A Pat's hot dog with fishcake

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Next time you step up to the counter at Pat’s King of Steaks for a wiz wit, consider a worthy alternative to the famous cheesesteak — and know that given a choice, third-gen Pat’s owner Frankie Olivieri would choose it over his shop’s namesake sandwich.

A hot dog. Yes, Pat’s sells hot dogs.

The specific menu item that has the lock on Olivieri’s heart (and potentially, his heart attack…) is what’s listed as a “Large Hot Dog.” Three deep-fried Hebrew National all-beef franks are tucked inside a standard Aversa hoagie roll, then — if you ask for it — topped with the regular “wit” helping of greasy-salty soft onions and a ladleful of orange Cheez Whiz.

“Put a cheesesteak and that side by side,” said Olivieri at a frankfurter tasting session Monday afternoon, “and I’ll choose the hot dogs, every time.”

Pat’s owner Frankie Olivieri is a big hot dog fan Credit: Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

Sacrilege as it may seem, the man has a point.

Nearly everyone in attendance Monday agreed that the “hot dog wiz wit” beat out the cheesesteak wiz wit on flavor and general enjoyment. “It’s also easier to eat while walking around,” observed one of the tasters. “Less messy.”

Pat’s has sold hot dogs throughout its entire 87-year history. Which makes sense, because it was working the grill at his hot dog stand in 1930 that founder Pat Olivieri (Frankie’s great-uncle) first came up with the frizzled beef sandwich he’d eventually build a world-famous destination around. Cheesesteaks became the 9th and Passyunk shop’s concentration, but the franks never left the menu.

“I used to come in and get them growing up,” Olivieri said. “I’d slip them into the pile of onions so they’d steam up hot.” Nowadays they’re deep-fried to order, he explained, because it gives the exterior an appealing snap.

A ‘Large Hot Dog’ wiz wit, a regular dog with relish and mustard and a fishcake ‘surf and turf’ with onions Credit: Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

Pat’s serves single dogs in a Martin’s Potato Roll for $3.50. As frankfurters go, they’re good, especially when topped with sharp dill relish and Gulden’s yellow mustard from the table next to the order window.

They’re even better with a fishcake tucked into the roll ($7). Made with potato-cod patties from an outfit up in North Jersey, these dogs form a classic Philly pairing known as a “poor man’s surf and turf.” (It’s thought to have originated at Levis Hot Dogs, which operated at Sixth and South from 1895 to 1992.)

Kids are the biggest audience for the hot dogs, Olivieri said, as well as he and his staff, who often turn to them as snacks.

The shop sells more dogs than you’d might expect, going through between 350 to 400 in an average week. But quantity-wise, they have nothing on the signature sandwich.

On a busy Saturday, Pat’s can sell upwards of 6,000 cheesesteaks, outnumbering hot dogs more than 100 to one.

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Danya Henninger

Danya Henninger is director of Billy Penn at WHYY, where she oversees the team, all editorial decisions, and all revenue generation — including the...