There are two types of New Yorkers, the Underground Gourmet has always thought. There are those for whom eating a street-vendor hot dog (a.k.a. dirty-water dog) is an urban rite of passage, not to mention a show of defiance in this age of culinary correctness. And then there are those for whom it is an indication of mental incapacity, a deviant act that should best be left to ne'er-do-wells, unsuspecting tourists, or healthy adults caught up in an emergency situation like being locked overnight in a bank vault with a cache of Sabretts. Jeremy Spector, the chef of Employees Only, falls into the latter camp.
"You should be able to eat a hot dog that tastes good without being afraid," he says. Around this motto he's created Dogmatic Dogs, a spiffy customized street-food cart located roughly kitty-corner to Magnolia Bakery in Bleecker Street Park (at Bleecker and Hudson Streets). No ordinary tube steaks, Spector's $5 dogs are made by Sullivan County's Violet Hills Farm from well-contented pasture-raised cows and turkeys, of course. (Spector parks his cart and stores his provisions in a halal commissary, so a Dogmatic dog made from pork is temporarily on hold.) In another break with tradition, Dogmatic serves its sausages not on squishy buns but on crusty, pliant demi-baguettes that are hollowed out and heated on a metal-spiked contraption that looks like a piece of Uncle Fester's Posturepedic.
Resplendent in chef's whites and camouflage cargo shorts, Spector spears the baguette onto one of these spikes, effectively toasting it from the inside, unskewers it and pours in a choice of homemade sauces or condiments, and then shoves in a hot dog. The beef version on one early visit was deliciously spicy if a little dry, but enhanced by a melty jalapeo-cheddar sauce; the turkey took nicely to mustard. And although a tasty bundle of grilled asparagus slicked with Feta-and-sun-dried-tomato sauce fits no known definition of "frankfurter," gourmet or otherwise, vegetarians can now approach a hot-dog cart without quivering in their pleather booties.
Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld