What is it about the hot dog? Though some deride it as a common tubesteak or a product that hasn’t changed much since Upton Sinclair’s day, is there anything, ultimately, as satisfying as the snap of a natural casing, the bite of a spicy mustard, and the stomach-hugging comfort of sauteed onions?
Two Brooklyn men — Jose M. at the Dawg Shack in Gowanus and Richard Mauro at the Landing in DUMBO — think they know. Here are their stories.
Richard Mauro is a vegetarian.
He also sells gourmet hot dogs.
He doesn’t see this as a tremendous contradiction.
“As a vegetarian, the freshness of the product and strictness of quality are important to me,” he said (explaining that his wife and friends do the actual tasting of his all beef Vienna franks).
While some are born to hot dogs, others have hot dogs thrust upon them. Mauro found his true calling on quite a circuitous career path.
After working in furniture design, teaching emotionally disturbed children, working for the city (which may amount to the same thing!) and — most recently — running his own real estate brokerage, Mauro pursued his true love only after a property came up at the corner of Old Fulton Street and Everit Street across from Grimaldi’s Pizzeria.
“I was going to build a restaurant and rent it out, but a friend said, ‘Do it yourself,’ so I gave it a shot,” Mauro recalled.
Beyond the old-fashioned hot dog cart and Mauro’s devotion to the frank, his stand, The Landing, distinguishes itself through the quality of its ingredients.
“They’re all my own,” he explained. “The chili, sauces, pickled red onions. There’s no shortcuts; you get big pieces!
“These are really good dogs,” he added. “I want to create a delight in tasting experience.”
The franks come in four styles:
• The Brooklyn Bridge Dog ($3): This is Mauro’s entry-level dog, named after the span that is within sight of his eatery. Take a steamed Vienna dog and add sauerkraut, red onions, and yellow mustard or ketchup.
• The Chicago Dog ($4): the same dog on a poppy seed bun and “dragged through the garden.”
• The Texas Meal Dog ($5): This time, the dog is smothered in a “down home” Texas chili.
• Berlin Currywurst ($5): chunks of German bratwurst with a tomato-curry sauce.
Next up for the hot dog maestro is an expansion that would add hamburgers, French fries, grilled cheese sandwiches and “the best hot chocolate in the world” to the menu.
He also plans to return to his roots as a real-estate developer and build a black-box theater underneath the space for plays and musicians.
It’s pretty easy to guess what will be on the bar menu.
— Evan Gardner
The owner of retro-style burger-and-dog joint Dawg Shack claims he’s making history by being one of the few restaurants in the Gowanus Canal zone to use only fresh ingredients.
“My kitchen is the store, people can see how their food is prepared from start to finish,” said Dawg Shack cook and owner, Jose M. (who declined to give his last name for no apparent reason). “I’m like a hot dog hibachi restaurant.”
More than that, as Jose will not only grill your Sabrett dog, but also boil it or deep-fry it if you’d like.
Though a lover of the fabled frank, Jose said he can’t limit himself to just hot dogs. The menu at his two-month-old joint also features pastrami heroes, chicken cutlet sandwiches and hamburgers.
Though not all the time.
“I’m a little spontaneous about what goes on the menu,” he admitted. “Yesterday, I made brisket. Today, I made chicken cutlet. I’m trying to think of what I’m gonna make tomorrow.”
The other day, Jose was even inspired to make Spanish rice and alcapurrias — a green banana, potato and yucca dough that’s filled with ground meat and then fried.
Everything is made to order — which means you may have to wait.
“Hey, if people are willing to wait on line for McDonald’s, then they should be willing to wait for something homemade,” Jose said.
Or, of course, you could just grab a hot dog.
— Christina Long
The Landing (corner of Old Fulton Street and Everit Street in DUMBO) is open Thursday–Sunday, noon–11 pm from April until “it gets cold” at the end of October. Call (718) 687-2004.
Dawg Shack [252 Third Ave., at Union Street in Gowanus. 718-855-0757]. Open every day for lunch and dinner.