Thursday, August 27, 2009


You heard it here first. Dawging is the next big thing.

What is Dawging? Well, it’s not quite as counter-culture as raving, but it does push the culinary envelope, just a bit. Hold onto your nitrites.

Our saga begins when I am sitting in Atlanta, sweating, and reading the New York Times. I bypass all the really important news and go straight to the Food Section where I learn that a new establishment, Bark Hot Dogs has just opened in Park Slope, Brooklyn. They promise “local hot dogs” from an upstate artisan.

Immediately, I ping my college roommate, “Ford MacKenzie,” once a radical underground journalist, and now a respected and well-dressed member of the financial world, a home-canning expert, amateur meterologist and a resident of Park Slope.

We have to try this place, I type frenetically. I can already smell the condiments.

Dawging. It’s the next big thing.

For somebody like me – born and raised in Long Island’s Casserole Corridor – Brooklyn is wild country, and I need a Sherpa. Ford does not disappoint. Shortly, he is sending me suggestions for additional stops on a proposed night-long odyssey of samplings at hot dog hot spots. He sets up a few ground rules:

“We shouldn't start with the dogs, but work our way up to them. How about some $3 Pabst Blue Ribbon at Blue Ribbon on 5th Ave. and 1st Place?”

Sounds like the perfect recession-era, pre-dawging cocktail to me.

Then we start to obsess over the number of calories we are likely to consume. In a brief moment of self-doubt, Ford begins to question the sanity of multiple dawging. He writes:

“It's the sides that I am worried about--maybe we should take them off the table altogether?”

My colleague Mad Me-Shell is horrified at the very thought. “No sides?” she asks, aghast. “But, what if they have Tater Tots?”

Ford and I agree on a system. We will split the dogs so that we can each taste a variety, and we’ll try and show a little restraint when it comes to the sides. We’ll try …

So I hot tail it back to New York, and we kick off the adventure at the prescribed time at Blue Ribbon in Brooklyn.

The Pabst Blue Ribbon proves to be the perfect chaser – light, crisp and palate cleansing for the gluttony ahead.

At Willie’s Dawgs at 351 Fifth Avenue, they promise “Plump, juicy and delicious hot dogs grilled any way you like them and reverently tucked into our hand rolled homemade buns.”

We are greeted by a hot dog mural in the front dining room. It’s kind of Marc Chagall meets Coney Island.

Willie’s also features a well-stocked condiment bar. Ford is bewildered at the range of choices. “I thought mustard just came in yellow,” he says.

We order the Mutt, an all-beef dawg with natural casing, and Best in Show, all natural grass-fed beef with natural casing. What does “natural” mean? I don’t ask. I don’t care. We take sauerkraut and relish on the side, and a serving of onion rings fried in Panko bread crumbs. The Mutt tastes solidly-traditional and the Best in Show is darker and spicier.

We then make a brief stop at a French bistro – the name of which I no longer remember – so that Ford can cleanse his palate with a splash of beer. In an effort to create an authentic European experience, the air conditioning at the bistro is out-of-order. Then, it is on to Bark at 474 Bergen Street. The establishment literally barks its name to people on the street with a white-hot neon sign above the door.

Inside, the approach is minimalism. The room is bright and scores of people are perched on high, family-style tables of polished wood.

We order a NYC Classic with Sweet & Sour Onions and Mustard, and Bark Dog, which comes dressed with Sweet Pepper Relish, Mustard and Onion. At this point, the beer, the mustard, and the onions take control and there is no more restraint regarding the sides – we dive off the deep end of the pool, and order the gravy fries.

The dogs are savory and satisfying, although eventually, the condiments are a little overpowering. The sweet & sour onions are very sweet. Perhaps it’s the heady nature of the condiments, but Ford is getting sentimental. Hot dogs evoke memories of youth and he starts reminiscing about Cricket Car Hop in Connecticut, which stood on the horizon like a vision of Shangri-La.

“Cricket was famous for its foot long dogs,” he says. “That's why we used to drive from Bridgeport to go there. You used to go inside on the left and order from a window. To the right of the door was a pinball machine just below the window and I think some seats. When I was a kid, the space behind Cricket was all empty marshland and it stood at the beginning of what felt like a causeway. There was a kiddie amusement park at the other end and I used to feel like I was at one of those places you see in the movies in the Midwest somewhere in the middle of nowhere.”
At this point, I don’t think offering up a fond childhood memory of purchasing Oscar Mayer Wieners from the freezer case at the A&P will wash here, so I do the next best thing. I place an order for the Pickle Dog.

Have you ever seen such a dawg? All beef, two kinds of pickles, and a marriage of mustard and mayo. It’s a mind-bending work of art.

We wrap this night of debauchery at The Chocolate Room at 86 Fifth Avenue with an order of chocolate pudding and red wine. Have we now completely regressed to nursery food? Yes. The red wine is the only thing that saves our sanity, and our arteries. And, it’s all so freakin’ good.

As I head for the train, I point out to Ford that we’ve managed to consume no green vegetables during the entire evening.

“So what’s your point?” he asks.

In order to assuage any nutritional guilt, we make a pact and agree that technically, hot dog relish qualifies as a green vegetable. And, we’ve had plenty of that.

Dawging. It’s the next big thing.

©2009 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved


Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

What a fun and delightful post. It's early morning here and what a way to wake up, smiling all the way to the end of the tale of your evening. You talked about some old times and it made me think that's probably why people took Alka-Seltzer. Today it's a Prylosec before the evening. Surely Mad Me-Shell reminded you guys, didn't she? I had almost forgotten Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.

Again, fun, fun post T.W.

Christo Gonzales said...

am I scrambling now to see how and when I can get out to park slope? you know it!

Julia said...

That sounds like so much fun! I especially like the pickle dawg. And aren't the pickles green?

I'm surprised you didn't have the oscar meyer weiner truck when you were growing up?

Stacey Snacks said...

Brooklyn is so foreign to me, though my whole family grew up in Flatbush, Bensonhurst and Coney Island!
So many fabulous places to try.....will you take me there?

Zany said...

So, if you mixed the mustard with the mayo, why is it so bad to mix the mustard with ketchup?! And the pickles look amazing - maybe would've been better deep fried, no?

Mad Me-Shell said...

I am saddened reading this because I used to live in Park Slope and don't think these were here then!

I'm so proud you took my advice and went for the onion rings AND the gravy fries! We need to take a trip to Crif Dogs ( in the East Village -- they have bacon-wrapped hot dogs with a fried egg and cheese on top -- YUM (did someone mention needing an Alka-Seltzer!?)!

Anonymous said...

Now we just need to get the burger truck to pull up near the dawg joints -- nothing better than hot dogs and burgers! I like the mustard bar, and the sound of those spicy hot dogs. There's a great hot dog cart in Providence that sells spicy natural hot dogs with homemade condiments. Thank goodness it's 20 miles from my house, or I'd be there all the time.

La Cuisine d'Helene said...

Great post, those dogs and fixings look really good.

Anonymous said...

TW-Good story. Your friend, Ford, sounds like a lot of fun. You mention that he is well-dressed, what about looks? Is he available?

Ford Mackenzie said...

Brooklyn, retro beer, and hot dawgs like you've never had before--what could be more perfect. However, dawging in Brooklyn is a big undertaking; TW and I just scratched the surface. We contemplated heading out to Coney Island for more sampling after Bark, but when TW went back in for the pickle dawg, I had to throw in the towel--I have to admit, though, the pickle dawg was awesome. As for the sides, although I consented to the fries smothered in gravy, I had to restrain TW from ordering what he really wanted: the "disco fries", which were fries smothered in gravy AND cheddar cheese. After 5 beers, 5 dawgs, and a plate of onion rings, I am quite certain that the disco fries would have caused my stomach to burst like in the movie Aliens.

~~louise~~ said...

Your excursions always make me so hungry T.W. However, Dog Gone It, this one just pushes me over the edge. "Dawgs" in Brooklyn, with "Sherpa" accommodations, it just doesn't get any better.

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Sam - glad to start your day on a bright note! Mad Me-Shell is already recommending more spots for the next dawging extravaganza.

DB - Your name suggests that you would have a natural affinity for dawging. I've got a Metrocard with your name on it. When do we go?

Julia - I once got stuck being the "Mobile" on my way to Hershey, PA.

Stace - You, me, DB - When??

Zany - Ok, ok, so I fell off the wagon.

Mad - Fried egg garnish is the next big thing. I'm checking our calendars ...

Lydia - You'd better take me to that dog cart when I visit!

Helene - I really liked the sweet onions, and the gravy fries were a personal favorite ...

Anonymous - I'm not the best person to judge Ford's looks, although he is much better looking than I am. I have heard whispers that he "used to be good looking." As for whether or not he is available? For another hot dog bacchanal? Probably ...

Ford - thanks for exposing my issue with disco fries. It would have been interesting to see your stomach go Alien on Bergen Street. By the way, Leslie Gore has laid out a Coney Island challenge. It's gonna happen ...

Louise - If things are going ruff, just go to Bark and get a Pickle Dog. It will help - I promise!

Rochelle R. said...

What a great post! That sure was a huge display of mustard. The name Bark cracks me up. A great hot dog is one with pickles, mustard and tomato wedges. Yum. I am such a hot dog fan I have a hot dog recipe blog.

Lori Lynn said...

I'm a fan!

Marc Chagall meets Coney Island...hahaha


Jann said...

You find the best and most interesting places! This post brings new light to the "dawg" world!