I had just been to Neighborhood Barber for a haircut and wanted a quick dinner before heading to Black Hound and East Village Wines to pick up some gifts for an upcoming housewarming party. I’d been planning to go to Crif Dogs for most of the last year but somehow never got around to it. Now, finally, I would step in and taste the magic.
That’s when I realized I’d walked right by it without finding it.
Crif Dogs is one of those slightly-downstairs-holes-in-the-wall that can be really easy to miss if you aren’t looking for it. Macaron Parlour is the same way but I already knew it was downstairs thanks to my ex-girlfriend’s previous trip there; I had no such luck with Crif Dogs. So when I finally found it and hobbled down the tiny staircase I was both embarrassed and excited.
I immediately noticed the old-school video games on the side, exposed brick, small tables—each with vintage ketchup and mustard dispensers—and bar with stools. There was a cooler full of water and a napkin dispenser next to a trash can stuffed next to the door and a wooden phone booth door that leads to the Please Don’t Tell speakeasy.
The menu is above the counter and I stood back as I considered the many options they have. I wasn’t quite adventurous enough to go totally off the rails and get something super interesting like the tsunami (a bacon-wrapped house dog with teriyaki, pineapple, and green onions) but I knew I wanted to try something new as well as something familiar.
Crif Dogs’ house dogs are handmade with naturally smoked beef and pork. For some reason I needed to be as un-Kosher as possible so I got a temptee dog, which comes “with a schmear of cream cheese”. I also got one of my all-time favorites: A corn dog I would naturally compare with the ones I get from Nathan’s at Coney Island.
I had the corn dog first and was really underwhelmed.
After waiting a few minutes for my food it was brought out and I bit in. Something just tasted … off. It was in the batter. The cornbread shell just wasn’t up to snuff and while it might be my personal tastes I didn’t like it. The dog itself was good, however, so I retained high hopes for the temptee dog.
The temptee dog is the reason I’m going back to Crif Dogs to try their more inventive combinations.
It was remarkable. I’d never have thought to put cream cheese on a hot dog before but now I’ll probably do so at home. They used a good cream cheese and schmeared it liberally on the bun, resulting in a smoothness and coolness that contrasted well with the hot chewiness of the hot dog itself.
With only a few bites to go, I was annoyed that I hadn’t gotten a second temptee dog or something more interesting like a good morning (bacon-wrapped house dog with melted cheese and a fried egg, which I’m going to get next).
I’d heartily recommend Crif Dogs (113 St. Marks Pl. b/t Ave. A & 1st Ave.) to the more enterprising hot dog aficionado but I think I’d stay away from the plain beef frank—you can get those anywhere—and corn dog (though your mileage may vary on that one). They open at 12 PM every day and close at 2 AM most days (4 AM on Friday and Saturday).