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Mar 21, 2008 12:14 PM

Best Damn Franks

If there are better franks with mustard and kraut to be had in NYC than the 2nd Avenue Deli I'd like to hear about it. The only complaint is 2 franks = $8.50, ouch! By the way, Katz's are a close second, original Nathan's in Coney Island third, Papaya King distant fourth IMHO.

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  1. haven't tried franks at 2 ave 2, but i wouldn't be surprised to find them atop the list. four-and-a-quarter a pop does seem a tad usurious, though. will have to give em a shot, but i think katz's will remain my go-to.

    1. The franks served at the 2nd Ave. Deli are Empire National kosher franks. A fine dog, but in my opinion there are better. Katz's, Papaya King, and Gray's Papaya all serve natural casing Sabrett all beef dogs. Same recipe, despite what they may tell you about "having the dogs made especially for them". This is a crock, and I've discussed it at length in past posts. Thes dogs are virtually the same, and as to which is better, it all depends on how it was served when you went. Sometimes the bun falls apart. Sometimes at Katz's the dog wasn't on the griddle long enough. But I like the flavor and spice of a grilled Sabrett dog at any one of these 3 places better than the 2nd Ave. Deli's dog. The Empire National dog is a quality frank, but milder than the Sabrett. And skinless as well. I prefer the snap of a natural casing. These dogs are tops in N.Y. followed by Nathan's. If you like beef dogs, head to New Jersey. Best Provisions out of Newark makes a natural casing beef dog that is superior to Sabrett. It is a long, thin, 5 to a lb dog that was served at the famous (but now gone) Syd's in Union. This same dog can be had at Jimmy Buff's in East Hanover, Bubba's in Lyndhurst, and Seymour's Luncheonette in Livingston.

      I live in New Jersey, which I consider the Hot Dog Capital of the World, so I might be a little biased. We also have a great selection of places that serve German style beef and pork dogs along with pork based deep fried dogs. Rutt's Hut is very popular for their deep fried dogs. It was the inspiration for Crif Dogs in Manhattan.

      Check out Hot Dog Paradises tomorrow (Easter Sunday) at 7 PM on the Travel Channel. They feature 7 hot dog establishments across the country including Nathan's and JImmy Buff's. While I mentioned the regular all beef dog (from Best's) that is served there, they are more known for being the inventor of the Newark Style Italian Hot Dog which is highlighted in the show. I also appear a few times during the show. I'm the guy who mentions that New Jersey is the Hot Dog Capital of the World.

      25 Replies
      1. re: hotdoglover

        You just made me get off my couch and go Gray's on 72nd and B'way. I like them with mustard, onions and 16 oz bud cans.

        What kind of dogs does Rutt's use?

        1. re: hotdoglover

          hotdoglover knows his stuff. Hot dogs are his passion, and his analysis of them is consistently well-reasoned and rooted in experience. I regard his advice very highly.

          1. re: hotdoglover

            hotdoglover-always a pleasure to hear from you, the master of the tube steak. Being a Manhattanite, I have been to Crif's for a Rutt's clone. My Italian Hot Dog experience has been limited to Dilly Dogs on the delaware River just north of New Hope,PA. Ever been?

            1. re: guttergourmet

              Hi Everyone, We've had to take some posts out of sight that were about hot dogs in places other than Manhattan. Please discuss hot dog in other locations on the correct regional board. That way folks who live there can add their favorites, or check out yours.

              1. re: guttergourmet

                hotdoglover is always welcome on the NYC boards. Wish he weighed in here more. Every time I see his posts I feel I need to get to Jersey more often.

                I'm just wondering if anyone in Manhattan does an Italian hot dog.

                For a description, here's some news on Italian and other dogs ...

              2. re: hotdoglover

                Weren't we discussing the surprisingly good crawlspace, Jumbo Hot Dogs, in Chinatown on another thread? I think you were mentioning that they use a casing similar to those found in Jersey (?). In any event, I like these dogs, and prefer them to just about every other dog in NYC. Problem is, this tiny stand, located on the east side of Canal as it curves to give way to the Manhattan bridge, is often dwarfed by huge buses. I often can't even see it. I'm pretty sure they're still in business, though.

                1. re: Polecat

                  I forgot about this place. Never been, but I have read the posts. I know that they use a frank from Best Provisions, which makes my favorite beef dog. I also know that it is a fat quarter pound dog. Don't know if it has casing or not or how it is prepared. Hopefully not on one of those roller grills. I'm not crazy about the shape; I prefer the longer, thinner 5 to a lb footlong. I'll reserve judgemnt on this one until I get a chance to try it. If it is grilled sufficiently and has a casing, it might just be the best N.Y. dog. Thanks for bringing it up.

                  1. re: hotdoglover

                    I was just at the Jumbo Hot Dog in Chinatown last night. Yes they are on one of those roller grill. Yes they had a great snap in the past. Since this winter started though, I've had a couple of "this isn't the same dog!" experiences. Not sure if it was a bad batch, but the dog didn't have the snap and the fullness and the juicyness it once had. I had the server who said that nothing has changed, except maybe that those cold days they didn't have the right temperature for the grill.

                    Between then (November 2007) and now I've had a couple of visits where it seemed almost right, but just not consistant. Last night I had two hot dogs. I finished one before ordering the next, and for $1 each, I realize I really have no place to complain, but the 2nd one had been on the grill too long..the skin was dried out a little, and the inside shrank so that it tasted more like a typical limp and mealy veggie dog. Not a good last impression, but still probably the only place I'd go for hot dog in the city. And I do like this shape better than the thinner kind. The bun they use is slightly sweet, and of good size, which really goes well with the thicker dog.

                    I hope that when and IF you try this place you'd let us know your findings. I hope you get there on one of their more stellar days. (i hope the same for me, too)

                    By the way, I'm just curious, if you don't like the roller grill, what in your opinion is better?

                    1. re: HLing

                      A flat griddle is much better than a roller grill. As is a regular gas or charcoal grill.

                      1. re: hotdoglover

                        Interesting. There were times when they were just putting on a new batch which means it will take 20 mins before it's ready. I suppose the roller grill is a slow but even grill, then.
                        I guess with the roller grill I would have to be lucky to be there just at the right time for hot dog that's not left on too long.

                        Would the flat griddle be much quicker? It would require more attention per order, then. It would probably increase the cost of the hot dog for the customers.

                        1. re: HLing

                          With a flat griddle like Papaya King and Nathan's, you can leave the dogs on for awhile. When you go to these places, you don't have to wait; they just serve you one right off thge grill. A flat grill gives the dogs a bit of a char and in my opinion imparts a better flavor than a roller grill. Plus a roller grill is made for skinless dogs; I prefer natural casing.

                          1. re: hotdoglover

                            oh, i thought the Jumbo Dog in Chinatown IS with natural casing, though. I'll have to find out. Thanks!

                    2. re: hotdoglover

                      When I go to the supermarket and buy hot dogs, I always get Best's. If this is the same as Best Provisions (and I'm sure they must be otherwise copyright suits would be filed), then yes, Best provisions make the best hot dogs.

                      1. re: ajs42548

                        It is the same, but there is a Best Kosher out of Chicago. Good, but not in the same league as Best Provisions. The supermarket (skinless) dog is good, but the natural casing frank sold at the factory and the establishments that serve them are better.

                  2. re: hotdoglover

                    "Katz's, Papaya King, and Gray's Papaya all serve natural casing Sabrett all beef dogs. Same recipe, despite what they may tell you about "having the dogs made especially for them". This is a crock, and I've discussed it at length in past posts. Thes dogs are virtually the same, and as to which is better,"

                    you sure about that? sizewise at least the dogs at KATZ seem a lot bigger and fatter than the other dog joints.

                    1. re: mrnyc

                      I'm positive. I've posted in depth about this on other threads. I've spoken to distributors as well as the person in charge of private label at Marathon Enterprises (Sabrett). They make only 2 recipes, one is all beef, the other is a pork and beef mixture. The latter is served at Jersey places such as the Windmill, Hot Grill, and Callahan's. The all beef version is made in different sizes and comes skinless or with natural casing, but is the same recipe. Papaya King and Gray's use the EXACT same (10 to a lb) dog. I've heard that Papaya King is one of the 10% of accounts that gets their dogs delivered refrigerated, not frozen. Maybe this makes a difference. Other factors such as time left on the grill, temperature of the grill, etc. may account for the perceived difference between Papaya King, Gray's, and Katz's. Katz's does use a slightly larger dog than Papaya King or Gray's. Someone I spoke with from Marathon even gave me the code or serial number for the boxes of franks sent to both Papaya places. It is the same. Ed Levine contacted me for an article he wrote for the New York Times a few years back and came to the same conclusion. Only difference is Ed believes Papaya King's claim to have Marathon add an additional spice. This is NOT true.

                      I was prepared to discuss this topic on a New York based news show a few years back, but they decided against doing the piece for fear of legal action being taken.

                      Sampling hot dogs is my hobby and you wouldn't believe the false information I've been given about where a place gets their hot dogs. Some claim to make their own on the premises, but have to admit this is not true when I've asked to see the sausage making equipment. Others claim to have their dogs made to a special recipe. The vast majority of the time this is false also. One reason is that these hot dog purveyors want you to think that you can only experience the hot dog they sell at their place. Many in New Jersey claim to serve homemade chili when I've found that they use a popular canned variety. Take what these people tell you with a grain of salt.

                      1. re: hotdoglover

                        "Katz's does use a slightly larger dog than Papaya King or Gray's. "

                        thats all i was referring to. i didnt think i was mistaken so thx for confirming.

                        the KATZ dogs being bigger and fatter must be why i like them best. the size changes the experience and flavor, not to mention that its more dog for the bite. heh.

                        the other info is also very interesting. i felt PK is second best and GP just below. i always thought those two dogs were the same or about the same, turns out from your research in fact they are the same. as you say must be the cooking that makes a difference.

                        good sleuthing -- of course all of us ch forumers appreciate your hobby!

                        1. re: mrnyc

                          Yes, I agree, the size definitely changes the experience and flavor.

                            1. re: hotdoglover

                              What about footlongs and gourmet dogs? I have been meaning to try the Brooklyn Diner's manly footlong and Homestead's $19(!) kobe beef dog.

                          1. re: hotdoglover

                            You do really sound like you know your stuff, but the Kat'z hot dogs are more then just slightly bigger, in my opinion, and I'm someone who thinks the place is a rip off tourist trap.

                            I also don't think the Grey's and Papaya King dogs look or taste the same at all. In fact, the Grey's downtown has always been slightly different then the other two locations. As for Papaya King, someone could go to Fairway and buy the packaged Papaya franks, and packaged Sabrett, and see there is a difference. Sure cooking or overcooking can change a dog, but not that drastically. I wouldn't doubt that they're all coming from the same distributor but there are clearly different grades.

                            1. re: sugartoof

                              I do not doubt that there may be a slight difference in how the dogs taste when comparing some of these locations. Many factors come into play: length of time on the griddle, how old the dogs are, whether they were frozen or not, size, etc. First time I sampled hot dogs in New York, I though I preferred Papaya King to Gray's. When tasting them again and again, you can tell they are the same brand. I've had Sabrett enough times to be able to identify them blindfolded.

                              I've also been told by some guys that own hot dog carts that there are different grades of Sabrett. And theirs is the top grade! Again, this is not true. I've spoken to distributors, a person whose father delivered Sabrett franks for 41 years (his stops included Papaya King, Gray's, and Katz's), the person in charge of private label, and a few years later his assistant. There is one all beef recipe. In fact, when I mentioned to this guy that I might some day get into the business, I told him I wanted a frank similar to Papaya King's, thinking they made it special for them. This is when he told me that there is only one all beef recipe and one for beef and pork. He said it would be too labor intensive to make a special dog for each customer and that they wouldn't do it. He was aware that some of these places claim their dogs are made just for them, but assured me that this isn't true.

                              1. re: hotdoglover

                                What's your opinion of the hallo berlin cart? Best of the wurst.

                                1. re: guttergourmet

                                  I haven't been to Hallo Berlin. I've heard from somewhere that they use Karl Ehmer products. I also heard elsewhere that they use Schaller & Weber. Don't know which is true.

                      2. I like the ones at New York Hot Dog Company on Chambers and Church. The place is nice and clean and they serve a great classic Sabrett along with some pretty nice twists. All for a real nice price. I suggest you check it out.

                        1. Papaya King ....not elegant but really good

                          1. papaya king, hands down

                            i grew up on, and love katz's.. but the last time i was there, everything was off. the hot and the knish were way overcooked, to be nearly inedible. Usually i go during the day, that was a rare nighttime visit for me, i don't know if that was the problem or not.

                            but back to topic. papaya king.
                            grays has always seemed a lesser knockoff to me

                            also if you want a hot dog from a cart, look for a sabrett cart and avoid golden d at all costs

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: thew

                              I second the endorsement for the New York Hot Dog Company.

                              I get the Grand Slam there-2 kosher franks, a knish and a Pepsi. For 7 bucks, I think. The servers are pretty nice, too.