Forget Greenmarket rarities — if you want to taste seasonality in action, eat a hot dog during summer. New Yorkers adore their frankfurters, whether plucked from vats of cloudy poaching water or graciously constructed with quality ingredients instead of the tornado of barnyard trimmings that standard tube steaks usually comprise. Starting with the meat cylinder–slinging immigrants of early-twentieth-century Coney Island, our city’s diverse, ever-expanding culinary identity has awarded its hungry denizens with all manner of hot dogs and toppings. This summer, chef Jonah Miller and manager Nate Adler of Huertas (107 First Avenue, 212-228-4490) have hedged their bets on a weekend to-go counter dealing in bun-bound sausages and frozen drinks.
Miller makes the chistorra links himself, something he’s done since Huertas opened in April 2014, serving them in bite-size pieces stuck with toothpicks as part of the restaurant’s menu of pintxos, or small, inexpensive nibbles. Before he and Adler did away with the back dining room’s $55 prix-fixe menu, he paired a lamb version with seared slices of lamb leg. But he didn’t start plunking the thin, garlic-and-paprika-packed sausages (made with pork now) into potato buns until the beginning of this year. And even then, they’ve remained a “secret” off-menu item. Now Adler and Miller have a cash register set up by one of the restaurant’s front windows to take advantage of the warmer weather. Sadly, it’s a limited operation, serving weekends only from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The cheffy snack arrives layered with Basque-inspired condiments befitting the restaurant’s raison d’être. Generous squirts of garlicky aioli and sweet, relish-like piquillo pepper mostarda line the bun, and the whole thing bursts with spicy, porky unctuousness. Its flavors are clearly Spanish, yet the delightfully messy sandwich eats with an unmistakable American bravado. Consume it right there on the street with a cup of frozen horchata in hand, or take your bounty to a stoop nearby. Sure, an order of two sausages and a drink costs roughly three times as much as the recession special at Gray’s Papaya, but these puppies have serious bite backed by virtuous ingredients.
Huertas offers two kinds of slushes: one with alcohol and one without, both whirring away in their machines on top of the bar. Per Spanish tradition, the restaurant favors tiger nuts for its horchata, which give the drink a caramel color and toasted-almond flavor. Last week the nuts spoiled, so Adler switched to a peach creamsicle. Mixed deftly with prosecco for a frozen bellini, the frosty fruit beverage pulled its weight. The other machine held an icy sherry cobbler packing a boozy, fruity punch. And while all of the drinks go well with the frankfurters, you’ll have to stick to the virgin varieties if you plan on parading your meal around town. Both dogs and frozen drinks go for $6 each, or $10 for any combination of the two.
“We wanted to have some fun this summer,” Adler says. Mission accomplished.