Hot dogs, American as apple pie, are actually beloved all over the world, especially in the Western Hemisphere. The Colombian version of a hot dog, the perro caliente, has its own unique preparation and presentation. In New York, there are excellent examples to taste at La Perrada de Chalo (83-12 Northern Boulevard, Queens; 718-639-6677).
Tubular, encased meats were brought to the New World in the mid–eighteenth century, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council. Some reports claim that in the 1860s, a German immigrant on the Bowery served sausages, milk rolls, and sauerkraut from a pushcart.
Just as in NYC nowadays, one can find a hot dog on nearly every street corner in Colombia. “You usually eat them late-night after parties, because people exit nightclubs and are hungry from dancing,” says La Perrada de Chalo owner Gonzalo Ortegon. In keeping with tradition, Ortegon’s eighteen-year-old Jackson Heights storefront is open until 4 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 24 hours Friday and Saturday. The sight and sound of soccer games beams from flatscreens placed throughout the establishment, creating a backdrop of noise and light. Behind the counter, LCDs flash images and the slightly humorous names of menu items: Showy Super, Polly Perro, Al Gusto.
While New Yorkers go for simple sauerkraut, onions, and mustard, Colombians load up their franks with a wide mix of textures and flavors. Forgoing the grill, these puppies are always boiled or steamed, even at home barbecues. Ortegon offers nearly a dozen different options in regular and super portions; the basic version, like one he says you’d find in his native Cali, is topped with ketchup, mustard, salsa rosada (pink sauce made from a blend of ketchup and mayo), cheese, crumbled potato chips, garlic aioli (with a hint of mustard), and pineapple sauce. The latter is made in house from a mix of cinnamon, clove, unrefined whole cane sugar, and pineapple — it’s found on almost every perro on the menu.
At La Perrada, as in Colombia, the combinations go much further; there really are no rules to toppings. The Iraqui ($4.15/$6.20) takes all of the aforementioned items and adds sliced hard-boiled egg to the mix. The Marinero ($4.60/$6.15) forgoes the eggs in favor of shrimp sauce. A very popular rendition, the Hawaiano ($3.90/$5.90) comes with just cheese, pineapple, and all of the sauces. The Al Gusto ($5/$6.80) is the same, but with the addition of bacon, shrimp, and eggs. Then there’s the Criollo ($4.15/$5), a riff on the versions found in the coastal regions of the country that add finely shredded lettuce as a refreshing counterpoint to the meat. At La Perrada, cabbage salad is combined with the customary sauces, cheese, and crushed chips.
The menu doesn’t stop at hot dogs — there’s a large mix of other Latin American street foods and snacks on offer, such as arepas with choice of cheese ($3.50), chicken ($7), and chicharron with beef and chicken ($9). Salchipapa ($7.50) is served here, too. Originally from Lima, Peru, the dish has become popular throughout South America. The original combines beef sausages and french fries with aji amarillo (yellow chile) sauce, mayonnaise, and sometimes ketchup, fried egg, or cheese. Ortegon uses sliced frankfurters, fries, yellow potatoes, and hard-boiled eggs. Pink sauce and ketchup come on the side.