Free Montreal travel in three simple steps

Do you like Montreal? I have to admit, I’ve been there three times in the past two years, and I just can’t get enough of it. The minute I hit the streets of Old Montreal, I find myself craving a hotdog at the St-Denis Pool Hall before dashing over to the art galleries on St-Paul Ouest. Even with winter approaching rapidly, I’m feeling the pull up north.

So, I was pretty excited by a cool contest that just hit the web from CheapOair, and the social media junkie in me was drawn in. The upside is pretty exciting: two roundtrip tickets to Montreal from Air Canada, two luxurious nights at the Montreal Marriott Chateau and tickets to a variety of local attractions around the city from Tourism Montreal.

If you win, I strongly suggest you go hang out with local foodie Katerine Rollet for a while. Ask her about the local hotdogs, and she’ll probably know I put you up to it.

So, how do score this getaway? Well, you have to click around to three sites … and maybe do a little typing. There are three simple steps:


1. Head over to Facebook – assuming you’re already one of the 500 million users of the site. “Like” the Montreal Buzz page.

2. While you’re in Facebook, click over to CheapOair’s page and “like” that, too.

3. Finally, you’ll have to leave Facebook (don’t worry, you can – and probably will – wind up back there at some point during the day). Visit the Tourism Montreal blog and leave a comment telling everyone why you want to head up there. You won’t get extra points for mentioning the hotdogs in town, but I haven’t heard that doing so will hurt.

The contest kicks off November 1, 2010 and ends on November 5, 2010. The winner will be announced on November 8, 2010. Fortunately, you won’t have to wait long to see if you’ll get to hit the road.

Click here to see what else there is to do in Montreal!

Crif Dogs: The Top Hotdogs in New York City

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]

U.S. Open: Chomp on a Hotdog

Hotdogs and sporting events belong together, so when I went to my first U.S. Open tennis match, I knew I’d have to see what the Arthur Ashe Stadium had to offer. Given a delay caused by matches earlier in the day, the Nadal/Gabashvili pairing started late, so I wasn’t able to take my first bite until darkness had descended over Queens.

I left my seat and ambled over to the concession as the players battled into the night to see what a U.S. Open hotdog would taste like, and I found three alternatives I could use to satisfy my hotdog jones. There was an Italian sausage, which would have been too upscale for me if it hadn’t spent what looked like an eternity under the heating lamp. That left traditional hotdogs in two sizes: regular and foot-long. Obviously, I chose the latter … wouldn’t you?

Carefully balancing my cardboard tray – laden with my two foot-longs, water and a beer (Heineken Light, my feeble attempt to make sure there was something healthy on the tray) over to the condiment counter, where I added ketchup and mustard.


%Gallery-101120%Back at my seat, I took my first bite. Simply maneuvering the monstrosity to my mouth took two hands, and I had to be careful to ensure my shirt remained clear of the red and yellow adorning my dogs. As two models of physical fitness sprinted, grunted and heaved under the lights on the court below, I pierced the casing of an American tradition.

I was not disappointed.

The Arthur Ashe Stadium hotdog was exactly as unimpressive as I’d thought it would be. It didn’t quite snap when I bit, and the temperature was only lukewarm, in part my fault because of a detour to the smoking area. The taste wasn’t bad, though. Some stadium dogs can resemble warm bologna too closely, but this one was the real deal. I munched mercilessly and quickly.

While the U.S. Open’s hotdogs don’t compare to those I’ve had in Iceland, Montreal or Antigua, they get the job done when you’re baking in the hot city sun (or if you’re suffering through a sweltering New York night). It’s not the taste that matters when your back is pressed against the hard stadium seats. Rather, it’s the fact that you’re participating in a uniquely American institution that’s important. If you’re among the masses headed to New York for the U.S. Open, be sure to grab a dog –and make it a foot-long!

[Photos by Laurie DePrete]

Disclosure: I was a guest of the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism, Andrew Hickey and Laurie DePrete. My opinions of these Queens hotdogs were not influenced in any way by the Caribbean destination.

Heading to West Virginia? Hit Hillbilly Hotdogs – Road trip tip

Traveling through West Virginia? Why not check out the finest “redneck diner” you’ll ever encounter? Just don’t take the Homewrecker Challenge on a full stomach.

If your travels take you through West Virginia, and you happen to be in the vicinity of Huntington, check out Hillbilly Hotdogs. It’s a small diner decorated in what the owners affectionately call “redneck chic.”

The dining area consists of two school buses, homemade barstools, and a picnic area adorned with hundreds of license plates from across the US. Patrons are invited to sign the walls (or any available surface) to commemorate their trip, and the staff will put on a great show if you ring the bell above the cash register.

Photo of the Day (03.27.10)

Taking pictures of food has never been more popular. Nearly everyone I know creates their own “food porn.” Food has become an integral part of our travel stories and photographs. More often than not, we document the strange, extravagant and repulsive things that we ingest. Lost in those extremes are the images of the classics. What I love about this image by Flickr user Paul_Brady (whose tumblr blog is a must-read) is that it’s not showy. It’s not braggadocios. It’s just one man’s simple meal at New York City’s famous Gray’s Papaya (Upper West Side location).

We don’t have to constantly try to impress people with tales of fois gras and deep fried tarantulas. Sometimes, all it takes is a classic to make your friends’ mouths water.

Do you take food porn photos? Submit your images to Gadling’s Flickr group right now and we might use it for a future Photo of the Day.