Crif Dogs

113 Saint Marks Place, New York, NY 10009, USA 113 Saint Marks Place, New York, NY 10009, USA
Crif Dogs. New York, United States

Monday 12:00 pm – 2:00 am
Tuesday 12:00 pm – 2:00 am
Wednesday 12:00 pm – 2:00 am
Thursday 12:00 pm – 4:00 am
Friday 12:00 pm – 4:00 am
Saturday 12:00 pm – 2:00 am
Sunday 12:00 pm – 2:00 am

Obsession can take many forms, like Fabergé eggs or vintage guitars. If you grew up in northern New Jersey, it might even be hot dogs. Witness Chris Antista of Ridgewood and John Molloy of Paterson, who were both marked at an early age by easy access to chili dogs at the many hot-dog stands that dot northern New Jersey. As other children dream of playing center field for the Yankees or becoming firefighters, both Mr. Antista and Mr. Molloy hoped to own hot-dog stands. Even as they went into the restaurant business — Mr. Antista managed Lansky Lounge and Mr. Molloy served as general manager of Bridge Cafe — each independently nurtured his dream. For Mr. Antista, the crucial moment came when he ordered a hot dog at a Nathan's and was told there was no sauerkraut. 'I was profoundly embarrassed for New York City, and I thought I had to have a hot-dog place here,' he said. Nothing so dramatic for Mr. Molloy, but he, too, felt the unending pull of obsession.And that's how, within weeks of each other this fall, the two Jersey boys were at last selling franks: Mr. Antista and a partner, Brian Silverstein, opened Crif Dogs while Mr. Molloy and his partner, Dorri Simon, opened Dawgs on Park, scarcely a block away from each other in the East Village. Dreams may coincide, but styles diverge. Crif Dogs is by design a tribute to unbridled adolescence with all the subtlety of frat house graffiti. Nonetheless, the pink, skinless pork-and-beef frankfurter ($1.50 plain) is mild and lightly smoky, deep-fried so it's crunchy around the edges, and just right, to my mind, in its toasted bun with zesty house-made relish and sweet onions. Of course, Mr. Antista does not stop there. You can go so far as a bacon-wrapped dog with avocado and sour cream ($3) — not a direction in which I've ever been tempted. The chili dog ($2) must be a Jersey taste; it seems rather one-dimensional to me, without much contrast in flavors. And while Mr. Antista scorns what he calls 'the ridiculous overflowing chili dog,' you may still have to avail yourself of Crif's supply of moist towelettes.Dawgs on Park is a lower-key place, where the décor consists mostly of photographs of puppies. The franks, all-beef Hebrew Nationals that are also deep-fried, have a juicy garlic and onion snap to them, delicious with sauerkraut and sweet onions ($2), though they are piled so high that the hot dog falls apart midway through. Maybe I'm a traditionalist, but the prairie dog ($3.50) with a mild corn salsa strikes me as a frankfurter murked up with unwelcome vegetation. Since the decline of the original Nathan's, hot dogs have had a checkered career in New York, well treated in the occasional deli, passably represented at the papaya joints, but largely left to the devices of ballparks and street vendors. Now, thanks to the efforts of two New Jersey boys who dared to dream, hot dogs may once again get some respect. — Eric Asimov

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