By Larry Levine
I’ve been pondering Larry Sheingold’s “Hoppin’ Down the Wienie Trail” posting for a while and I find I have to respond.
I trust Larry’s taste in restaurants. After all, he recognizes Langer’s in L.A. for the best pastrami sandwich anywhere and he recommended Hash House A Go Go in San Diego for breakfast.
But Pink’s? PINK’S? If it weren’t for the gawd awful Dodger dog, Pink’s would be the worst hot dog anywhere. Yet Larry lists it in his blog posting Hoppin’ Down the Wienie Trail. It’s the only place on his list at which I’ve eaten.
I understand Larry’s point about Pink’s as a cultural attraction. But I have a reverence for good hot dogs and Pink’s isn’t one of them.
Truth is I haven’t had a hot dog in 22 months since my bypass surgery. So this is a sensitive subject for me. When I finally allow myself the treat of another hot dog it won’t be Pink’s. And with the Wiener Factory and Red Hots, both in the San Fernando Valley and both closed, it probably won’t be in L.A.
Which brings me to the best hot dog anywhere. It’s Nathan’s Famous at Coney Island, Brooklyn, USA. And it must be the one at Coney Island. They opened places in Manhattan, Florida and L.A. but it didn’t work out. Same hot dog but not cooked on the grill at Coney Island and not as good. The real deal on the Coney Island grill moves ‘em along at graduating temperatures until the skin is ready to burst. Smear on some yellow mustard and maybe some kraut, bite down and feel the skin pop and the juices flow.
And when I finally get around to that treat, I won’t bury the hot dog under so many condiments that I wouldn’t be able to taste the wiener.
The notion of a corn dog, or chili or pastrami on a hot dog offends what Brooklyn there is left in me after 60 years of living in L.A. If you’re going to do any of those things, you don’t need a good hot dog. Any old hunk of bologna will do. It doesn’t even have to be good bologna and usually it isn’t.
On the subject of hot dogs, Larry S., we seem to have a gastronomical difference of opinion. I like mine straight; you could enjoy condiments on a bun – hold the hot dog – if the condiments were good enough.
I’ve had some good boiled, or steamed dogs. The late great Wiener Factory in Sherman Oaks CA used top grade dogs and sausages and did them as well as they can be done. But no boiled dog can match a Nathan’s Famous off the Coney Island grill.
We moved to California in 1949. On our first visit to New York after the move – it was 1954 – my father and I took the train to Coney Island in November and downed 13 Nathan’s Famous each. Now, there are three musts on any trip to New York – the Metropolitan Opera, the River Café in Brooklyn and Nathan’s Famous at Coney Island.
I share Mr. Levine’s sensibility — it’s the dog that counts. You can listen to Bach’s Goldberg Variations performed by a synthesizer or 100-piece brass band, but all they will do is get in the way of the notes. One question for Levine: those three “musts” visiting Noo Yawk: in what order do you enjoy them?
Bach and hot dogs – what a concept. As for the order, it doesn’t matter. I kind of like River Cafe for my last night in town, but any night will do. The opera night is dictated by what they are presenting on any given night that I might want to see.