As Our Man Sietsema and I continue to update the dining listings, we periodically re-visit restaurants we haven’t been to for a while. Since the dining listings are, by necessity, short and sweet, it’s fun to get the whole story from Our Man on the places he’s re-evaluating.
Today: Crif Dogs! And Our Man has discovered their secret.
Two of my favorite chefs in town are Wylie Dufresne (WD-50) and David Chang (the Momofuku empire), so when I heard that each had created his own weenie for Crif Dogs, I ran over there right away to find out how they were garnished.
Trouble was, no one in Crif Dogs knew what the hell I was talking about when I dropped in around midday. A couple weeks later, I visited again, only to have the countergal tell me, “Oh, those. We don’t know how to make them. You’ll have to drop by the bar some evening.” She was referring to the Crif Dogs bar next door, which had apparently become a hang for downtown chefs like Chang and Dufresne.
A friend and I scoured the façade of the bar, but could detect nothing that resembled a door, but, once inside the hot dog merchant, we noted the odd presence of a phone booth in one corner. Though I go regularly to Crif Dogs for the “spicy redneck” (a deep fried dog swaddled in bacon and topped with chili, jalapenos, and coleslaw), I’d never notice the phone booth before. When you pick up the receiver, the hostess answers and buzzes you in through a secret swinging panel in the booth, like one of those damn spy bars popular in the previous century.
Once inside, you’ll discover a swanky subterranean room with a long bar and a few tables, mounted animal trophies, and some bartenders who take their mixology seriously. Funny that a hot dog stand should spawn a swanky bar, we thought. Along with some beers, we ordered the Chang and the Dufresne, priced at $5 each. After a bit of a wait, they were passed through a tiny metal door at the back of the bar by a pair of disembodied hands, very Addams Family.
Both were memorably tasty. The Chang model, like the spicy redneck, began with a frank that had a piece of bacon pinned around it, like a cave girl modeling a skimpy animal skin. The dog was further dressed with kim chi and some species of upscale ketchup, sweet and slightly spicy. The Dufresne features the same dog (sans bacon) with freeze-dried onions, shredded Romaine, and one of Wylie’s science chef flourishes, fried mayonnaise, which had the texture of shaving cream on the night we tried it, which may have been a mis-execution of the chef’s original intent. It was good nonetheless.
In fact, the dogs were so good, we wished you could score them without all the rigmarole of phone booth, cocktail lounge, and waiter service. Please, Crif Dogs, teach the folks next door how to make these for your more plebian patrons.