The Hot Dog Oscars

In honor of the upcoming Academy Awards, let’s see who wins this year’s Best Hot Dog. I ate a lot of hot dogs last year. I gained ten pounds. (It’s disgusting, the things I do for you people).

The nominees for Best Hot Dog of 2008 are:

Gray’s Papaya, for The Curious Case of Coconut Champagne
This old favorite is a standard Oscar-bait dog- a skinny tube steak with good flavor, classic toppings, and they’re open all night. The drinks are amazing, and vhat a bargain!! But we’ve seen this before.

Crif Dog, for Dog/Bacon
Hot Dogs and Bacon- two things that go great together, fried to crispy perfection. Others have done it, but no one wraps bacon around the dog like Crif does, and their toppings selections keep getting better. The one to beat.

Big Daddy’s Diner, for Hotdog Millionaire
Size does matter! But so does flavor. Big Daddy’s diner of decadence makes the best foot long we had this year, a spicy frank smothered in cheese and bacon. But the bacon lacked flavor and more toppings would have been nice.

Puka Dog, for The ‘Furter

Let’s go Hawaiian! You’ve got to go to Honolulu for this one, but it’s worth the flight. The dog is a bit bland and mushy but well-seared. What makes this one amazing is the perfect bun- with a hole seared in the middle to stick the juicy dog, and tons of fruity, spicy and mayonnaise-y toppings!

Ben’s Chili Bowl, for Half-Smoke
Ben’s is a spicy sausage made of beef and pork, slathered mightily with a kick-ass smoky chili and tangy onions. This one’s a classic and a serious contender to Crif Dog. If you’re in D.C., you simply must go. It’s a neighborhood landmark and makes serious good eats.

And the winners are…

Don’t you hate when the Oscars wastes your time and saves the big ones for last? Get used to it.

The Independent Sausage award goes to The Dover Grill for being the most exciting hot dog joint in North Jersey we found. While it doesn’t beat Crif Dog, they make some amazing flavor combos there.

The Irving Whaleberg Lifetime Achievement Award goes to Joey “Jaws” Chestnut, for winning the Nathan’s hot dog eating contest once more. This time he ate 59 hot dogs in 12 minutes, tying champ Takera “Tsunami” Kobayashi, and then defeated him in a 5 hot dog eat-off tiebreaker. He is truly a great American and an inspiration to hot dog lovers everywhere.

and the winner of Best Hot Dog 2008 is…


No big surprise here if you know insiders at the Academy! Crif Dog continues to amaze us with their timeless concoctions. They’ve added cream cheese, kimchi, and Taylor Ham to the roster, but the Spicy Redneck- cole slaw, jalapenos, bacon, and chili- still reigns supreme. It’s such a perfect mix of crunchy saltiness, spicy peppers, and cool creamy slaw. The Good Morning Jersey, with Taylor Ham, cheese and a fried egg, is pretty good but needs ketchup added- Taylor Ham and ketchup are the perfect marriage of flavor. The Jon Jon Dragon, with cream cheese, scallions and “everything bagel topping” is good but strange. Cream cheese goes well, but the topping is too salty. We still haven’t conquered their menu, and they keep raising the bar.
Even when Milky can barely lift a Crif dog, he will persevere and conquer. He won’t let any mere hot dog humiliate him. And just look at how fiercely Firecracker protects her plate. She got the Chihuahua, the avocado bacon dog. That’s the one Chihuahua you won’t wanna dropkick.

Thanks to all who participated, and for those overlooked, better luck next year!

Greasy Spoons: Gray’s Papaya

For some, Nathan’s is the ultimate hot dog mecca in New York; others flock to gourmet upstarts like Crif Dog, home of the bacon-wrapped tube steak. But on Manhattan, where every corner has a pushcart slinging dirty water dogs, there can be only one- Gray’s Papaya, home of the Recession Special, 2 dogs and a drink for three-fifty.
We ended up there after seeing The Goonies on Pier 46 at River Flicks last Friday, and it was definitely worth the walk. Two seared franks loaded with kraut mustard and onions, with one of their fruit drinks- the titular Papaya, or perhaps the sublime coconut champagne- and your search for post-drinking food is sated, at a bargain price.

The recession special

Gray’s started in 1973 and has been a landmark since- with three locations along the West side, if you’re in the Village, near Lincoln Center, or near Times Square you’re set. It’s not as old as Papaya King, which started in 1931, but like another relative newcomer, Grimaldi’s Pizza, it consistently gets voted #1 over its aged forebears.Eye-rollingly good.

They don’t offer chili, cheese, or relish like Papaya King, but their roasted pups and their sweet onion sauce stand great on their own. They’re a little on the small size- your typical Sabrett’s weenie slathered with mustard, a mere 3 or 4 bites- but they’re full of flavor and deserve their legendary status. They go perfectly with their Papaya drink, but there’s banana daiquiri, orange, grape, pina colada, and of course, the effervescent Coconut Champagne to choose from. And don’t forget, the Papaya drink is made from the aristocratic melon of the tropics.

Admittedly, much of the mystique surrounding Gray’s is nostalgia, but it’s the quintessential NYC hot dog. Roasted like the original Nathan’s, but with it’s own characteristic flair. It may not be as filling or wild as a Puka Dog, but until the Hawaiians invade, Gray’s will be safe.