Doing It Doggy Style

Written by Linnea Covington on . Posted in Eat & Drink, Posts.


At the two-month-old location of Crif Dogs in Williamsburg, there is no phone booth. Which means, no secret bar lies hidden behind the junk food faade like at the hot dog shop’s East Village location. Without the speakeasylike appeal, you lose the suave suits and hip cocktail snobs, and are left with the menu of 15-plus pork and beef hotdogs to contend with—indeed, the only booze you can get is a pint of Brooklyn Lager ($4). This is perfectly all right with us.

The original Crif Dogs opened in October 2001 and the menu, which has remained the same ever since, is identical at both locations. So on one rainy night, I sat down in the Star Wars figurine-lined restaurant at one of the Ms. Pacman game tables (it worked, too!) to sample the finest dogs owner Brian Shebairo had to offer. First up, the three-napkin Philly Tubesteak ($4), a spicy bite with sticky nacho cheese sauce lovingly combined with a pile of sautéed onions. The Sour Cheese Dog ($3.75) also comes with the bright yellow goo and is just as messy, though there wasn’t much flavor and I could have taken an extra dose of the thin slivers of half-sour pickles that lined the bun. Of course, you can add more pickles, or anything, to the hot dogs, including sour cream, cole slaw, diced cucumber, baked beans, egg or cheese (ranging from 25 cents to $1.75 per addition). For example, I thought the Tsunami Dog’s ($4.50) sweet and citrusy combo of bacon, chunks of pineapple, green onions and teriyaki sauce would be enough, but a neighboring customer turned it into a tempest by adding avocado ($1).

Even with all these options, the woman at the counter told us the most popular order is the original Crif Dog ($2.75), a plain, smoked hot dog in a bun. The Spicy Redneck ($4.75) came in second, she said, but on first bite, I wasn’t convinced. I couldn’t taste the bacon-wrapped dog through all the goopy chili and runny coleslaw. Even the jalapenos got lost in the chaos, resulting in a mess of dripping food with little flavor.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the deep-fried corn dog ($4.75) is a neat package of homemade goodness and, since it’s on a stick, there’s no napkin required. And vegetarians can rejoice—Crif Dogs offers a meat-free version of this dog, one of the few vegetarian options on the menu.

For a side dish, try the perfectly golden tater tots (small $2.50, large $3.50) that taste like all the other tater tots around. Why? Because like any other restaurant with the fried potato nuggets, they come frozen from Ore Ida, just like mom used to make. I was less excited by the saltless waffle fries—no matter how much seasoning we dumped on, they just didn’t improve. Better to skip those and head towards dessert, which is best handled with a thick, handspun chocolate (or vanilla, strawberry or coffee) shake ($5).

Shebairo did well opening up his second Crif Dogs in this spot. It’s right off the Bedford L stop, a location good for luring in hungry commuters and, based on the majority of people who came in during my last visit, famished people waiting for the bus. And oddly, Williamsburg doesn’t have a hotdog-centric venue, so this allows its milk-voiced denizens an outlet to stuff bacon-wrapped meat sticks in their mouth from noon until the wee hours of the morning.

__

Crif Dogs 

555 Driggs Ave. (at N. 7th St.), Brooklyn, 

718-302-3200.

..