardwood charcoal with a smoky flavor redolent of backyard cookouts of my youth.
Native Buffalonians can savor a true taste of home in Phoenix. And that taste is char-grilled hot dogs, not chicken wings. Let’s face it, you can find wings anywhere.
How to find Ted’s Hot Dogs in Arizona
- Address: 1755 E. Broadway, Tempe, AZ 85282
- Hours: Monday- Saturday 10am -10pm, Sunday 10:30am- 10pm
- Phone: 480-968-6678
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