By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
What I'm Thinking
The history of the hot dog is a lot like the process of making a hot dog. No one can seem to agree on what it consists of. Was our local hero Nathan Handwerker the one who invented the frankfurter? Or did he just bring it to this country and perfect and popularize it at Nathan's, where it became known as a Coney Island? Or was its first appearance at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893? In any case, we New Yorkers, who think we have the definitive version of everything, also have a sort of pride-of-ownership thing going when it comes to the frankfurter. In Manhattan, despite Giuliani's best efforts, we still have "umbrella rooms" on almost every corner in Midtown selling Sabrett's with that famous red-onion sauce. Out here on the Island, those same dirty-water dogs are sold from grungy trucks on the side of the road. Uptown, people swear by the cheap wieners at Gray's Papaya and Papaya King. We stand over the vats of sauerkraut and chopped onions at Nathan's and think we have it all. But there's so much more. In L.A., at places like Pink's and Tale of the Pup, the hot dog is smothered with everything but tofu. In Chicago, the famous Vienna sausages hot dogs get the same treatment.
Owner Tom Ward is here to teach us Northern know-it-alls a thing or two about hot dogs. After owning Louie's hot-dog stand in downtown Wilmington, North Carolina, for 10 years, he decided to move north. With his partner Charles Kwon, a former attorney for the Town of Oyster Bay, he secured the franchise rights to Hooters for all of Long Island a few years back. Not content with a 60-hour work week and community opposition from NIMBY types, he needed something else to do in his free time. He noticed there was no place on Long Island to get a dog with the works like at Louie's, which made the list of top 20 hot dog stands on the recent PBS special A Hot Dog Program. So, along with Kwon, he opened Mr. Bulldog's this past Memorial Day weekend. The big surprise is that he brought along a little North Carolina-style barbecue, too.
Casing the Joint
With two tables inside, two tables on the sidewalk and ahalf-dozen counter seats, this place is small, but how much time are you going to spend here wolfing down the dogs? Ward researched the area at the local library, framed old pictures of Long Beach and hung them on the walls. Located on the south side of the street about 15 miles up the beach from the original Nathan's in Coney Island, it feels like the perfect location.
What We Ate
The menu consists of "The Dog House," listing 10 different wieners ranging in price from $1.79 for the "Park Avenue," which is a hot dog with mustard and ketchup, to $2.19 for the "Mr. Bulldog's," which has mustard, cheese, chili and homemade coleslaw. I went for that one. It was a five-napkin affair but worth it. If that's not enough stuff, extras like bacon and relish are just 20 cents each. In an apparent homage to the area, the hot dogs are Nathan's 100-percent beef. But unlike at Nathan's, where they grill the dogs, these are steamed. These guys know what they're doing. The "Atlantic Beach" comes with mayo, cheese and bacon, giving it a BLT-like flavor. They also have a "Court House" (mustard, chili, cheese), a "Library" (cheese and mayo) and variations on the theme, with names like "Lido Beach," "Lawyer," "Train Station" and "West End." "Getting Out of the Dog House" has three sandwiches all served on hot-dog buns. The "City Hall" ($1.99) is chicken salad, and the "Long Beach" ($2.49) is a Polish sausage. I'm not sure why the North Carolina-style barbecued pulled pork sandwich is named the "Nassau County," but who cares? It's a delicious rendition of the kind served in Wilmington. With a vinegar-based barbecue sauce infused into the shredded meat and covered with creamy homemade coleslaw, it's a bargain at $2.19. And with the recent sad demise of Stan's Soul Kitchen in Uniondale, Mr. Bulldog's may be the only place on Long Island to have it. Wash it all down with frozen fruit drinks ($1.99), which are made while you wait, or a root beer.
You were thinking maybe they have a soy dog of some kind? Forget about it! Get the "Court House" ($1.99)--hold the chili, hold the cheese, hold the hot dog.
Enjoy ice cream or frozen-fruit drinks ($1.99) in flavors like peach and piña colada.
When you can fill yourself up using the change you find under the front seat of your car, there really is no damage.