Out-of-towners tend to think that hot dogs, like pretzels or pizza, are one of those foods you can grab on any New York corner. And while dirty-water dogs might be everywhere, they’re certainly not delicious everywhere. Here are the five hot dogs in NYC you should really seek out, from the down-and-dirty to the slightly more elevated.
Head to this NYC institution for the classic Recession Special, with two hot dogs and a soda for rock-bottom prices. (Sauerkraut atop the dogs is an excellent idea.) Do not suffer imitators: Many lesser hot dog joints will put “Papaya” in their name, trying to capitalize on the better spots’ success, but don’t be fooled. It’s only Gray’s Papaya and one other that you should pay attention to. Which leads us to the following … 2090 Broadway, 212-799-0243, grayspapayanyc.com
Dating to 1932, Papaya King is the other formidable contender in the classic New York hot dog scene. It’s hard to beat a griddled hot dog with stewed NY-style onions or kraut (or for that matter, both). Multiple locations, papayaking.com
They’re known for the burgers, of course, and their frozen custard, and their custard-based concretes. But Shake Shack actually got its start as a hot dog cart, and its griddled franks are worth an order, too. Try the “Shack-Ago Dog,” a knockoff of the Chicago-style version with relish, onion, cucumber, pickle, tomato, sport pepper, celery salt and mustard; or the “DogMeister,” with Shack cheddar and American cheese sauce and crispy shallots. Multiple locations, shakeshack.com
Two reasons to love Crif Dogs: 1. its deep-fried franks are out of control and 2. oh yeah, there’s a craft cocktail bar hidden inside the East Village location. Order the Tsunami, a bacon-wrapped frank with teriyaki sauce and pineapple; or the Chihuahua, bacon-wrapped with avocados and sour cream. (And follow it up with a cocktail at PDT; step into Crif Dog’s phone booth, pick up the phone, and you’ll be amazed at what happens next.) 113 St Marks Pl.; 212-614-2728, crifdogs.com
Hot dogs don’t exactly have a reputation for being the healthiest or most responsibly produced foodstuff. But this locally and sustainably minded shop in Park Slope specializes in high-end fast food, hot dogs in particular. The pork-and-beef blend dogs are served in a top-split bun any number of toppings; try the intricately spiced chili on the chili-cheese dog, or the NYC dog, with sweet-and-sour onions and mustard. 474 Bergen St., Brooklyn, 718-789-1939, barkhotdogs.com
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