Ahhh….the hot dog. Nothing says backyard BBQ to me like a good dog with some nice charcoal grill lines striping its all-beef cylindrical frame. I take ketchup AND mustard on mine. I’m weird like that.
But last weekend, I had the opportunity to visit a place least likely to be confused with a backyard BBQ – Please Don’t Tell, the speakeasy that adjoins Crif Dogs on the Lower East Side. My friend Kaz was in town from Los Angeles, and she suggested we pop on over there.
Reservations are recommended at this mysterious place, but you have to call at 3pm the day of your visit. We tried this route, along with the rest of the city. Again and again we were foiled by a busy signal. When we finally got through, the person on the other line told us they were all booked (it was about 3:30 at this point). However, she said if we arrived at 6pm we would have an excellent shot at getting seats at the bar.
Dutifully, we showed up at 6pm, and this is when the queue starts to form outside the telephone booth inside Crif Dogs. We lined up with everyone else and waited….for what we just did not know (not having done this before). Before long, a woman on the OTHER side of the telephone booth opened up the door and started letting people in in pairs.
We got in quite quickly after this, and were seated at the bar (not before witnessing some exciting examples of taxidermy!).
We began with drinks. The bartenders at PDT are both nice and knowledgeable. Which is great for me for two reasons: 1. The drink menu at PDT is extensive. Which is fantastic, but can be overwhelming. 2. I have this new habit of asking waiters, bartenders, museum staff, etc what I should eat, drink, do, etc. And then staring at them until they give me a good answer. I figure they’re the experts, they should know better than I do.
So, I said to Mr. Bartender #1 (there were two of them), “I would like GIN!” He was taken aback only for a second (bless his soul) and then whipped up a concoction for me with Gin, rosemary and a splash of citrus that was exactly what I wanted. Kaz opted for a rum drink with an infusion of maple bacon that was magical.
After studying the menu, we ordered their waffle-cut fries and two Wylie Dogs. The Wylie Dog is a deep fried Crif Dog accessorized with battered, deep fried mayo, tomato molasses, dried onions and shredded lettuce. This seemed like a heart-healthy option to me.
Our food arrived through a fun little window behind the bar. I looked at my Wylie Dog and formed a plan of attack. It’s a hefty dog with some unwieldy toppings, including what looked like a long, thin, fried mozzarella stick on top. Turns out this was the fried mayo. And it was good. I feel dirty saying that, but it’s true. My Wylie Dog was very well executed. Frying a hot dog is really a good way to prepare it. It has a nice crispy-crunchy outer texture, which gives it some extra snap. And the interior was very flavorful and perfectly accented by is various accoutrements (including the mayo).
The fries were also tasty, but a bit more average than their outstanding dog counterparts. They arrived with a cheese sauce which appeared to be your standard orange-colored melted variety and some spicy relish. I liked the relish, but passed up on the cheese after tasting it. It didn’t offer me anything noteworthy and I figured with the fried hot dog, fried mayo and copious amounts of Gin, I would leave the cheese alone. However, we did order two baskets of fries and killed them both.
I was pleasantly surprised by the bathrooms, located just across from the taxidermed jack-a-lope. Sliding open the door revealed a loo completely tiled in broken mirror pieces. It was like having the inside of a kaleidescope as a bathroom! I have to admit I thought it was very well done, and a dash unexpected given the dark, library feel of the main dining room and bar area. It was clean and well-kept and it was even festooned with brightly colored flowers. Definite points for creativity and flair.
I would absolutely return to PDT, with or without a reservation. It’s a great place to have an inventive and well-mixed drink even if you don’t feel like indulging in the fried fare. And as for the fried fare, I have not met many fried hot dogs in my time, so this one may be my first love. And the mayo too.
Movie Equivalent: The Big Lebowski