Red's Char-Grilled Hot Dogs | Street Fair Booth, Various Locations | |
I CAN USUALLY GET ONLY half excited about the local NYC street festivals, especially when they're in my neighborhood. Yes, it's great to have walking distance access to the many food stuffs—such as grilled corn with queso fresco, crepes, homemade desserts, and the ever-popular and deliciously gut-busting sausage and peppers hero—that are not readily available nearby; however, come summer, when there are street fairs seemingly every weekend, it becomes difficult to get excited that it's the same different food every Saturday and Sunday.
So what a complete thrill it was to have a trusted Facebook and PHUDE-nyc friend urge me to try the premium hot dogs at the Red's Char-Grilled Hot Dogs booth this past Saturday at the 2nd Avenue Street Fair, relocated this day to 3rd Avenue due to the 2nd Avenue Subway Construction.
So passing the usual stands of standard street fair fare, I finally found Red's on the South side of East 79th Street, with Steve already handling the grill, with his wife Sarah taking hot dog orders and his daughter Taylor running the food back to the customers. Red's start out using two varieties of NY State-famous Sahlen's hot dogs, one a snappy all beef with some nice smoky richness, the other a likewise nicely-smoked pork/beef blend that offers the added flavor amenity of having the casing taste more and more like bacon the longer it gets grilled.
Steve being a chef himself, his long menu of signature dogs shows a history of culinary education and creativity. On this day alone they offered a Nacho Dog (guacamole, sour cream, salsa, tortilla chips), mexico Dog (pico de gallo, ketchup, cheese, jalapeños), a BLT Dog (self-explanatory), a Buffalo Dog (wing sauce, crumbled blue cheese, carrots, celery), a Baked Potato Dog (bacon, sour cream, potato sticks), among others.
I have been all about this "haute dog" ideology for quite some time (like the ones I came up with here and here, more fully realized in a menu I made for a spec hot dog house chain called Mega Dog), so the two that immediately caught my attention and piqued my curiosity was the Banh Mí Dog (house-pickled carrots and daikon radish, cucumber, mayo, jalapeños, fresh cliantro), and the Teriyaki Dog (ginger- and garlic sautéed onions, teriyaki glaze, panko bread crumbs, scallions).
The sweetly charred hot-off-the-grill pork/beef frank for my Banh Mí Dog was a perfect stage for the crisp, cool, pickled vegetable—including the tart daikon—rounded out by the herbal cilantro, kicky jalapeños, and soothing, smooth mayo. The ever-slightly firmer beef dog for my Teriyaki Dog worked perfectly with the aromatically spiced onions—sautéed to greater natural sweetness—while getting some tasty depth from the slightly rich, earthy, and salty teriyaki glaze, topped with some playful panko crumbs for texture and chopped scallions for a bright palate cleanser.
Anyone can, of course, customize their own premium signature dog, as many on line did. They offer a greater variety of hot and cold toppings and condiments than pretty much any other place I've seen, without straying from hot dog-lovers' favorites. So, yes, you can tackle your hangover with a hearty chili cheese dog as one customer did, or spice up your afternoon by topping off a dog with some pico de gallo, cheese, and jalapeño mustard, a proud creation daughter Taylor.
And watching the whole family involved and each member happy and proud to serve these great hot dogs would very well be its biggest selling point if their food wasn't so dang good. On their menu board they boast that their Sahlen's hot dogs are "fresh, never frozen and made with love"; how I would love to freeze this moment in time when a fresh idea finally showed up—and strong idea, family strong—at the 2nd Avenue Street Fair.
Bun Apple Tea!
Red's Char-Grilled Hot Dogs | Street Fair Booth, Various Locations |