[Pigging by Wilfrid: January 16, 2017]
About a month ago--because that's how far behind I am with ye olde blogging--my daughter and I set out to compare some new and old hot dog offerings.
And we soon found out, not just that multiple hot dogs are really for professional eaters only, but that there really isn't a huge difference in quality between the city's "great" hot dogs, and the average ones.
Let's state upfront that the hot dogs I eat most often, and hence enjoy most, weren't included in this tasting. Those would be the small but delicious so-called Icelandic hot dog--actually a lamb dog-- at Hi Hello on Wyckoff, and the various Latin-inspired dogs at Guacoco, just around the corner, smothered in combinations of onions, eggs, peppers, avocado and cheese, in utter defiance of the mustard purists.
Speaking of purists, this tasting did start by bench-marking the day, with two straight offerings from Papaya Dog on First Avenue, one with mustard, one with ketchup. Cheap, unremarkable: the place to start.
Things went downhill from there, as we followed a Robert Sietsema tip to Panya Bakery on Stuyvesant. The dog here, a cold rather than a hot dog, is wrapped in a sweet bun, drizzled with ketchup--or at least some kind of sweetish sauce which resembled ketchup as much as anything else. I've eaten Chinese-style hot dogs in sweet bread wrapping before, and this was about the worst. We didn't finish them.
Seeking to ring the changes, my daughter insisted on hiking across town to try the popular Ditch Dog at Ditch Plains, a long, griddled sausage drowning in mac'n'cheese. She rated this the highlight of the day, which is her way of telling me she prefers mac'n'cheese to hot dogs. "I'm more a hamburger girl," she said wistfully.
I can leave mac'n'cheese any time, so I took the dog straight--the Backyard Dog--and it was probably the winner of the day on size. Although I wasn't using a tape measure: that would be weird. Nice attempt to make the bun interesting by charring.
And the hot dog which has been named the city's best, Feltman's of Coney Island. It's named for the purported inventor of the hot dog, Charles Feltman, who sold them on Coney Island in the 1860s. This descendant of the original emerges from a window at St Mark's Theater on St Mark's Place. Whether or not you suspect the Germans were eating smoked frankfurters before Feltman had the idea, this is a serious contender. All natural with a serious snap to the skin, garnished with some honestly made sauerkraut, it probably was the best we tried (Panya's was easily the worst).
But from the lowlands of Papaya Dog to the heights of Feltman's is not a long gastronomic climb.