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Jun 4, 2007 11:57 AM

NY Dogs? Whose R best?

Sweltering heat of the weekend and Yankees beating Boston got me thinking about hot dogs. Who has the best in town? NY Mag just reviewed 2 new places: Willies Dawgs in Park Slope and PDT in the east village. Other notables are Dogs on Park, Nathans in Coney Island, all the versions of Grey's Papaya and the Chicago Dog at the Shake Shack. So, Chowhounds, where to go in NYC for the best dog and why?

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  1. PDT is new, but they serve the hot dogs from the kitchen of Crif Dogs, which isn't all that new.

    Crif Dogs has great, deep-fried NJ style dogs, and I like them a lot, but I'm not sure that you can compare the different styles fairly.

    8 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      Well, for my money, Grey's Papaya at 72nd St. STILL has the best hot dog. There used to be a place (I think it's still there) in Fort Lee, NJ called Callahan's. They deep-fried their hot dogs, which is, alone, a scary thought. However, they used to be good. I would scold myself for liking them, but then order up the Nathan's-quality fries and a Yoo-Hoo. Great lunch. Well, I stopped in there not too long ago and found that the dogs were still deep-fried (again, not something that sounds very appetizing), only this time I found that they were shriveled up, dark, shells of their former selves. Nothing whatsoever to write home about. As for the longer the thick, crusty morsels that used to call to me like sirens..."cross the bridge...don't worry about the outrageous return toll." Now, they're just skinny, flaccid potato stick-like crap. The Yoo-Hoo was still pretty good, except I think Yoo-Hoo has even changed its formula over the years. In any case, it's certainly not worth a trip to Jersey. If you're in one of the boroughs, and especially Manhattan, stick to Grey's or go to any decent Jewish deli for a dog--they're mostly all decent at jewish delis. Of course, not all Jewish delis are good, as we all know. Katz's downtown of course is the preeminent one, especially for hand-carved pastrami. Nathan's hot dog is still slightly better than fair, but not deserving of its heralded reputation. Here's a bonus: If you're a Yankees fan, there are a few Hebrew National vendors at the Stadium who not only have sauerkraut and deli mustard, but who grill versus boil. If you are lucky enough to locate them, it's as good a hot dog as you'll find. Warning: all other hot dogs at Yankee Stadium are crap, though of course still requisite to the ongoing process of baseball fandom. In other words, I bitch about 'em, but I still eat 'em. At $4.50, though, George, you're ripping me off (to say nothing of your 8 dollar light beers). I know, I know...but it's baseball. And besides, you have to pay all those millionaires...ummm, I mean athletes...don't you?

      1. re: RickTheClamBellyFan

        How did Sabretts turn into "crap" so suddenly? They weren't even in the top three hot dogs that some publication just listed!
        Although I do prefer Nathans above all others.

        1. re: coll

          I can't find a decent Sabrett's on the street anymore. Is it just my imagination? And Gray's on 72nd and Broadway hasn't thrilled me in years - I think they're too salty. Went to Nathan's in Coney Island over the summer - also not overwhelming. Eddie's Meal Mobile in Corona was ordinary. Most consistently good retail hot dog has been at DeliMasters in Queens off the Horace Harding. But, I'd boil my own Boars' Head at home any day of the week, and buy a jar of Sabrett's pushcart onions to go with it.

        2. re: RickTheClamBellyFan


          Callahans in Fort Lee is gone. Maybe you went to Hirams which is across the street. For a deep fried dog (which is definitley a different style than a grilled beef dog) Rutts Hut in Clifton, N.J. is the best. Crif Dogs is an imitator, although they put out a pretty good imitation. One of the owners even told me that they used Rutts Hut as their inspiration. What makes Rutts better is that 1) they fry their dogs to different degrees of doneness. You can get an in n outer which is fried just enough to be considered cooked. This is how most places that deep fry their dogs prepare them. A ripper is cooked until their skin rips. Most dogs at Rutts are prepared this way. This is how you will get yours if you just ask for a hot dog. A weller is well done. This is how I like mine. A cremator is almost black. I don't like this one but many do. 2) Rutts homemade relish is unique and the best condiment to go with this dog. 3) The dogs are fried in beef tallow rather than vegetable oil. It makes a difference. The dog used is Thumanns for deep frying. It is pork based and contains soy protein concentrate and semolina which aid in frying. The regular Thumanns griller sold in supermarkets do not contain these ingredients.

          As for the best dog in N.Y., in my opinion it would be either Papaya King, Gray's Papaya, or Katz's. Most people don't realize it, but all 3 use the same Sabrett natural casing dog. Papaya King and Gray's are identical in size (10 to a lb) while Katz's is slightly bigger. All 3 claim that they have their dogs made special for them, but this is not true. As I've mentioned in great detail in the past, I've spoken with distributors as well as people from Marathon Enterprises (who own Sabrett). They make hot dogs from only 2 recipes; all beef and beef/pork. They come in different sizes and either skinless or natural casing. The beef/pork dog is found in N.J. and is used at Callahans, (they have one location left in Little Ferry, their other 2 closed) The Hot Grill, and the Windmill. Callahans and the Hot Grill deep fry their dogs, the Windmill grills theirs. The beef dog is used at the above named places as well as Papaya Dog, Chelsea Papaya, and all of the Papaya King knockoffs.

          Since these places use the same recipe natural casing dog and prepare it the same way, they are similar in taste. Last summer I went to N.Y. to sample dogs for a newspaper. We went to Crifs, Nathan's (Coney Island), Katz's, Papaya King, and Gray's. The dogs were almost identical at the last 3, but on this day the bun fell apart at Papaya King. In the past, I've had dogs at Katz's that were undercooked. It's a good idea to request well done here. I like the places that use Sabrett better than Nathans. Nathans is a great dog and one of the best, I just prefer the spicing in the Sabrett frank. Which of the 3 (Katz's, Papaya King, and Gray's) is best? Whichever is prepared better that particular day. If all are prepared well, its a tie. Identical dogs (although Katz's is a tad bigger) identical preparation. One other factor. Papaya King is one of the places that get their dogs refrigerated rather than frozen. I've found out that 90% of the places that use the Sabrett dog get theirs delivered frozen.

          One place in N.Y. that might have an even better dog than those mentioned is a little hole in the wall in Chinatown. The name escapes me, and I've never been there, but I'm familiar with the dog served there. It is from Best Provisions out of Newark, N.J. and is a natural casing quarter pounder. Would you believe that it is only a buck? The same dog sold at Jersey places goes for close to $4.00.

          I know the title is best dogs in N.Y. but let me suggest that if you are a true hot dog lover and willing to travel a little that you come to Jersey. We have the best hot dogs and the widest range of styles. We have Texas Wieners, which are dogs (either grilled or deep fried) topped with mustard, onions, and a unique Greek chili sauce, dirty water (or boiled) dogs, German style beef and pork dogs, deep fried dogs, grilled kosher style all beef dogs, Italian Hot Dogs (not available anywhere else but Jersey) and others. Those of you that like the Papaya places, Katz's, or Nathans would have loved Syds. Considered by many to be the best hot dog anywhere, they are gone. Forced out of a strip mall, the new owner moved to a location that he shared with another restaurant, then left to pursue a career in Golf. Many New Yorkers went here on my recommendation and loved the dogs. Ed Levine, the food writer was one. The same dog is still available and being served at Jimmy Buffs in East Hanover, N.J. Just ask for the footlong. They also serve a grilled Schickhaus beef/pork dog, and of course, an Italian Hot Dog. Jimmy Buffs invented the Italian Hot Dog. It's 2 all beef dogs (Best brand usually) that are deep fried or sauteed that is topped with peppers, onions, and thinsliced potatoes that are also deep fried or sauteed. This is my favorite place to get a hot dog. They also serve dirty water dogs. Their chili is my favorite. A unique tasting chili called Bolognese style that is meaty, thick, sweet and slightly peppery.

          1. re: hotdoglover

            "One place in N.Y. that might have an even better dog than those mentioned is a little hole in the wall in Chinatown. The name escapes me..."

            It's called Jumbo Hot Dogs, and, for my money, it is better. Juiciest NYC dog I've had in many a moon. The only reason I don't have their dog more often is because of its' location - east side of Canal, staring down the mouth of the Manhattan Bridge. I'm usually full up with dumplings, noodles, casseroles, what have you. But I honestly think you have to go Jersey way for a better dog.

            1. re: hotdoglover

              hot dog lover you are an expert. and even as a new yorker I find NJ has excelent dogs. from Phillipsurg (and across the river to easton and allentown/Beth) to Elizabeth , fine dogs all. I only wish i cold try them all,. But i must remain true to my own. I live 5 min utes from Dominick's on Woodhaven, and well, his sabrett's dogs are always simmered perfectly and his home made onions, and chili are just fantastic.

              for non-beef dogs. i do love the Western NY chain Ted's . charbroiled . also great.

              i do have question. i do like Katz', but where do they get their "noblewurst" from i have tried other garlic rings, but i have not found a match. they serve them flat on rye, and are toss up for the dogs imho.

              1. re: davidr1234


                I'm not sure where they get their noblewurst from, but it might be Marathon (Sabrett) who supplies their regular hot dogs.

              2. re: hotdoglover

                Now THAT'S an informative reply. Thanks, hotdoglover! Oh, and by the way, it WAS Hiram's. I forgot to mention that Callahan's was indeed gone. Anyway, it was no big deal, even though Bourdain featured it in a fairly recent episode of his wonderful show. Funny thing, though...when he was carrying his two dogs in that box to the table, they looked a lot better than the one I had when I posted. I think I might have caught Hiram's on a bad day. Maybe deserves a return trip, or better yet stay in the car a little longer and hit Rutt's. Thanks for the tip. Oh, and let me know what you think of the Hebrew National guy's fare near Gate 6 at Yankee Stadium. It's large, it's grilled, and you can get it with hot sauerkraut and Hebrew National mustard.

          2. See my March 17 post "Top (Hot) Dogs

            3 Replies
            1. re: guttergourmet

              Domnick's on Woodhaven Blvd Nathans CI, Katz's, has my vote

                1. re: guttergourmet

                  Domonick is a Blue truck on Woodhaven Blvd that sells a great NY pushcart hot dogs. Always a line at lunch time.

            2. Perhaps I'm just getting old. I went out of my way recently to go to Grey's up on 86th, and I was really sorely disappointed. I think I've romanticized them in my memory as being so good, but they're really not. In truth, Katz's has a far better dog. I prefer a frank that is slightly on the larger side. Don't know why, really, but they just seem to satisfy more. Perhaps it's the preponderance of bread otherwise, so the larger dog works better. You'll probably all laugh, but the best hot dog I've had in a while was from a Hebrew National pushcart guy just a few feet from the main gate entrance to Yankee Stadium. He gets less money than they do inside (well, that's not hard to do), and actually had hot sauerkraut. I was surprisingly satisfied. There's another guy in the bleacher area of the Stadium who also sells Hebrew National from a cart that is quite the same--also has hot sauerkraut. Quite decent for non-grilled dogs.

              1 Reply
              1. re: RickTheClamBellyFan


                You are not alone. Mrs jfood had a client in the area last year and jfood parked, she went one way jfood the other. walked in, ordered a couple took the first anticipated bite and almost started to cry. Not even a "5" on the jfood scale. There are a dozen dogs in NJ & CT that are waaay better. Once the tears vanished, jfood sat at a local Starbucks and soaked his frustration in a cup of Joe.

                So memories are memories and the "gotta go to grey's" is over and jfood can move on. win some loose some.

              2. Walters in Mamaroneck. World famous. Get double dog with a milk shake.


                2 Replies
                  1. re: guttergourmet

                    Dissent on Walter's- just O.K., not worth a detour IMHO.