Doggy Style in Park Slope: Bark Hot Dogs

Frank talk about a new place for weiners

Wear your sunglasses as you exit the 2 or 3 train at Bergen Street, because the giant neon sign that spells out B-A-R-K glows with thousands of nuclear watts late into the evening. The interior is far more dark and chill, with raised counters running the width of the storefront, flanked by stools that allow you to perch but not slouch. Make your way past the seating area to find an ordering station deep in the interior, from which the dogs are dispensed. The staff is friendly as hell, clearly trying to win you over to their effete frank lifestyle.

Years ago, I noted you can tell that times are bad when hot dogs become dinner, rather than just a snack. And today, just as hot dog carts have progressively disappeared from city streets, dogs have found a new kennel in semi-upscale restaurants. Bark is the most advanced evocation of this idea, styling itself as an eco-friendly hipster hang, and mounting a menu that gives tube steaks the respect they may—or may not—deserve.

First off, the weenies themselves. Snob-wise, a Nathan's or a Sabrett wouldn't do. Bark offers a single frank, a proprietary link manufactured by Hartmann's Old World Sausage of Canandaigua, New York. That's nearly locavoric, right? These franks display a wonderful snap when you bite into them, but the pork-beef combo inside is as pale as Casper the Friendly Ghost. To compensate for this comparative blandness, the boiled dogs are basted in a smoked lard-butter combo, which lends an amazing savor.

Comfort food, discomfort chairs
Calvin Godfrey
Comfort food, discomfort chairs

Location Info

Map

Bark Hot Dogs

474 Bergen St.
Brooklyn, NY 11217

Category: Restaurant > Hot Dogs

Region: Park Slope

Details

Bark Hot Dogs
474 Bergen Street
Park Slope, Brooklyn
718-789-1939

Of course, the dogs normally come so glopped with toppings that their actual taste is secondary. The cheapest is the "classic," offered on a toasted bun. As far as I can tell, nobody orders it, since the price tag of $4 seems a bit steep for a naked dog. Nevertheless, this is one of the most delicious items at Bark when slathered with grainy mustard, so don't neglect it. There are eight further configurations, running from $4.75 to $6, featuring the usual condiments (mustard, mayo, pickle relish) and such predictable toppings as bacon, onions, cheddar, dill pickles, and chili. Not for Bark is the welter of crazy cooking styles and wild-style configurations—or the downmarket posing—that is Crif Dogs.

My favorite of the dolled-up dogs is the pickle dog, which comes with an assortment of house cucumber pickles—some sweet, some sour—arranged geometrically across the slit in the bun, which opens on the top, like a lobster roll. Squiggles of mustard and mayo further the flavor. My least favorite is the chili cheese dog: The chili isn't really chili con carne. There's no cumin, for once thing, and the finely minced brisket is flavored with cinnamon and is sickly sweet, making it a cousin of the hideous Cincinnati chili. Actually, a similar but superior condiment to Bark's is known as "zippy sauce" in the Albany area. It was an early-20th-century invention of Greek hot dog vendors and has no relation to chili con carne.

Apart from sides that also function as toppings, fries and onion rings are the only other food choices on the regular menu. The fries are good, while the beer-battered onion rings glisten with grease and don't taste much like onions. Fries can also be had with various combos of cheese, gravy, and "chili," including Jersey-style disco fries, which feature the first two substances. Bark serves beer, with four taps provided by Six Point Ales of Red Hook, Brooklyn. These beers are superb, whether you pick Righteous Rye (my fave) or Bark Red Ale, which was formulated to go with frankfurters. The 16-ounce pours are reasonably priced at $4, and—uncomfortable stools aside—Bark is where you might want to continue your night of tippling after your dinner is done. The joint also makes superb thick shakes with Laboratorio del Gelato ice cream ($6).

With these sorts of culinary aspirations, could that be the end of the menu? Of course not. Somewhere in the depths of the establishment lurks a person wearing a toque, with visions of being more than a dog trainer. To prove it, Bark offers a short seasonal menu; if you delve into it, you may never go back to franks. There's an amazing sandwich of pork belly, cheeks, and jowl compressed into patties and fried like French pied de cochon ($8), but even better is Bark's rudimentary toasted-cheese sandwich. Two slices of Pullman white, a modest amount of sharp cheddar, and a griddle smeared with butter: That spells toasted-cheese perfection!

rsietsema@villagevoice.com. For additional restaurant coverage, check out our food blog Fork in the Road.

 
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