The gourmet burger craze may be morphing into mania over another American classic: the hot dog. The recently opened Kings of Kobe (160 Eighth Avenue; 646-449-8150), a pop-up takeout window on the side of Pounds & Ounces NYC Pub, aims to spread a high-end hot dog and brat brand throughout NYC.
The vintage-wood and galvanized-steel stand opened on May 19, serving a 100 percent Kobe beef dog on a brioche bun — the Classic K, a six-inch dog topped with onion marmalade, sauerkraut, and yellow mustard. Starting on Memorial Day, the stand will feature an additional special every day.
Expect to see these imaginative and decidedly decadent combinations: the BLT (bacon, lettuce, tomato, balsamic glaze, and mayo); the Life (sweet-and-sour sauce, raisins, and mustard greens with truffle honey drizzle); the Whoo-Ah! (chile salsa, chipotle aioli, avocado, and crisp bacon bits). The Most Whimsical award goes to the Almost PB&J, topped with sheep’s-milk cheese, blackberry jam, and mint. “The idea stemmed from the burger,” says Pounds & Ounces managing partner Etai Cinader. “I kind of wanted to create something more fun and unique.”
The burger craze served as a model for the food, but growth in the quick-service restaurant (QSR) market was the real basis for the idea. Cinader had been exploring ideas for a multitude of concepts over the years. Given the popularity of comfort food and Americans’ long-term relationship with hot dogs and brats, he was looking for ways to incorporate them into a fast-casual setting. When he discovered smaller versions of the Kobe dogs and started selling them at the pub to mild fanfare, he knew he’d found his brand.
Over the course of a month, he read up on hot dogs and looked at menus across the U.S., experimenting with different flavors and ingredients. “I’m definitely into creative stuff, the weird stuff, the funky stuff,” he says.
Cinader has been seeking out investors and looking for locations for about a year. The pop-up is sort of a tryout to see how the concept flies. Cinader hopes to branch out to one of the indoor food markets. He’s being selective, though, as he wants to have space to present a brand. Design elements will be a big part of doing that; he envisions something like funky-motorcycle-gang-meets-great-chef.
Cinader’s endgame, however, is to eventually branch out to brick-and-mortar storefronts where he’ll be able to expand the menu with more Kobe products like steak and burgers as well as some vegetarian options. He’d eventually like to have multiple locations throughout the city. “It’s all about fun, edgy takeout,” says Cinader. “I’m very much about accommodating people. That’s hard to do at a pop-up.”
Pounds & Ounces’ Kings of Kobe hot dogs will be available Monday through Friday from noon to 3:30 p.m. through Labor Day (maybe longer, depending on the weather). Cinader is toying with the idea of opening again for late-night service on Friday and Saturday nights, after the restaurant’s regular dinner service. Each hot dog costs $6.50 and is available for takeaway only.
Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.