Well, it's Super Tuesday again, when 13 states plus American Samoa conduct their primaries. Instead of sitting in front of the TV, Eater Senior Editor Nick Solares and I decided to see how many hot dogs we could eat instead. Boring? No! While the marathon competitors at the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest have to eat the same déjà vu frank over and over again, we determined to gulp down as many different kinds of tube steaks as we could find in a 7½-hour period.
We couldn't have picked a better time. As the stock market slides downward and the gulf between rich and poor widens, frankfurters — a sausage with a distinctly New York pedigree — becomes all the more important, not only as a quick snack for the cash-strapped, but as a glamorized foodstuff in upscale bôites such as Salvation Burger, Epicerie Boulud, the NoMad Bar, and Bruno Pizza.
Confining ourselves to Manhattan for this hot dog run, we'll be live-blogging as we go, so please check in regularly today to see how we're doing, and tune in tomorrow to find out which franks impressed us the most.
Hot Dog Super Tuesday Stop 1: The Hot Dog Cart Outside the Met
The frank we got in front of the Metropolitan Museum was grilled instead of boiled but it was a standard New York frank; salty and soft. In other words, delicious. There was a choice of yellow mustard or brown mustard. We picked the yellow.
Hot Dog Super Tuesday Stop 2: Another Hot Dog Stand Near the Met
Wow. The first hot dog on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum had been cooked on a griddle. We still needed to find the legendary dirty water dog of New York, which has been boiled rather than griddle fried. We found it a block south of the Met on the sidewalk, but this one was $4 instead of $3 reflecting the fleecing of tourists in front of the city's greatest art museum. His water boiled frank was plumper and more watery then the first griddle fried one.
Solares chimes in: "Both of the first dogs provided the perfect baseline for our journey. These are classic work a day NYC pups."
Hot Dog Super Tuesday Stop #3: Shake Shack UES
For our hot dog selection at Shake Shack, we picked the so-called Shack-cago Dog, which is a partial recreation of the standard Chicago red hot hot dog, which contains a plethora of ingredients heaped on the frank. This dog has been split and grilled to blackness. The frank itself was a little smaller than most and a little bit grainy. Nevertheless, the wild selection of toppings distinguished the hot dog and made it a delicious breakfast item, including sweet relish, onions, cucumbers, dill pickles, tomatoes, sport peppers, celery salt, and mustard.
Solares: "I love the dog itself — sourced from Vienna Beef. But I feel guilty as a New Yorker liking this so much."
Hot Dog Super Tuesday Stop #4 Papaya King
Our fourth stop was at the iconic Papaya King at the corner of 3rd Avenue and 86th Street. We ordered two hot dogs, one with sauerkraut and the other with the mystery stewed onions said to have been invented there. Oh the snap, oh the pop, oh the salty squirt of juices that issued from those delicious franks!
Solares: "Such a classic it's going to be hard to top this one frankly (pun intended) especially for the price. I made Robert order one with red onions because Papaya King pioneered the use of the condiment."
Super Tuesday Hot Dog Crawl Stop #5: Burger King
Patty and I had to drag Nick kicking and screaming into the Burger King to try the new fangled hot dog classic. It was a desiccated little runt of a dog, burned on the outside and tasting powerfully of liquid smoke with a strew of onions a squirt of anemic mustard and ketchup for additional sweetness. Not good, but not too horrible either, despite the fish cake texture of the flesh.
Editor's note: Here's why Solares won't eat that thing:
Hot Dog Super Tuesday Stop #6: Schaller's Stube
Stop number six was a complete departure from what had gone before, at Schaller and Weber's Stube, a sausage shop attached to an ancient German butcher shop. The hot dog itself was pale and tender, tasting mainly of veal and topped with a sauce that contained horseradish, mustard, and mayo. It was fantastic and we gobbled it down in its Balthazar brioche bun.
Solares: "Stube dog was supple and tender and mild in flavor. I loved the buttery brioche far more than I would on a burger."
Hot Dog Super Tuesday Stop #7: Bruno Pizza
We encountered the most expensive frank so far at Bruno Pizza in the East Village. The hot dog cost $9 but it came with a pile of potato salad on the side that we didn't quite know what to do with. The frank itself was of Imperial length, 8 inches, and covered with mayo and a chopped pickle topping, plus little branches of herbs. The sausage itself was very coarse-textured, dark in appearance, and wonderfully smoky. It almost didn't qualify as a frankfurter, tastewise.
Hot Dog Super Tuesday Stop #8: Crif Dogs
Uptown all the Franks are beef, but as you work your way downtown you find a porkier product. At Crif Dogs we decided to go Baroque with the frankfurter called the Spicy Redneck, which comes topped with coleslaw and jalapeño peppers, and did I mention that the thing is deep fried and strangled with a piece of bacon? It was a gut bomb of major proportions.
Solares: "Big fan of Crif Dogs. I especially love the pork and beef blend. Spicy redneck is a modern classic."
Hot Dog Super Tuesday Stop #9: Katz's Delicatessen:
We've finally reached the hot dog mecca of Katz's. The delicatessen is over one century old and it still turns out some of the world's best tube steaks, with crunchy skins made of sheep intestines They're slightly charred on the outside and garlicky on the inside, and they demand to be topped with grainy mustard and the mildest of sauerkrauts. Clutching our tickets, we leave wishing we'd ordered another, and we're sorely tempted by the pastrami. How can we go on to 7-Eleven after this?
Solares: "My experience is the same as the video - Katz’s never fails to deliver equal parts beef, fat, salt, and nostalgia"
Hot Dog Super Tuesday Stop #10: Mile End
Dark skinned, pink fleshed, and extremely smokey, the Hoyt Dog at Mile End is a distinguished wiener. It comes topped with sauerkraut, pickle relish, and mustard, and is nearly irresistible. Unfortunately the deli now has waiter service so you can't really just walk up by one and eat it. In addition, it comes on a potato roll that is inadequate — it can't contain the juices and the thing falls apart before you can finish it.
Solares: "Great flavor, pronounced smokiness, but the bun is structurally challenged — the hinge broke!"
Hot Dog Super Tuesday Stop #11: 7-Eleven
At the 7-Eleven on the Bowery, the frank called Libra was really cheap at $1.69, but proved to be nearly devoid of flavor. Nevertheless, we appreciated the buffet of possible toppings, which included jalapeños and chopped onions. Good place to go when you are drunk and it doesn't matter what the hot dog tastes like.
Solares: "The most generic thing we ate today. A hot dog that is offensive in its inoffensiveness."
Hot Dog Super Tuesday Stop #12: Gray's Papaya
Everyone probably wants to know how Gray's stacks up against Papaya King, which was its predecessor. We found the Gray's Papaya weenie a bit less assertive than those at Papaya King, with a little less garlic and a little less salt. That's not necessarily a bad thing — we thoroughly enjoyed the franks at Gray's Papaya. We found the onion topping a little more tart than on the Upper East Side, and the sauerkraut just about the same. Both places are notably uncomfortable, though, forcing you to eat and run.
Solares: "Not quite as classic as Papaya King, but close. The dog here is a little smaller, a little more garlicky. I am a Papaya King man myself, but love these almost as much."
Hot Dog Super Tuesday Stop #13: Epicerie Boulud
If a wiener were a regular element of French charcuterie, then it would be like Epicerie Boulud's highfalutin' frankfurter. It was longer and heavier than most, but also a bit blander. Crowned with frisee and a condiment that seemed suspiciously like Russian dressing, it was neither the best nor the worst of the many hot dogs we wolfed down today. Two years ago, I thought it was one of the best hot dogs in town. Now, not so much.
Solares: "I have had better versions of this dog down at DBGB. This one was a little bland and the bread was a little over toasted, going from supple to brittle. Still, the hot dog itself had a reassuring meatiness."
Hot Dog Super Tuesday Stop #14: Salvation Burger
To the strains of David Bowie, we chowed down on Salvation Burger's remarkable hot dog — one of the longest and most expensive we had encountered. It was heaped with cabbage slaw and fresh dill, which was odd, yet the porky-tasting frank was ultra-smoky and also ultra-greasy. In short, it was a perfect ending to a perfect frankfurter day.
Solares: "It's the hot dog you would expect from April Bloomfield — meaty, beaty, big, and bouncy. House-made kraut and mustard had the right amount spice and sourness."