Crif Dogs’ Chihuahua (bacon-wrapped with avocado, sour cream and salsa)

Ahh the poor hot dog. A classic backyard, summery dish (and a delicacy in New York), which has become subject to scrutiny over the last few years, and sexual innuendos at its expense.

Encased meat has its place in every culture across the planet, but none quite like the New York hot dog, in my humble opinion. Sure, the quality of its contents is questionable, although that has significantly improved over the last few years (thanks FDA!), but you can’t come to New York and not try its signature dish.

We have your classic ball park dog or the more dubious “dirty water” dogs sold from street carts, but if you’re looking to up the level of creativity New York has a few joints you should hit.

Everyone knows Crif Dogs, the best-known of the innovated dog joints in NYC. On St. Marks Place between First Avenue and Avenue A, conspicuously hidden behind a giant hot dog sign that says ‘Eat Me,’ this particular joint has been rolling out bacon-wrapped hot dogs with names like the Spicy Red Neck (bacon-wrapped with chili, cole slaw and jalapenos) and the Tsunami (bacon-wrapped with teriyaki, pineapple and green onions) for as long as I can remember.

Japadog’s Yakiniku Rice

But the shops get weirder. Head further West on St. Marks between Second and Third avenues and you’ll hit Japadog. New to the hood, Japadog is a Japanese take on a hot dog. While the flavors didn’t speak to me quite as nicely as those at Crif Dogs, it is definitely an endeavor that shouldn’t be missed. I opted for the Yakiniku Rice dog (flavored rice and BBQ style beef on top of an arabiki sausage). Yeah, that’s a mouthful, but so delicious. A few friends tried the Terimayo dog (the signature hot dog with teriyaki sauce, mayo and seaweed). It was good…but better without the seaweed. Some things should not be touched.

Asiadog is a third spot for lovers of tubular meat. To be honest, I have yet to go so you’ll have to just check it out for yourself, but my great foodie friend Lauren E. (of Lauren Food E. fame – so she’s legit!) has sampled Asiadog’s Sidney, a Thai-style dog with mango, cucumber, red onion, cilantro, crushed peanuts and fish sauce. Ohhh yes.

Hope everyone had a lovely Memorial Day weekend. Now that summer in New York has (un)officially kicked off, feel free to relish in hot dog season (pun intended).

Note: I am also a big fan of Bark in Park Slope, Brooklyn. It’s a bit of a trek, as it sits on Bergen and Flatbush Avenue, but after a bite of the Bacon Cheddar Dog, you’ll be calling the Slope your new home away from home.