Pittsburgh: Essie’s Original Hot Dog Shop

Pittsburgh is known for many things. Pittsburgh is a sports town, an old steel town, a Wiz Khalifa stomping ground, and a black and yellow breeding ground. It’s a bridge town, an incline town, where Gene Kelly used to clown, and a fatty food mecca world renowned… Poetry and rhyming aside, some friendly local folks wanted to take me out for a dog, and of course I was down. I was lucky enough to go to “The Dirty O”, or more officially, The Original Hot Dog Shop, on a cold day after Thanksgiving when, like the Grinch, my stomach grew three sizes that day. I certainly couldn’t frown.

img_0728img_0731

Yep, this place is old school. The name does not lie. The first thing I noticed is that the actual restaurant is pretty run-down and old. Nothing has changed since the 80’s, but it’s a good thing. They sell weird old beers that nobody has seen in a few fortnights, and the guy selling you those beers hasn’t been able to see in a few decades. It’s like when you put on that really old, stained, torn up sweatshirt you love. You love that it’s nasty. It’s comfortable and it feels amazing. The dogs, though, are not old, stained, and torn up. They are flat out stellar.

img_0733

These weenies are such good sports. I made fun of them for hours, and they just played along. It’s amazing how thick their skin is. OHHH, Pun City! Honestly though, this is some thick skin. If you know NY Weenies, you know what skin brings: the snap. The Dirty O’s dogs possess a fat snap unlike any that New York has never seen. My favorite kind of snap resembles the moment when you pop a loosely filled water balloon. It’s a quick release followed by an avalanche of flavor. The kind of snap I experienced on this day in Pittsburgh was like puncturing a football with a butter knife. It took a lot of effort, but it was still a lot of fun, and the flavor exploded out of there like cuckoo from a cuckoo clock. The taste of the weenie was incredible, rich and smoky, and the buns lightly toasted nicely. The best part about the Original, though, is the selection of toppings they have. I didn’t see anything you couldn’t order. So, I ordered dog 1: chili, mustard, and slaw. This is the quintessential Virginia classic. I was raised on this combo. Dog 2: yellow mustard, obviously. The other dog pictured was not for me (a loyal NY Weenian would know this, as it has been said that you can’t put ketchup on a dog unless you’re under 12 years old), but the pictures looks better with 3 dogs. Maybe I should eat 3 every review?

img_0738

I loved this place and I highly recommend it to anyone travelling to Pittsburgh. Essie must have been a great woman if the owner, Syd, decided to name this wonderful place after her. Here’s to you, Essie.

4 weenies

P.S. If you’re reading this and you are Syd and Essie’s child, please let me know. I’d like to meet you. You must be an incredible human being if you have any of the same DNA that those two had. The chosen one. Neo. Anakin. The baby from “Look Who’s Talkin'”. Whatever. Need you in my life.

Cheers

INSTAGRAM    Facebook

 

Advertisements

Nathan’s Cart: Plaza Hotel

If you can’t cook a good weenie in a cart, you can’t cook a good weenie. Put that cart outside of the Plaza Hotel and you’re putting yourself in the upper echelon of weenie carts. Put a Nathan’s name on it and if you fail, there will be serious consequences. I’m talking about the kind of consequences Nalgene would have faced if I was able to break one of their stupid BPA free plastic bottles. Believe me I tried. The point I’m trying to make is if you put a Nathan’s cart outside of a regal, ornate, some would even say elegant, place like the Plaza, on the southwest corner of Central Park, on the world’s greatest island, Manhattan… it better be pretty damn good.

img_0704

Now, weenie fans, take a look at the picture above. At the north and south poles of the sausages pictured, please focus in on the very tip. Just the tip. You may notice that there is a small knobby ending on the sausages. This is an indication of an excellent, real skin hot dog. This is what Nathan’s does, and this is why they’re great. When skin like this exists, the snap exists, and the juiciness follows. Since I just came from the dentist, I decided to get two hot dogs. That’s a rule that I follow, by the way: after the dentist, have two hot dogs. Per the original rules, I went one with pure mustard, and one with whatever I choose. In this case, it was chili and cheese. God bless that combo. The original mustard only dog only offered spicy brown mustard, unfortunately. This often happens in New York, however, so I’m used to it.

I have only two complaints about the Nathan’s cart dogs. The bun wasn’t toasted at all, and the weenie itself was not very hot. I think if the guy didn’t feel rushed with a huge line, he might have cooked it longer, so I want to give him the benefit of the doubt. Other than that, and perhaps not worrying about how sloppy the chili cheese dog was, something was very correct about these weenies. When I consumed them, it felt like I was doing the right thing. It was almost as if I had done some sort of community service or even given a charitable contribution. If I felt like that every time I ate a hot dog I’d weight 314 pounds, but I’d be pretty happy.

3.5 weenies

By the way, the rule for going to the dentist is that you get to eat two hot dogs after (only one if you have a cavity). If you ever have surgery, or, I’m so sorry if this is you… a colonoscopy… please call me. I’ll tell you what you need to do and how many hot dogs you’re allowed to eat. Bradly Cooper was in a movie of the same title… limitless.

Cheers

Emmett’s

The Cubs won the World Series a little while ago and it inspired me. No, I wasn’t inspired by the come from behind victory, the history of the ball club, or the life-long fans of Chicago. I was rooting for Cleveland. When they lost, I was sad, and in need of a hot dog. The Cubs victory made me think of Chicago, which made me think of a windy mid-western city, Derrick Rose/Dwayne Wade, violence in the hood, and most importantly, it made me think of the Chicago-style hot dog. This weenie is an absolute classic in the hot dog world and I feel like I’ve ignored it. Thank you, Chicago Cubs, for indirectly inspiring me to write about a hot dog with a pickle on top of it.

img_0661

First – let us be sure that the readers fully understand the makings of a Chicago style dog. Toppings must include: tomatoes, pickle/pickles/relish, onions, yellow mustard, and a little pepper on top. I’ll let the presentation of the pickles vary in the definition, but I’ll be damned if I see a Chicago dog without a little pepper on top. That’s like an Old Fashioned without an orange peel, a sundae without a fake cherry, or even worse, Flava Flav without a clock. The Chicago dog has never been atop my list of regional dog styles simply because there’s too much going on. I don’t need a garden on top of my weenie. It may take a village to raise a child, but it certainly does not take a garden to enjoy a weenie. I will always respect, however, that the Chicago dog always has strictly yellow mustard. None of that spicy brown garbage get’s the Chicago seal of approval, and that makes this hot dog blogger a happy man.

img_0662

Enter Emmett’s, a Chicago themed bar and restaurant in Soho serving up deep dish pizza and other assorted vittles. This place is a very cool, popular spot where it seems many native Chicago-ans hang out. Pictured in the headline photo is their description of the featured Chicago dog. The most notable part of this weenie is the poppy seed bun. My next “never have I ever” will most certainly be the fact that I’ve never had a poppy seed bun before. It was OK. The folks at Emmett’s put a lot of effort into this dog and it payed off. The frank itself was definitely of quality, and although adorned with a garden, I could still taste some smoke in it. In a bite, one could experience a minor snap, followed by a warm, smoky weenie, quickly followed by an avalanche of garden vegetables and yellow mustard. This is very tasty, however, as I mentioned before, overbearing. I appreciate the authenticity Emmett’s offered by using a whole pickle and whole tomatoes, and I’ll say that this is the best Chicago dog I’ve ever had. However, it is still a Chicago dog, and they aren’t my favorite.

3.25 weenies

Cheers

img_0685

Hot Dogs of the Hamptons

One week ago today, summer came to a close. I know it seems late, but the calendar doesn’t lie, except in February, and summer doesn’t contain February as a month in its season, so I know it’s being honest. Anyway, this summer was another memorable one for me, much of it spent in an odd fantasy land out on Long Island. Because of this fantasy world I was living in, I got distracted, and I failed you as a hot dog blogger. I was selfish. I let the fun get to my head. There’s no time for fun when there’s work to be done. I let the little devil on my shoulder tell me what to do, when the angel was consistently telling me to review more hot dogs. So, I apologize, and starting now, there will be many more weenie blogs, as there are many more weenies to eat. It is my destiny that I must return to. What the world needs is more hot dog truth. As written in John 8.32, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth shall let you eat.”

Hamptons Weenie 1: Old Stone Market

img_0202

It’s a brioche bun, well-toasted, cuddling with a grilled Sabrett frank that took a bath in spicy brown mustard. It was prepared by the nicest woman you’ll ever meet, at the weirdest, most useful roadside store in Amagansett that you’ll ever see. There are even chickens roaming the parking lot. Back to the dog – its pretty solid, good snap, but too bready. Other things that are bready: croutons, Meatloaf (the singer), and French people. That’s not a good crew to associate with.

3.25 weenies

Hamptons Weenie 2: The Oceanside Inn

img_0295

Above is pictured an impromptu weenie that was far more satisfying than expected. If you ever need a weenie after a long day at the Sloppy Tuna, bounce on down the beach to this weird little Euro-tourist spot and enjoy this filleted frank. Huge weenie, tiny bun. Other things with huge weenies and tiny buns: … use your own imagination.

2.75 weenies

Hamptons Weenie 3: Goldberg’s

img_0301

Here we have a two weenie combo platter served up by your breakfast specialists at Goldberg’s. This is a meal fit for a king – Leo DiCaprio himself was spotted in line at Goldberg’s just finna have a bagel one day. This meal was fit for me, indeed. The buns were warm and toasted, but not too much, and the sausages were thick, juicy, and smoky. These were also filleted, which must be a long island thing, which also tampers with one of my favorite parts of eating a hot dog: the snap. Redeeming the lack of snap was the presence of yellow mustard. That precious nectar can save anything. So, Goldberg’s, you were good, but not great. However, “good but not great” does in fact give you the title of “Best Weenie in the Hamptons.” Congratulations, Goldberg’s, see you next summer.

3.5 weenies

Cheers

@NYWeenies     Facebook     Map – BobbyPin

 

Danish Dogs

I saw a list today that named Denmark the happiest country in the world. I think it is no coincidence that the happiest country in the world also happens to serve the most hot dogs per capita of any country in the world. Both are true facts, and both make me want to be a Dane. I could be a Great Dane, which is also the biggest dog in the world. We’re talkin’ about extremes here, people. What else is extreme? $8 hot dogs in Grand Central Terminal are pretty “doggone” extreme. Without a doubt, I will use my extremities to grab a few of these extremely unique extreme danish dogs and have myself a Tuesday. Claus Meyer opened this place opened up two weeks ago, and thanks to some great scouting by staff member Mike, we’re off to the races and puttin’ beets on wieners.

IMG_0108IMG_0121

Pictured above are 4 very unique sausages. I’m reminded of the Copenhagen guys who once gave me weenies for free – Copenhagen Street Dog Winter Championship. In fact, these are so unique, that one is chicken, one pork, one beef, and one beef/pork combo. I went for the two on the right, which happened to be beef/pork and beef. As you can tell, I’m a fan of the cow. I am probably not as big of a fan as the Hindu folks though, because I’ll actually eat it, but you know what I mean. I first was able to experience the dog on the farthest right, named the Gravhund. Gravhund is the danish word for Dachsund, the canine we in America usually call the wiener dog. I’m loving the naming system already. This dog is topped with Beet Remoulade, Lingonberry preserve, pickled onions, and crispy shallots (elegant onions). Yes, this sounds like the menu at your grandmother’s old folks home, but it tastes much better. I was instantly wowed by the sweetness combined with the crispy shallots (elegant onions). This is the most unique dog I’ve ever had, and it was amazing. The bun could have been a little more toasted, but the toppings were great and the sausage homemade with some snap. Très bon.

IMG_0129

The next dog was the Great Dane, the dog I was told would be the best. I must say I was disappointed. The mustard was so spicy that I couldn’t taste anything else and there was no need for ketchup. I liked the pickles and onions, but the mustard was too overpowering. The dog itself was also sort of gooey, and not as good as the Gravhund all-beef sausage. Something wasn’t quite working with it, as there was no snap and it seemed like I was eating the meat out of the intestine like play-doh. Sorry for that image. The bun, again, was underwhelming, dry, and not toasted enough. This is probably my biggest complaint with Danish Dogs. You need new buns. My anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns, hun.

The Gravhund saved the day for Danish Dogs, and kept it at a pretty good rating. It is an amazing wiener that you should go try, but I think Danish Dogs still needs a little work if they want people to pay eight bucks for a dog.

3.5 weenies

P.S. I’m pretty sure you could buy a real dog for 8 bucks from, like, the SPCA or something. For the record, I don’t condone eating real dogs. That’s something that should only exist deep in the annals of history. Do people look at pictures of cute baby cows? No, that’s why we eat them. Save the puppies. Kill the cows.

Cheers

FOLLOW – Instagram     LIKE – Facebook     FollowMAP – BobbyPin

Westville

I didn’t expect to be a hot dog blogger, but once I did it was amazing. I also didn’t expect to get a yo-yo for Christmas, but it has been phenomenal. Even the unexpected crazy homeless man who wets himself and yells “Aunt Delilah get the pie!” can add a good chuckle to your day. The oncoming of the unexpected can often be a scary experience that turns out to be positive. When Westville offered “market vegetables” as a side item, I wanted to turn to stone like a gargoyle and hide from the existence that surrounded me. However, after I ordered artichoke hearts nestled in between two different varieties of hot dogs, the unexpected became the unbelievably delicious. I’d vote for “market vegetables” over Donald Trump any day.

IMG_0075

Y’all thought I couldn’t be healthy, but look at that. There’s more nutrients than you can shake a stick at. There are artichoke hearts on the side, pickles on top, and beans in the chili. I feel like I lost 5 pounds already. Regardless of health, because that’s not what I write about, because that shouldn’t be a factor when it comes to rating hot dogs, there are two types of weenies at Westville. There is the Hebrew National and the Niman Ranch “fearless frank”. Obviously I got both. The waiter had no idea what the best way to eat their dogs was, so I opted to leave the chili off of the Niman Ranch wiener to ensure I was able to observe the full breadth of its flavor. As for the Hebrew National, it was doused in chili and cheese. For two high quality dogs and a side, the price is 14 bucks, and the choice of toppings and sides is impressive. While the place is tiny, its very charming and could easily be a date spot. I also saw the other food choices, and everything looks really good, I will definitely be back, but who knows if I will be able to resist the hot dogs.

IMG_0069

Pictured above is the Hebrew National with chili and cheese, adorned with a kosher dill slice. The chili isn’t very spicy, but it is homemade and would look great just about anywhere, on anything or in anything, kind of like Taylor Swift. The cheese is thicker than most hot dog cheese, is slightly melted, and rich in flavor. This is the best cheese I’ve had on any hot dog so far. The bun is literally grilled. There are grill marks. That fact alone earns this place a lot of respect for me. A Hebrew National emerges from inside of it. This is a big beefy boy with a nice smoky flavor that I think is brought out from the way it is grilled. This truly is an old school grilled dog, like Wilt Chamberlain is to basketball or Grandmaster Flash is to hip hop. Kate Moss to modeling? Either way, superb.

IMG_0077

The fearless frank. The beefiest sausage this side of 6th avenue. I think on the Niman Ranch they take the filet mignon, ground it up, and stuff it inside of pig intestines to make hot dogs that they call fearless franks. This is a high quality, organic-y dog that I can get behind. My only complaint, and the only real reason this dog isn’t getting a stellar rating is that it has absolutely no snap. It’s as if there is no casing. I don’t know how they did it. Also, they had a yellow mustard bottle with spicy brown mustard in it. That’s perhaps the worst tease in the game. The only thing worse would involve putting a vegan dog in front of me without telling me. No sin could be worse than that. Luckily, they didn’t do that to me, and I really enjoyed their wieners. Go to Westville.

4 weenies

IMG_0095

Cheers

FOLLOW – Instagram     LIKE – Facebook     FollowMAP – BobbyPin

 

 

Burger King

Somebody’s gotta do it. That’s right, you didn’t read that wrong, I am reviewing the semi-new Burger King grilled dogs. Quite honestly, I tried to go the week they started serving these classic American delicacies, but the BK Lounge in the east village was unfortunately not open at 3 AM. The store I went to today, however, would have been open late since it is open 24 hours and located in the sphincter of the city at 42nd and 8th Avenue: Port Authority. There was not a single person in the “restaurant” that I would not consider unsightly. I used the double negative with purpose there. Everyone was gross. It was like a cross between the TV shows Mike and Molly and The Walking Dead in there. But somehow I made my way to the “alter of obesity”, a.k.a. the place where you order at Burger King, and ordered some weenies. Hopefully I can walk later. ‘Murica.

IMG_0039

Behold: the classic and the chili cheese dog. It’s no wonder that Burger King uses fake food for their promo photos, because these quite frankly look like garbage. The guy who prepared my weenies certainly did not have much enthusiasm, care, or sense of decency as he piled toppings on my “grilled” dog. The relish formed a lake something like the dead sea, and the mustard, while yellow, only got to one side of the dog like a fat kid on a see saw. BK’s choice of classic toppings wasn’t bad, though. I would have left out the onions, but you can’t go wrong with mustard, relish, and ketchup. Oh, I forgot to include the fact that one tip of the classic dog was actually black. Wiz Khalifa probably would have liked this one. Black and yellow, black and yellow.

Pictured to the left, the classic, and the to the right, the chili cheese. If you take a close look at the bottom right corner of the chili cheese you can see the fully nude “grilled” dog. This is where everything falls apart. There is no flavor, the char marks look fake, and some of the inside of the sausage is gray, like salmon after you put it in the microwave. There is no snap, no flavor, and no dignity. It’s one of the most disgusting sausages I’ve ever eaten. The bun isn’t toasted, but it is heated somehow… I think. Never mind, the entire hot dog was lukewarm. This wouldn’t have been a good meal for a stray cat. If I gave this to a homeless man he’d just ask for more crack. I really wanted more out of Burger King. I enjoy their whoppers and fries, but something went horribly wrong here. There was, however, one saving grace. The chili on the chili cheese dog was pretty good. It had some spice, was the warmest part of the sandwich, and even had some hearty beans to toot. (I meant toot, not boot.) If it weren’t for the chili on the chili cheese, this would be the worst dog I have reviewed. However, Burger King thanks you, dearest chili, for you have saved it. Katz’s Delicatessen is still the worst dog in the city. Embarrassing. Meg Ryan is pissed.

1.75 weenies

Ugh. Goo. Ew. Don’t eat them. My stomach has a rubber brick inside of it that was once a hot dog. It’s as if I microwaved an old plunger and dunked it in a pool of old warm relish. If they sold their chili in a can, though… sign me up.

Cheers

FOLLOW – Instagram     LIKE – Facebook     FollowMAP – BobbyPin

 

 

 

Ben’s Kosher Deli

I am ferociously dedicated to hot dogs. My devotion to the weenie is undying. Just about 2 hours ago, I walked 20 minutes from work… to a deli I had no enthusiasm for… in 10 degree wind chilled temperatures… alone… simply to eat a hot dog, take pictures of it, and write about it. If I told that to a psychiatrist, I’d be in a straight jacket right now. In fact, I heard about this deli because I’m pretty sure a dude I never met before in an Uber pool told me about it. Thanks, guy. Regardless of the struggle and the insanity, I can honestly tell you all that this was indeed the highlight of my day and I’d like to tell you about it.

IMG_1891

Behold. The frank from Ben’s extremely commercial, Jewish, and Kosher (I guess that’s still Jewish) Deli. Now, you may remember that I wasn’t a fan of another big commercial touristy Jewish deli. (Katz’s Deli) So, I wasn’t incredibly enthused about Ben’s, especially since it is just south of Times Square on 38th and 7th. The place was a little bizarre, and definitely huge and commercial as I feared. However, when I told them I didn’t want to sit down and be waited on, and I only wanted a hot dog at the bar, they looked at me oddly, but were very accommodating. For $9.95 the hot dog comes with a drink, 3 different types of pickles, coleslaw, sauerkraut, and a huge knish. This is an epic deal, especially if you’re poor. A quick side note on the knish: I love this invention. Whichever lovely Jewish man with gorgeous curls invented it must have been a sweetheart.

Let’s get into the weenie details. The dog comes out with ‘kraut on the side and no toppings at all. They only have this odd spicy brown mustard that I’ve never seen, called Gold’s. It is no French’s yellow, but it is pretty good, and I’m a little surprised by it. I applied it with incredible precision, and even added kraut because I was feeling the whole NYC Jewish vibe. The bun is nicely toasted, but maybe a little on the light side, as in I couldn’t see any grill marks or bun browning. That’s a new one: “bun browning.” It sounds like something the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders do as a pre-game warm up routine.

IMG_1894

Anyway, the first bite is marvelous, because the snap in this weenie is next level. You can tell there’s some real intestine on the outside of this bad boy and its glorious. There is a strong, 100% beef flavor, that is the tell-tale sign of a high quality frankfurter. This is a pure hot dog. If you are a plain weenie person, I think this would be on the top of your list. One unfortunate thing that happened to me, however, happened over time. Towards the end of eating the hot dog, I got a little tired of the snap. It was as if there was too much casing, and I had to chew through the sausage. This goes to prove that too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Moderation in life is key. I didn’t think it could happen with the snap, but it did. I would definitely recommend this weenie, though. “One flaw a mistake does not make,” Yoda once said.

3.5 weenies

Is eating a hot dog alone at the bar of a huge time square deli sad? Am I a pathetic human being? To the haters I say nay. I say, in the words of Kelly Clarkson, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Unfortunately, eating a ton of hot dogs my eventually kill me. Eh. YOLO.

Cheers

FOLLOW – Instagram     LIKE – Facebook     FollowMAP – BobbyPin

Bill’s Bar & Burger

Sometimes, after looking at a bunch of Picasso sculptures, you get a hankering for a weenie. It happens to me all of the time. For example, on Sunday, the cubism really got to me and I just had a craving for a fat juicy sausage. I was very much a tourist that day. After cruising around in the MoMa, I dilly-dallied on over to Rockefeller Center and watched some guys try way too hard to impress their dates by trying to ice skate. I was feeling way too cute and traditional. Then, like the star of Bethlehem, Bill’s Bar and Burger appeared on the horizon. Today, for this young man, it would be Bill’s Bar and Hot Dog.

IMG_1584

There were 4 dogs on the menu. New York, Chili Cheese, Chicago, and Corn Dogs were the options. I asked the young gentle-dude what the best weenie was, and got a literal LOL reply, “I like them plain with ketchup.” I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the only time it is OK to eat a ketchup hot dog is if you’re under 12. So, I may have to contact a lawyer and see about Bill’s Bar and Burger’s child labor situation. I then had to press the waiter and rephrase by asking for the most popular weenie, since his judgment was so terrible. I ended up with the Chicago Dog. I was very pleased with this, as it had been a while since I had one. The last I remember was Frankie’s On the Go back in July, and it was pretty underwhelming. A Chicago Dog is typically mustard, onions, tomatoes, pickles, and peppers. It’s like a little salad on a dog. I’m not a salad guy (who would have guessed, a guy who writes about hot dogs doesn’t like salads), but I love a good Chicago dog. Upon receipt of the sausage, the first thing I noticed was the bun. Big dog in a little bun. (Sung to the tune of “fat guy in a little coat”). The hot dog isn’t even that big! Honey, I shrunk your bun.

IMG_1585

The little bun wasn’t too big of a problem, though. The picture above highlights the best part of Bill’s Bar and Burger’s weenie: the actual sausage. It’s a Hatfield’s all beef bad boy. I highly recommend. They probably could have cooked it a little more, but this was like a Maserati among Hyundais. An albatross among finches. Well done Hatfield’s. The pickle was sliced, which is against my preference, but the mustard was classic French’s yellow and it made me feel alive again. The peppers had a nice spice to them, but maybe were a little too much, or too acidic. Lord knows I have heartburn problems already, I certainly don’t need more of that. In all honesty I really enjoyed the hot dog itself. Plus, at Bill’s, you can order a “Cold Ass Beer”. It is literally the brand of a beer. I don’t care who you are, that’s fun.

3.5 weenies

I’d like you all to leave this review thinking that you should go to Bill’s Bar and Burger. It is definitely a great place to grab a simple meal. Plus, it’s in the Rockefeller Center, so when your parents come in and want to see the tree, you can drag them in to get a burger or a weenie and not even feel bad about it. Then, you can watch a bunch of people fall in the ice skating rink. Then, you can go see the Rockettes. Is it Christmas yet? Smart marketing, Bill’s. Smart.

Cheers

FOLLOW – Instagram          LIKE – Facebook          MAP – BobbyPin