The simple hot dog suffers from an identity crisis. Perhaps Frank has recently seen too many mumblecore movies, and has decided that his normal routine — a squirt of ketchup, a dollop of mustard, a spoonful of pickle relish, even sauerkraut on fancy occasions — has stifled his creative side.
Dissatisfied with city life and a failed relationship with a vegan sausage, he loads his iPod with Pitchfork picks and hops on a plane to South America, where he plans on re-reading The Unbearable Lightness of Being and doing some soul-searching, kind of like a meat-slurry version of Elizabeth Gilbert. He backpacks through three countries — Chile, Colombia, and Brazil — and winds up learning very little about himself, but a lot about the continent’s unique approaches to hot dog making. Because Frank’s travel memoir isn’t out for a few more months, we at Fork in the Road decided to see for ourselves what’s so special about these countries’ varieties, which come overloaded with all sorts of marvelously unexpected ingredients. Below, behold the South American hot dog holy trinity!
San Antonio Bakery 2
In Chile, restaurants serve up gutbusters called completos — plain hot dogs and white-bread buns buried under tomato, sauerkraut, guacamole, and mayonnaise. At San Antonio, in Astoria, patrons have the pleasure of gorging on an authentic, and mouthwatering, version of this Southern Hemisphere staple. The weak of mandible shouldn’t indulge in this offering. Condiments tower over the expanse of the link — rather than a North American’s restrained drizzle of dressing — making polite, small bites outright impossible. If this $3.50 pup strikes you as too cool, spoon on some of the eatery’s excellent aji — a cilantro, garlic, and onion-heavy tomato salsa that has a slight kick. 3620 Astoria Boulevard, Queens, 718-777-8733
Aqui Colombia Antojitos
Like a hot-dog-meets-black-tar mashup, this Andean café’s offering overwhelms the palate and simultaneously slows digestive function. Jackson Heights’ Aqui piles pineapple chunks, melted Swiss cheese, potato chip strips, a salsa-based version of golf sauce — usually blended mayo and ketchup — on a frankfurter. The crunchy, dry topping keeps the offering from being too soggy and soft, and adds necessary salt to a dish that could easily come across as too sweet and saucy. This $3.50 indulgence comes with a much-needed fork, required if you plan on taming this beastly canine without spilling it on your lap. 8108 37th Avenue, Jackson Heights, 718-651-6565
New York Pão de Queijo
Corn, hearty tomato sauce, and hero-roll-like bread set this Brazilian bakery’s offering apart from its analogues. Astoria’s Pão de Queijo’s version also comes flecked with crisp potato sticks and mayo, like its Colombian brother. Served piping hot, in politesse-preserving wax paper, this sandwich exudes beefiness. The meaty sausage, cut into curled slices, does not overburden the tongue with savory weightiness, though: That’s because the yellow maize provides a light, sweet counter. Try the $3.95 item with the mysterious — yet pleasing — green-hued sauce, which is brought out with the cachorro. The calm condiment strikes you as a mayo with a tomatillo-esque accent. 3190 30th Street, Astoria, 718-204-1979