Happy 4th of July!!!! Although it's the 5th. Darn. Eh, I'm a little late. Deal with it.
I've been spending the last few weeks pondering the most patriotic of all foods: the hot dog. Although it may be German in origin, it is all-american, like the inverse of David Hasselhoff. I noticed that Off The Broiler hosted a supermarket hot dog tasting with very impressive scientific dedication. I wasn't as interested in finding the absolute best hot dog out there. I was more interested in exploring the many varied frankfurter options that New York had to offer. Thus began my quest.
First Stop- Gray’s Papaya! When I first thought about writing about Gray's Papaya on this blog, I thought of going all out. I was all set to write a parody of Gray's Anatomy with characters like the restaurant owner, Merde Gray, and her boyfriend, McGreasy. They were going to have the most boring adventures and be the most hateable characters, just like the TV show. Then I bit into one of their hot dogs, and I realized they just weren't worth the effort.
Gray's uses Sabrett's dogs and buns, and while they are very good franks with a wonderful *snap*, I still felt like dying a half hour later. I felt like the grease was forming a pool in my belly button. I think this may be because of the onions I dared to have as a condiment. I do have to give props to the fact that you can get two dogs and a drink for under four bucks, but honestly, one dog was enough for me.
I began to have serious doubts about this hot dog round-up. So much so, that I recruited Q to actually review a few dogs of his own. There's just way too much out there for one girl to cover on her own. It's hard out there for a Krys.
New York Hot Dog Company
Q here. Hearing of fancy hot-doggery in my work hood, I proceeded to the New York Hot Dog Company for lunch. The place has been described as an upscale hot dog stand, but in 10 years, after losing its newfangled luster, I highly doubt that this will look a far cry from neighboring mainstay Mike's Papaya, with whom they appear to be competing by the look of their relatively pedestrian, low-cost menu. A reasonable student deal clocks in at a single buck, but my focus was on, em, "classier" fare, I went for the more unusual items on the list: a dog in a knish, and a Kobe beef dog.
Now I know the place just opened, and any newbie should be given the benefit of the doubt until they work out the inevitable kinks, but... To start with, my dog with onions and sauerkraut on a knish came on a bun. No big - I asked for the simple correction, received the order and tucked in. Problem #2 - this time no sauerkraut. Ok, no big deal, though omitting the kraut is a serious sin in my book.
The knish and dog were pretty unremarkable, but combined for some seriously solid fare that saves the trouble of eating a potatoey side actually on the side. Wish it was on a Yonah Schimmel though. Despite the warm weather and heavy dish, I decided I shouldn't head out without getting a Kobe dog, which I haven't seen on too many menus. This time the ordering itself was a minor hassle, as I had to thrice correct the cashier that I wanted blue cheese, not cheddar. Luckily I was watching the (different than last) cook during this back and forth, or I would have wound up with a plain ol' beef dog (valued at $1.50) for the $6 I shelled for the Kobe he failed insert into the bun. Correction made, I returned to the counter and bit in.
I was immediately squirted in the face with hot juice from my hearty tube steak (...hehe). Overall, nicely cooked, and with an ideally crisp crunch to the casing, but I'm not sure my frankfurter palette is refined enough to justify the $4.50 price difference for what I can only define as "slightly meatier" than a standard all-beef.
Overall, it's not a big enough step up from the Papayas of the city to keep me interested, and the service, if they don't work it out, will be its demise.
I have many a time approached Crif Dogs' inviting "Eat Me" sign and loped down its steps sober, and can attest that even the uninebriated tongue appreciates the deep-fried, bacon-wrapped tube-o-goodness found within. However, the likelihood of pausing to think about just what I'm shoving down my gullet is much higher without the senses dulled, so this reviewing trip was dutifully performed under the influence after a stop at Crif's next door speakeasy, PDT (Please Don't Tell). This is not a PDT review, so I'll scarcely address the incongruous cocktail bar, entered via telephone booth, save to note its negative effect on its next door eatery. But first on to the dog.
As it was nearing morning, it seemed apropos to order up the Good Morning, the aforementioned artery-bomb, wrapped in a fried egg and an unnaturally orange slice of American cheese.
This is a breakfast sandwich with a death wish, and while I can't quite taste the dog itself for all the sodium, the cumulative effect is a salty, satisfying delight. From impoverished college memory, this sucker is filling, though it will set you back $4.25, leaving little in your work-study cash strapped wallet for glorious accompaniments like cheese-covered tater tots and teeth destroying RC Cola.
Crif Dogs, lying near the nexus of St. Marks and Ave. A, is pretty much a natural pub-crawl stopover, and as a result of the varied establishments around, its always drawn quite a range of crowds, but the addition of PDT, on this night, seems to have brought on an onslaught of monied Wall Streeter dudes and dolled up clutch-toting lasses, which kinda detracts from the stoner-chic shabbiness of the place. Being new,the attached bar is so popular that Crif itself now comes off as the sideshow, not the main event. Also, it looks as if the addition has resulted in the disappearance of the dog-counter's beer taps and a few seats. But amid all this unwelcome change, this deathly menu will always have a place on the itinerary of any East Village crawl.
Okee, Krys here. Stop #4 was Willie’s Dawgs, a relative newcomer to the speciality hot dog world, located in Park Slope. This was a little out of my way, and I almost ended up skipping this stop, but boy am I glad I didn’t. This was the biggest surprise on my weiner quest (heh heh heh).
The store itself is rather unassuming. I didn’t notice a large sign overhead, but the open doors and the delicious smell of summer clued me in. I decided upon a “Carlos,” or a beef dog with cheddar, salsa, and jalapeno peppers, on a fresh-baked challah roll.
The frank was more substantial than most and rather delicious, and I later found that it was a Karl Ehmer frank with natural casing. I am a little concerned about the fact that googling “Karl Ehmer” brings up a few links to e-coli articles, but hell, it was one of the best franks I’ve had in New York. The fresh-baked challah roll was tender, buttery, and delicious. Soooo much better than the fresh-baked rolls at ye olde Subway shoppe. I thought the roll held up very well to the strong flavors of the cheese and the jalapenos, and I imagine that the salsa would make a weaker bun too soggy. That may fly with hot dog eating competitions, but I prefer my bun to be in a solid state, not a liquid.
They also score points for being one of the few hot dog joints offering outdoor seating and dessert. Their peanut butter pie looked damn good, but if you have room after eating hot dogs, yous gots problems.
F&B Gudt-food was the last stop on my carnivorous journey.
After spending a bit of time studying their menu (complete with pictures! You don’t even have to read to enjoy tubular meat), I settled on the “Farm Dog,” a chicken dog with pickled corn relish.
The dog didn’t have that refreshing *snap* that I’ve so come to love. In fact, it was a little chewy. I’m not sure if that was a result of having poultry origins, or maybe from the method of cooking. In either case, the dog was a little bland, but the corn relish was a great addition. The frites were crisp and delicious and definitely the star of the meal, which is never a good sign. They offered other tasty side dishes such as sweet potato fries and fried green beans, and like any good Belgian frite place, they offered a small variety of dips for the frites. Yum.
After all these wieners, we figured ourselves in fighting shape for the Nathan's Hot Dog Contest.
Having eaten all the above over the course of weeks, however, we didn't quite qualify, so we instead watched from half a block away as 17 men and women exercised our god given right as Americans to consume all that lies before us. Standing next to a group of vegetarian protesters, we cheered on upstart Joey Chestnut as he proceeded to topple his own world record and unseat six time champ, Takeru Kobayashi, the Michael Jordan of mastication, in a close-to-call match. In the end, the final score came down to 66 to 63, and we watched with patriotic tears in our eyes as the Mustard Belt finally came back to the USA.
Its like the Miracle on Ice. Someday, it will be immortalized in a movie, and Kurt Russell will play Joey's coach. Anyhow, after witnessing the consumption of 576.5 franks consumed in 12 minutes (that's 48 per minute) right before our very eyes, we declined to review Nathan's itself as planned.
And with that, I'm going to the gym. Goodnight.