LI’s hot dog legacy may pale in comparison with our tri-state neighbors, but we are proud of our hot dog trucks and our prominence in the history of Nathan’s Famous. Here are three recent arrivals that make frankfurters something special.
First National Franks
3147 Rte. 112, Medford
You have to love any place with a giant hot dog on the roof. These folks understand that just taking over a storefront is not in the proper spirit of legendary hot dog stands like Tail O’ The Pup in LA. I was intrigued by the version called El Raphael because it’s the only variation I found anywhere that’s deep-fried—a ripper—like those found at Swanky Frank’s in Connecticut and Rutt’s Hut in Jersey. All of the weenies here are hefty quarter-pound, all-beef, skinless Boars Head, boiled, then grilled. El Raphael is wrapped in bacon, deep fried and covered with onions, chopped jalapenos and chili that was too sweet. The dog itself without any casing won’t “rip” properly but I give them an “A” for effort. There are almost a dozen other choices but I found myself just enjoying the quality frank with little more than sauerkraut. The crusty sandwich rolls used instead of buns to better support the big dogs tend to overwhelm the tube steaks. Don’t miss the fresh-cut fries and if you want to get crazy, deep-fried Ring Dings, Snickers, Devil Dogs and Twinkies.
44 Gerard St., Huntington
This is a fledgling franchise with no seating and little counter space but with two dozen varieties named after dogs. They’ve settled on skinless Nathan’s Famous as their dog of choice. The Basset Hound is a Chicago-style dog which means it’s overloaded with chopped onion and tomato, authentic little sport peppers, a pickle spear and sprinkled with celery salt. It’s quite a mess to eat but worth the fuss, even crouched over the tiny counter. The Saint Barnard, with chili, shredded cheddar and Cole slaw is equally messy but with different levels of flavor. You can get creative and fix up just about any concoction from the list of toppings.
739 Middle Country Rd., St. James
At first I didn’t give the name of this place too much thought—it sounded like frankfurters and hamburgers. But after doing battle with one of their monster offerings I understood fully. The grilled hot dogs are immense—not just foot-longs, but way thick as well. They get them from a secret butcher in Brooklyn. If you’re not prepared you may be a little shocked and hard-pressed to finish just one. You have to cut them in half; they’re too unwieldy otherwise. Meaty and dense, these skinless monsters are filling, if a bit salty. There are various preparations, most notably a Colombian-style dog called Frank-N-Dog, loaded with potato chips, mozzarella, sautéed onions, ham and pineapple.