Savoring the Quintessential New York Hot Dog Experience

A much better example came on Central Park West in the lower Sixties, where a second Mohammad operated a stand. He told me that he’s from Alexandria and has been in New York for four years. (“Some people are good. Others, not so much,” he said of his customers.) Every winter, when the hot-dog business is sluggish and the park is more amenable to sledding than to lolling and ruminating, Mohammad goes back to Egypt to see his family. I asked him for a hot dog with ketchup and mustard and called my father. It was good—he lives in Europe, and we don’t often get to see each other. The hot dog was good, too—smooth and snappy, the mustard sweet. The key, Mohammad told me, is to ask for the hot dog to be thrown on the grill.

After my filial phone call was finished, I pushed onward and upward along Central Park West. Outside the American Museum of Natural History, I approached a larger stand, where I heard the vendor tell a couple that their order had come to forty-nine dollars. At first, I thought that I’d soon be seeing an overzealous NBC New York camera crew rush up to expose the vendor’s racket. But moments later a flurry of food came through the window: chicken fingers, four cheeseburgers, fries, and some hot dogs for good measure. The couple brought their grub to a bench, where their eagerly awaiting children sat. I bought a single hot dog from the same cart and sat down on an adjacent bench to marvel at a museum poster featuring a tardigrade—a tiny creature that looks like an inflated vacuum bag. After seven hot dogs, I knew how he felt.

Colin Stokes writing in The New Yorker about eating a hot dog from many of the thirty or so licensed venders around Central Park, in search of variations in New York City’s frankfurter formula.

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