The fourth of July is absolutely the best time of the year for guilt free consumption of hot dogs. I am not talking the Nathans variety, the chew-free golden-red wiener, marinated for hours in hot water and served on a soft bun with onions and tomato sauce. I am talking the kind of hot dog that you can really only eat one of in a sitting, where avocado and sour cream team with a bacon wrapped sausage, or imported sauerkraut compliments a German bratwurst with such mustardy morishness that tomato sauce would be the last thing you would want to add.
Crif’s in the East Village is one of the most popular dog houses downtown. It isn’t much bigger than one either. Not that it needs to be, as the young crowd flows in and out of the funky space without pause. A beer and a bite. My avocado chihuahua combo was good and Sean threw caution to the wind by ordering a tsunami, a bacon wrapped sausage with teriyaki, pineapple and green onions. Fortunately we made it to the fireworks without incident, although the tide of people on the FDR was unprecedented. The entire highway on the east side was packed and policed with patience and anticipation. Our view of the
fireworks was spectacular, more-so by blurry moments of wonderment, like the policeman on the edge of the safety zone silhouetted by flashes of light.
The recommendations I gathered for hot dogs replaced the need to shop for the rest of the weekend. The Shakeshack, which began as a stand, and under the entrepreneurial owner of the Gramercy Tavern expanded to outlets all over the city, has gourmet dogs for people and Poochini for dogs, as well as Shake cago dogs, a connection to the super famous Hot Dougs who closed his doors last October, exhausted from years of success. Doug had such a cult following, with his duck sausage & foie gras dogs, that he spawned a tattoo trade in the windy city. Anyone engraved with a Hot Doug tattoo would get free hot dogs for life. Unfortunately now they are stuck with an unusable culinary coupon. But my absolute favorite discovery in the hot dog genre turned out to be the wurst. On the corner of 54th and 5th avenue is the Hallo Berlin cart which has been feeding the city for 30 years. Not only do they have a sense of humour, but with sour dough rolls & real German sausages made with the perfection of a Mercedes (my choice over a VW) their wurst is by far the best in the city…