In this space, James A. Foley explores New York City’s strangest sandwiches.
Los Perros Locos turns out a number of wacky menu items that redefine the traditional, all-American hot dog. But one particular selection is so strange that even calling it “loco” feels a bit like an exercise in restraint. More like “loquisimo,” which translates loosely to “crazy maximized.”
That dog is the thoughtfully named El Perro Perdido–“the lost dog”–and it begins with a slice of inch-thick, deep-fried French toast, which is layered with an all-beef meat tube, smoked ham, melted Swiss cheese, and a drizzle of strawberry ancho jam. “Lost” here could imply that this dog took a wrong turn on its way from a county fair, made a quick detour through Mexican chile country, and sat for a long time at a highway diner in Texas before finding a lift to New York.
I asked the guy behind the counter if, by ordering a lost dog, I’d be getting the strangest thing on the menu. He confirmed, but noted that El Niño Loco–a hot dog topped with Kraft mac & cheese, Fritos, and ketchup–is pretty strange, too. My fiancée was with me, and she agreed to order that dog for comparison’s sake. (She doesn’t eat meat, though, so we paid $1 more for her Niño Loco to be made with a veggie dog.)
Her dog worked out pretty well. The corn chips gave it a requisite crunch, and ketchup is an agreeable condiment for Kraft macaroni and cheese and hot dogs alike, so having it all there in one package created a complementary flavor profile. Also: a Los Perros Locos veggie dog is remarkably convincing. Enough so that we had to ask the guys behind the counter to re-confirm that it really wasn’t meat.
El Perro Perdido proved much stranger than corn chips and processed cheese, though. The first bite was downright confusing; oily, sweet fried bread met meat and cheese and finished off with hints of spicy strawberry flavor. It was not entirely unlike a Monte Cristo sandwich, where powered sugar and jam offer a similarly sweet contrast to smoked meat and cheese. And the French toast bun was not fluffy or eggy, but rather had a fried confectionery taste very similar to funnel cake.
I was expecting to find the whole experience pretty gut-wrenching, but I left with a different taste in my mouth. While the meal was heavy–and frankly, would have tasted a lot better if the hot dog were omitted entirely–it was intriguing enough to convince me that it’s worth a repeat trip to try some of the other loco hot dog creations on the menu.
Ordering a Perro Perdido is sort of like willfully adopting a three-legged dog–it may not be the best choice, and some may question your judgment when so many more appealing dogs are up for grabs–but there’s also a sense of adventure and nobility in the decision. Somebody has to do it, for the sake of absurdity and a good story.
And just like you can learn to love a three-legged dog, you can learn to love El Perro Perdido.