On the heels of our Saturday marathon meal at Tertulia, I truly felt that I couldn’t fit another bite of food in my stomach. Somehow, our group still managed to put away some pressed juice and baguette sandwiches à la Serena and Blair (shocking how we always seem to find room) at the Todd English Food Hall in the Plaza Hotel late Sunday morning. Upon making our way downtown to Sarah’s place in the East Village, I said, “I feel like I need something ‘healthy’ tonight”. Ha, good one. (Maybe it just felt like the appropriate, adult thing to say?)
The idea of a masochistic pre-packaged salad went right out the window when I remembered the hanging hot dog sign on her block reading, “Eat Me.” I knew I had seen that sign somewhere, but couldn’t quite place it until Sarah reminded me that it was featured on an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s show, The Layover. That’s when I knew I needed to have a Crif Dog.
Sarah confessed that she had recently gone through a period of way too many Crif Dogs. (Who could blame her? It’s literally less than 50 yards from her front door.) But like a good wingman, she accompanied me on my inaugural visit.
My love of New York hot dogs started at an early age when visiting the city with my dad, tagging along on his business trips. I was a pretty low-maintenance travel companion, considering I was happy to eat nothing but Ray’s Pizza and street vendor hot dogs. (Although I did require daily trips to FAO Schwartz, as any kid obsessed with Big would.) An iconic American snack (or meal, depending on how you look at it), a hot dog can be pretty freaking great.
Stepping down into Crif Dog’s endearingly grungy lair, I immediately felt overwhelmed at the number of variations on the classic dog. Not a bad problem to have, as every combination sounded amazing. Of course there are classics such as the Crif Dog (customized with your choice of toppings), the Chili Dog, and the Corn Dog. I do love Chili Dogs, but will leave Ben’s Chili Bowl in D.C. to be the experts on that one. My eye was drawn to more exciting options such as the Spicy Redneck (a hot dog, wrapped in bacon, with chili, coleslaw, and jalapenos) and the Chihuahua (a bacon-wrapped dog, covered with sour cream and avocadoes). The tagline for the Chihuahua read: “Don’t Be Scared.” I finally settled on the Tsunami, as I’m forever a huge fan of a meat, teriyaki, and pineapple combination. (Yes, I still love a good Banzai Burger at Red Robin and am not afraid to admit it.)
The Tsunami consists of a house dog, a handmade combination of naturally smoked pork and beef, wrapped in bacon (as all good things are), and generously topped with diced pineapple, teriyaki, and scallions. Since we’re getting technical, the dog itself was the perfect girth—not too big so as to make a bite with all of the toppings and bun impossible, but not so small where it got lost either. Snappy and flavorful, the whole thing was a wonderful combination of salty and sweet from the combination of pineapple, bacon, and teriyaki. I also will say that the pineapple was diced in an ideal size, nice and small. It really drives me crazy when the pineapple topping on pizza is too big and can’t be easily integrated into each bite.
I also ordered a regular order of the Tater Tots, per Sarah’s recommendation, and they were quite a delicious side dish. Even with the regular, I couldn’t finish them, so make sure you’re hungry when you go. With my draft root beer alongside, I was certainly a happy camper. Since she couldn’t leave empty-handed (and obviously needed to provide moral support), Sarah ordered a Strawberry Shake and generously shared many sips with me. The shakes are huge and delicious, and I can imagine their flavor would only be improved at 3:30 a.m. after a night of imbibing.
Since Crif Dog was pretty crowded and the Oscars Red Carpet Show was already under way, we crossed the street and consumed our treats on the floor of Sarah’s cozy apartment. Sometimes there’s really nothing better than eating fried food and hot dogs with your good friend while being über-snarky about Anne Hathaway’s ‘two-squares-of-oatmeal-paste-a-day Les Mis diet’. (Sorry, I’m not sorry.) In regards to my dream of a perfect Sunday night in New York, I will borrow my least favorite line of Ms. Hathaway’s speech: “It came true!”
Crif Dog, 113 St. Mark’s Place, New York, NY, (212) 614-2728, http://www.crifdogs.com, Open Sunday through Tuesday, 12 p.m. – 2 a.m., Friday and Saturday 12 p.m. – 4 a.m.