Relish the Hot Dog
New York may be the greatest food city in the world. Yet, no matter how many high-end steakhouses, sushi bars and tony trattorias move in, the Big Apple is still a hot dog town at heart. The love affair started in the mid-19th century, when German immigrants began proffering sausages on Bowery street corners. Now the official food of baseball games and summer cookouts, the hot dog has become a national obsession. Though street carts abound, enterprising chefs and entrepreneurs are also in on the hot dog game, selling everything from fancy Kobe beef franks to old reliable ballpark dogs with mustard and onions. Here’s where to sink your teeth into the city’s best frankfurters.
It’s not easy to make hot dogs from scratch, but Daniel Boulud’s Bowery bistro preps its all-beef wiener on the premises. It’s juicy and smoky, and has the perfect crisp snap when you bite in. The whole thing is topped with a combination of homemade classics — sauteed onions, mustard and ketchup — and a more creative mix of toppings. Frisee and radish add freshness and crunch. The 299 Relish is made from scratch with a zesty blend of fermented chiles, cabbage and assorted other vegetables, giving the dog a slightly sweet, subtly spicy and entirely savory flavor. Taking a cue from tradition, the whole thing is served in a ceramic boat complete with crinkled edges.
Taking cues from drinking establishments of yore, this place is warm and clubby, with intricate wood paneling, a long bar and two levels of leather seating. It’s elegant and casual at the same time, with a perfect menu of pub-inspired dishes. Chicken pot pie uses meat from the NoMad Restaurant’s famous roast birds, and a dry-aged burger is bolstered with bone marrow. The hot dog, though, is one of the classiest and most decadent tubes of meat to be found in Gotham. Blending New York, Chicago and sheerly gluttonous styles, the kosher beef dog is wrapped in bacon, then garnished in truffled aioli and celery root relish, with a blanket of melted Gruyère on top.
RELATED: Top 5 Burgers in America
The word “sustainable” doesn’t typically leap to mind when thinking about hot dogs, but this farm-to-table TriBeCa eatery is changing that. The casual restaurant was started by the owners of Grazin’ Angus Acres, who ensure that every ingredient is locally sourced. From the mustard to the mayonnaise to the meat for the burgers and hot dogs, everything on the menu is sourced from the farm or its Hudson Valley neighbors. The aim is to do right by the planet and the individual animals. All the beef is grass-fed, and every animal on the property (including cows, pigs and chickens) is pasture-raised in accordance with the highest humane standards in the industry. As for the hot dog, the mustard-topped pork wiener is tucked into an organic bun with optional sauerkraut from a biodynamic farm upstate.
It takes a lot to stand out in a city packed with hot dogs. But old-school storefront Gray’s Papaya may take top billing, not just in numerous best-of lists, but also in cameos in movies like You’ve Got Mail and classic NYC shows like Sex and the City and How I Met Your Mother. The selection here is simple: crisp, griddled Sabrett dogs on classic buns in traditional paper wrappers. For just $2.50, each one comes with sauerkraut and onions. Relish, chili and cheese can be added for an additional 10 cents each.
When Chef-Owner Joshua Sharkey opened Bark in 2009, he decided to overhaul industrial notions of fast food by choosing beef sourced from New York state with no added fillers, preservatives or other unwanted ingredients. For the hot dog (which inspired the name Bark), pork belly, pork shoulder and beef shoulder are spiced and stuffed into a lamb casing, then slow-smoked to hot dog heaven. Each is griddle-roasted to order, then basted with Bark butter, a blend of sweet cream butter, sea salt and smoked pork belly fat. Each wiener is served in a buttered split-top roll or gluten-free bun. Toppings range from lacto-fermented local sauerkraut and heirloom baked beans to Nueske’s bacon and Angus beef chili. All of the dogs are gluten-free, except the veggie, which is made from a killer blend of potato, apple, sage and grain.
New Jersey natives and lifelong ripper lovers Brian Shebairo and Chris Antista started slinging dogs in the back of a now-defunct speakeasy back in 1999. They opened their first standalone shop a few years later, and they’ve been setting the standard ever since: Their St. Marks location houses one of the world’s best cocktail bars, PDT, behind a vintage-style phone booth in the back. To start, choose from the three kinds of wieners: the smoked beef-and-pork Crif Dog, which is deep-fried to order; the classic, snappy grilled all-beef New Yorker; and a grilled veggie dog. Toppings can get wildly creative, like the Morning Jersey, a Taylor ham-wrapped fried dog covered with melted cheese and a fried egg. It’s good at noon or 4 a.m.
RELATED: Quiz: Are You a Grill Master?
Probably the most-famous hot dogs in the world, Nathan’s products can be found around the world. They’re ubiquitous for a reason: These weenies are the gold standard. Open since 1916, the Coney Island stand has been an outer-borough destination since long before Brooklyn became synonymous with “artisanal.” Legendary characters like Al Capone and Cary Grant have graced the stools, and Franklin Roosevelt served Nathan’s to the king and queen of England at his home upstate in Hyde Park. Though you can find them practically anywhere, you won’t get the full experience unless you visit the original institution. Choose from a variety of sizes of all-beef franks and standard toppings like sauerkraut, red onions, cheese and chili.
Quebec native Noah Bernamoff opened Mile End to bring his beloved Montreal-style smoked meat to New Yorkers. The resulting Brooklyn restaurant has inspired a modern deli renaissance of updated classic Jewish fare. The Hoyt Dog (named after the Boerum Hill deli’s street) uses beef brisket from elite purveyor Creekstone Farms. Whole cuts are ground in-house, emulsified and stuffed in sheep casings, then hung to dry for 24 hours. They are then smoked for several hours with just a bit of humidity so they remain tender and springy. The process is labor-intensive, but the results are worth it, especially once packed into a housemade split-top potato roll with sauerkraut.
As the name implies, these grandstanders come with an Asian twist. Organic beef, chicken or veggie dogs are upgraded with flavors and ingredients from throughout the continent, including China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam. The Vinh is a weenie-filled adaptation of the banh mi, topped with aioli, pate, cucumbers, pickled carrot and daikon, cilantro and jalapeno. Other dogs include mango relish, Chinese-style barbecued pork belly, kimchee and seaweed flakes. Available at two Brooklyn food markets and Berg’n food hall, the dogs are creative, fun and equally enticing. What could possibly be more representative of New York than that?
Though the United States may claim hot dogs as a national treasure, many South American cultures are fans too. La Perrada de Chalo in Jackson Heights offers an impressive selection of Colombian-style perros calientes, which are first boiled, then filled to the bun with traditional Latin American toppings, like pineapple sauce, potato chips, coleslaw and cheese. The Criollo comes with all of the above as well as colorful zigzags of ketchup, mustard-garlic aioli and a sauce that blends ketchup and mayonnaise. The Iraqui includes pineapple, crushed chips, cheese and hard-boiled egg. The Al Gusto even mixes in Hawaiian pineapple sauce, bacon, shrimp and egg. Each one is offered in regular and super-size portions — just in case you’re extra hungry.
More From Food Network: