The various hotdog-and-papaya joints scattered across Manhattan are great for a quick fix, but if you want to truly experience a hotdog’s potential, you have to schlep down to the East Village. Tucked away on St. Mark’s Place, just in from Avenue A, you’ll find Crif Dogs, an establishment that redefines what many consider to be the worst form of meat.
The small, dark restaurant has committed itself to the hotdog in a way like no place I’ve ever been. A few old arcade games greet you at the door, and the décor will not strike you as carefully planned. Linger at the cash register for a moment, and you’ll see a “Wicked Girl” action figure (if you don’t know that that is, leave a comment, and I’ll help you out). And, there are even a few secrets to be found around Crif … if you know where to look.
An expansive menu hangs above the counter, and it is littered with creations that even my lust for unhealthy eating didn’t equip me to fathom. The “Good Morning,” for example, is festooned with cheese, bacon and a fried egg. Bacon, in fact, features prominently on several Crif hotdogs, including the Chihuahua, which comes with guacamole and sour cream (these two are my favorites by far – the bacon is a big part of the reason why). There are other menu items, such as French fries and burgers, but I tend to skip them, preferring to order an extra dog rather than fill the limited space in my stomach with something else.
What Crif Dogs serves is among the best I’ve ever had, with the only competition coming from Popo’s in Swmascott, Massachusetts and a small stand just off Camp Casey in Tong Du Chon, South Korea (which may not even exist anymore – it’s been a dozen years since I last “dined” there). The dogs are hot, they snap and they are packed with flavor in a way that keeps the toppings from masking it. To call a Crif Dog a superior hotdog would be an understatement. And you won’t have any problems with the bun. Though it isn’t toasted (take this as a suggestion, Crif), it’s firm and dry.
Crif Dogs is a bit out of the way if you’re sticking to the usual tourist spots when visiting New York City, but it’s worth a subway hike (and then a walk) to sink your teeth into one of Crif’s creations. The experience is worth it.
[Thanks to @welshwonder for putting a few dogs back with me on my last trip to Crif]