WHERE to eat? After chugging a glass of (very good) dark beer in some Irish pub where the locals hang out, we were hungry -- a couple of Pinoys, a tourist and a local, and a New York bred Japanese-Korean woman who swears like a sailor. WTF!... It’s like... You know…Yeah, I know I am very hungry ad I don’t know where to eat in Greenwich Village.
The two locals asked what I wanted to try and enumerated the cuisine offered by the neighboring restaurants. Nothing tickled my appetite. I pulled out my black book and checked my list of must eats in the city (care of Mr. Bourdain’s TV shows) and asked if any of the restaurants are close by? Crif Dogs was.
And it was indeed very close by. “Here it is,” they said, after walking a block.
Crif Dogs is a small joint at the basement of a brownstone row of houses on St. Marks Place in East Village, a historic part of the Big Apple. Without lighting on its signage, I would probably miss it if I were by myself (I am a malfunctioning GPS even with a map in hand) even at daytime. But the eye-catching, almost risqué, huge, red hot dog with mustard dispenser-written “eat me” on it might lead you to the place -- unless you perceive this as another artwork typical on this artsy side of the town.
Growing up to eating hot dogs, good friends Brian Shebairo and Chris Antista finally got to open their own hot dog joint on October 2001, after two years of research (like riding motorcycles across states sampling hot dogs) and developing their products. The duo named it Crif Dogs. How they came up with the name? Try saying “Chris” with a mouthful of hotdog.
The place is a typical neighborhood fast food place with a couple of vintage video game machines and wooden bench and tables that can fit a few patrons, maybe no more than twenty. But it’s popularity keeps the place packed with a mix of locals and tourists who must have read a Top 10 must-eat list in the Big Apple or caught Anthony Bourdain’s New York City food adventure on cable TV (which I saw, thus my list). If Crif Dogs came recommended, I must try.
Here there’s something everyone should know about Crif Dogs it is that their wieners are deep fried in vats of bubbling oil (it’s their moisture locking implement). Yes, it is sinful (read: evil) in its calorie and fat content. It’s not what the happy-food-seeking-dieter would really go for. But I, the tourist, will have to throw caution to the wind this time.
We ordered the Chili Dog (a well done dog smothered in mustard, onions and secret chili sauce), the Corn Dog (a house dog “deep fried to perfection” in special batter), the Spicy Red Neck (a house dog, bacon wrapped, with chili, cole slaw and jalapeños), the Tater Tots aka French fries with oozing cheese topping, and another beer for each of us.
Verdict: I enjoyed the Crif Dogs. It was a good meal to have after a drink at the local pub. Well, oily food always tastes good when inebriated, doesn’t it? Having said that, I guess even if I had the Veggie Dog (a veggie dog with onions, tomato, cucumber and jalapeños) it will be as calorific as the rest of the dogs across the menu board by the way everything is cooked.
I could get another bite of this big, red wiener when I get back to the Big Apple.
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