I have always felt that an important part of the New York City experience is to indulge in its abundance of street food seemingly never more than half a block away. Why even make the effort to walk the 30 feet to the restaurant when a portable kitchen with good honest food is waiting on the edge of the street. Hot dogs, tacos, kebabs and rice, waffles, you name it. The street vendors have it all. Yes Sir! A Little bit of street food always hits the spot!
But times are different since Oscar Mayer rolled out the first portable hot dog cart in 1936. Some people are dissatisfied with the classic “dirty-water dogs,” or hot dogs served from a street-cart’s compartment filled with warm salty water; and now that portable grill technology has advanced beyond the rolling fire-hazards of the past, picky customers now have other options. New York, say hello to the haute dog.
The term haute dog has come to mean virtually any hot dog that is not a dirty-water dog. If it is cooked to order on a grill or griddle, spiced up with any foreign flavors, or sold as an expensive dinner in a high-class restaurant, then it’s a haute dog. Serendipity 3, a NYC restaurant, recently unveiled its $69 haute dog, a foot-long cooked in truffle oil and served in a pretzel bun. $69 is a long way from the classic $3 street snack.
The sheer spectrum of hot to haute dogs should hint at how important long, processed meats are to New Yorkers. NYC consumes roughly 480,496,680 in a year’s time so it is no wonder that the hot dog would become as diverse as the cultures that consume it. The majority of people in this city grew up eating dirty-water dogs and some plan to stick to it. Others got tired of the potential soggy bun from too much salt bath and prefer them grilled to order. Finally there are those that have tried to make the haute dog a delicacy with an expensive taste.
Curtis Sliwa, the activist and radio host, mentioned in an interview with the New York Times that dirty-water dogs were the norm, and then all of the sudden people criticize those that eat them. Sliwa attributes this shift in society to “class warfare of New York” where traditional ‘low-class’ foods are ‘purified’ for people afraid to be grouped-in with commoners.
It just goes to shows that the New York tradition of class distinction trumps even the most important New York mystery meat. In any case with the rise of haute dogs readily available at many street vending locations the classic dirty-water dog will reduce in popularity, but you can bet it won’t be extinct anytime soon.
Do you like dirty-water dogs?