Sunday, June 30, 2013

Crif Dogs

East Village, NYC

I mean, I adore this place, it's in my top 3. According to legend (and the owner Chris) the name Crif is actually how you say the owner's name with your mouth full of hot dog.

I have so many special memories of Crif. Before Shake Shack, it was my go-to place when I needed a good hot dog. It was my go-to place when I used to drink my face off at Duke's on Ave C. In our wild poker game days at my buddy Paul's apartment, we ordered in Spicy Rednecks, Philly Tubesteaks and tator tots from Crif's after everyone smoked a ton of weed. For the record, I just liked when they blew it in my face...

My nephew Buster would only eat plain hot dogs until I took him here. Then he tried a dog with pineapple and cream cheese and he became a hot dog nut, too. He's headed to NYC this fall to go to the New School and I hope he eats here at least five times a week.

This place was experimenting with different flavors before everybody started doing that. They did morning dogs and southwestern dogs and teriyaki dogs first. One of my favorite dogs is the Jon Jon Deragon, which has bacon, green onion, cream cheese and is topped with everything bagel seeds. Yum.

Hot dogs: ****
Tator tots: ****
Root beer: You have to here

Betty White is a Hot Dog Lover

Food Truckin'

LA has amazing food truck culture. So far, I've only tried Dogtown Dogs, when it parked outside of Old Navy one day. I had the Morning Commute with bacon and a fried egg and it was delicious. I follow them on Twitter now, along with the Greasy Wiener, and I'm waiting with bated breath for them to head back to the South Bay.

It's my dream to own my own hot dog stand one day. I will. Someday...

Legends of Chicagoland

Hot Doug's

Chicago, IL

So, here's another stand that is often voted best in Chicago. They have a line out the door before they open in the morning, especially on Fridays, when they cook their fries in duck fat. They also have unique sausages, brats and polish sausage.

This will not be very popular, but I'm not a huge fan of Doug's. To be fair, I've never eaten the sausages (named after local celebs like Steve Swisher) and I haven't yet had the fries in duck fat. But I have had regular dogs and fries there and I think they're mediocre.

What I just said is sacrilegious but since four people will read this, I'm probably's just that other places are more my fave.

Doug's regular dogs: **
Doug's regular fries: **

Hot Dogs in Breaking Training

Scottsdale, Ariz.

I've been to Spring Training about five times to see my beloved Chicago White Sox. When I travel I always like to scope out the best local hot dog. But during spring training I'm watching baseball all day and we usually go out for a nice dinner. So I haven't discovered the best local hot dog yet.

What I can report is that the hot dogs at Camelback Ranch, where the Sox play, are outstanding. First of all, they ship in Vienna Beef, so that's not a stick in the eye.

But they also have a local delicacy, The Sonoran Dog! Which is basically a taco on a hot dog. Salsa, cheese, sour cream, guacamole and bacon. I ate this whole thing without a fork and it was all over my face and my clothes. Everyone around me was laughing at what a fat slob I was.

Luckily my boys in black didn't notice because they were busy winning. Which hasn't happened since Spring Training. They are in last place and totally stink. But I still love them. And hot dogs.


Chicago, IL

Often voted the Best Hot Dog Stand in Chicagoland, this classic drive-in (which is still in operation)  has the juiciest, most plump Vienna dogs I've ever tasted. In fact, this HotDog Mofo believes it's the best actual hot dog in America. That's a bold statement but I stand by it.

My only issue with this place is that they jam the dogs into a box with their excellent fries. The box is cute but it's not convenient to eat, everything is steaming hot in there and when I do eat in my car everything ends up in my lap.

Having said that, I f'in love this place!

Superdawg dogs: *****
Overall vibe: ****

Hot Dog Humor


Los Angeles

I've been going to Pink's for more than 20 years. When I lived here in the early 90s I worked at a law firm where one of the secretaries loved to eat. She was this really skinny older woman, I think her name was Eiko, but man could she throw down the chow. We'd escape at lunch and she'd take me to all of LA's amazing ethnic institutions. I had dim sum in Chinatown, shabu shabu, the original La Serenada in East LA and, of course she introduced me to Pink's.

Since she was the boss's secretary, the Joan Holloway of our office, we could stand in the endless line and nobody cared that we were gone for 2 hours.

I ordered the same thing then that I order now. Two chili bacon cheese dogs with mustard and onions and a Bubble Up. I don't think the hot dogs themselves are the best but their legendary chili hides that well. You have to have an iron stomach to eat this chili. I've been known to go at 10:45 am to beat the lines. Eating this chili that early is practically suicidal. But I don't care.

I love Pink's so much that I brought my friends Sarah and Bristol Palin. How or why I'm friends with them is a story for another day. For now, enjoy these pics of us eating together. Sarah and Bristol, who met me there in October 2012 after DWTS, took pictures with everyone in line and happily signed autographs.

Pink's famous chili-drenched hot dogs: ***
Overall vibe: ****

Shake Shack

Brooklyn, NY (Fulton Street)

The only place in NYC to get a real, Chicago-style hot dog. They get an A for effort — the hot dog has all the right stuff (mustard, onion, pickle, sport pepper, tomato, neon green relish, celery salt on a poppy seed bun).  However, the hot dog is too small so you're basically eating wet veggies in a mushy bun because their relish soaks everything.

My nephew Buster, my hot dog partner in crime, wasn't complaining in this pic below. And I really don't usually either because I'm so desperate for a good hot dog in NYC. But the truth is it's not the best.

Here's what I love about Shake Shack. The people behind the counter are awesome, including this lass, who looks exactly like Janet Jackson. I also was fond of a guy at the Upper West Side location and gave him a shout out in the acknowledgment page of a book I had published called OMG! How to Survive 101 F'd Situations. I'm sure the guy has no idea he's in my book.

More importantly, Shake Shack has incredible cheese fries. I normally don't like crinkle cut fries but these are cooked perfectly golden. And their cheese sauce is the closest thing I've found to the best cheese sauce (Michael's in Highland Park, IL).

Their burgers are also incredible. Their blend of juicy seasoned meat (I'm guessing there's some brisket in there), the perfect egg bun and secret sauce is so delicious that I walked 1.5 miles to Shake Shack and back in 100 degree heat and insane humidity a month ago just to have one. Wheezing the whole way but determined not to leave New York without experiencing the joy.

Shake Shack Hot Dog: **
Shake Shack Burger: ****
Shake Shack cheese fries: ****
Shake Shack shakes/concretes: ****

Here's a pic of the original Shake Shack in Madison Square Park


Buena Park, CA

I will travel far and wide to get a good hot dog. For instance, I have been known to drive 45 minutes away to get Portillo's by Knotts Berry Farm. By myself. I'm cuckoo. And fat.

Portillo's is a Chicago chain that luckily for me has a few franchises in SoCal. Their Italian Beef sandwich is in the top 10 of most delicious foods ever created. I don't have a picture because I ate it too fast. Next time fo shiz.

Portillo's hot dogs: ****
Portillo's Italian beef: ****
Overall: ****