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Comments by YACCS
Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The annual hot dog debate

It's All in How the Dog Is Served

Published: May 25, 2005

YOU know those hot dogs that you know and love, and can't wait to eat this time of year? The ones served at Katz's Delicatessen, Gray's Papaya, Papaya King, the legendary Dominick's truck in Queens and the best "dirty water dog" carts?

They're all the same dog, manufactured by Marathon Enterprises, of East Rutherford, N.J., the parent company of Sabrett. They may vary in size, preparation and condiment selection (and Papaya King has Marathon add a secret spice to its mixture), but they're the same ol' dog. In fact, until a few years ago, Marathon made Nathan's hot dogs.
Many hot dog lovers around the country love franks made with beef and pork, either stuffed into natural casings or skinless. I think they are mushy, soft and underseasoned, but Walter's, a beloved pagoda-shaped hot dog emporium in Mamaroneck in Westchester County, splits and grills a hot dog made from beef, pork and veal.

So what constitutes a great hot dog? To me, it's a grilled, kosher-style frank served on a lightly toasted bun with slightly spicy mustard and a homemade onion or pickle relish that is neither too sweet nor too hot. The Old Town Bar on East 18th Street not only toasts the bun that encases its grilled natural-casing all-beef Sabrett dog, it butters it as well. Sublime! Sauerkraut is also fine atop my dogs, though every once in a while I crave one prepared Southern style, with cole slaw. My ideal dog should fit neatly into its bun, sticking out by at most an inch on each end.
Nathan's Famous hot dogs are still in Coney Island, but also in fast-food kiosks all over the country. The Nathan's in Coney Island still serves an excellent natural-casing all-beef hot dog. But it also makes a skinless all-beef dog that is a pale imitation of the real thing. These not-so-hot dogs are available in supermarkets, at many ballparks in the region and - gasp! - at some Nathan's franchises in the tristate area.

Papaya King has been serving its inexpensive yet exemplary natural-casing hot dogs since 1939, seven years after Gus Poulos, a Greek immigrant, opened Hawaiian Tropical Drinks at 86th Street and Third Avenue. The Gray's Papaya minichain was started by a former Papaya King partner in 1973. They each serve the Sabrett dog grilled, on a bun that isn't quite as toasted as I would like. I can't taste the extra spice in the Papaya King hot dog, but its mustard is spicier. Many other hot dog emporiums have opened with papaya in their name, and many of them, including Papaya Dog, serve the ubiquitous natural-casing Sabrett.

Empire is also sold in most supermarkets.

This is the annual debate over the best hot dog in New York.

Oh yeah, dirty water dogs don't count. They have their charms, the saltiness being boiled out of them, but no one takes them seriously. And after 30 odd years of eating both Grays and Papaya King, I can't tell the difference, except for price. Oh yeah, the Papaya King roll is pretty fucking toasted. Sometimes burnt. What I don't like about Papaya King is their addition of things like cole slaw and cheese. Cheese was a Nedicks thing. But you can avoid them for the traditional toppings.

OK, can people explain one thing: why do the people of Chicago hide their hot dogs under a salad?

posted by Steve @ 1:28:00 PM

1:28:00 PM

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