Under the Radar: Some of Houston’s Best Hot Dogs Are from a Parking Lot

Hot dogs at Yoyo's Hotdog in Houston

Imagine that it’s a Friday evening in Rice Village, and you’re standing outside watching the sunset as the sky transforms into vibrant colors of blue, orange, and pink. The air is warm and dewy with Houston’s unwavering humidity. The hum of cicadas rings out, rudely interrupted by the thumping of techno playing from a nearby speaker. Your feet shift back and forth on the firm concrete beneath you as you stand in line with mostly college students. Some are dressed up for a night out; others are dressed down and on a study break. As you shuffle along, a car pulls up and the driver rolls down the window, asking some of the people why on earth anyone would subject themselves to this. “Hot dogs!”, they shout back. The driver lets out an exasperated “For real??,” shakes his head, and rolls away.

Yes, you’re in line for a hot dog. Houston isn’t the kind of city that takes this sort of thing lightly. When we live in a town full of stellar dining options that don’t require much of a wait — much less outdoors in the heat — delaying our hunger in the face of Houston’s oppressive weather isn’t something we readily accept. Yet, every Thursday through Saturday night, Yoyo’s Hotdog, a cart at 2504 Amherst, inspires people to wait in a line that stretches around the block. The clientele ranges from hungry 20-somethings seeking a post-drinking snack to families patiently waiting for a cheap and satisfying meal to go. Even when I’ve arrived before “Yoyo” (real name Danny Kim) sets up his speaker to blast out the techno music, the line is often already 20 people deep.

Danny Kim of Yoyo’s Hotdog. Courtesy photo.

Creating a Yoyo’s hot dog is something of an engineering feat. The buns are toasted and slathered with a layer of warm cream cheese. The 100% beef franks are split and then griddled, nestled into each bun to create a valley that neatly holds the toppings. The grilled caramelized onions come next, cooked until they are richly browned and soft enough to bite through without being stringy. Another layer of crunchy fried onions is piled generously on top so that they won’t get soggy from the other sauces and toppings. 

When you take a bite, the bun is soft, and the frank is juicy, yet still has a snap to it. The combination of curry ketchup, spicy mustard, pepper, honey mayo, and a hit of Sriracha blends with the cream cheese on the bun to make a perfect mix of sweet, spicy, tangy, and savory. As each bite provides the perfect bun-to-frank-to-topping ratio, you’ll start to understand why this was a hot dog that took a decade to nail down. You’ll also wish you hadn’t ordered just one hot dog after spending all that time in line.

Those looking to get one of Yoyo’s hot dogs without the outdoor wait will have to wait a bit longer (patience seems to be a theme here), as their new brick and mortar location on Washington Avenue is currently closed for renovations according to an Instagram post. In the meantime, you’ll just have to brave the lines. We promise it’s worth it.

Yoyo’s Hotdog is open Thursdays from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 8 p.m. to 3:30 a.m.

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