Photo by Michael A. Gardiner
One of the most enduring images of Manhattan streets is food carts—not taco trucks—on every corner. Nothing’s more emblematic of that than the blue-and-yellow umbrella of Sabrett carts. We have one at Horton Plaza with the Brooklyn Dogs cart.
New York street carts trace back to the 17th century. Food carts appeared on the scene two centuries later. It was, then as now, a business accessible to immigrants, especially those with dodgy English skills. Not long after the food carts appeared so did the first food-cart law. Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia did his best, but ultimately failed to remove the carts from city streets. Rudy Giuliani’s similar efforts would meet the same fate.
The path to today’s great New York food carts (like The Arepa Lady or Kwik Meal Cart) was paved by Halal carts, which arose to feed the city’s many Islamic taxi drivers. But back in the day it was the dirty-water dog that ruled the streets. And, amongst the street dog vendors it was the Sabrett carts that were (and still are) widely acknowledged as the best.
A taste of our San Diego version shows why. Order the sauerkraut dog, it’s what a New York street dog is all about: simple and direct. The natural casing gives that “snap” you want from a hot dog even if you don’t know that’s what you want from a hot dog. The all-beef frank is fully savory, yes, but it also has a hint of sweetness (sorbitol) and a pleasant acidity. That’s what a New York all-beef hot dog should taste like. That’s what all hot dogs should taste like. If God didn’t want hot dogs to taste like that He wouldn’t have invented New York.
You could also order the red onion dog. Sure, but why? I know some New Yorker’s swear by it but some New Yorkers are idiots. They’re wrong but they just don’t know it yet. It’s overcomplicating matters. It’s goopy. You can’t taste the damned dog.
Or you could get the bratwurst, which sounds way Wisconsin. But it’s good: savory, fatty, Old World and gloriously retro. And it’s not sacrilegious to put deli mustard on a brat. It is, of course, sacrilegious to put deli mustard on a New York dog (and will doubtless be outlawed in Trump’s America), which is a good reason to order a brat. And it’s maybe the only thing on which I agree with Trump.
At the end of the day, though, Brooklyn Dogs’ Sabrett cart is all about that New York experience: a hot dog on the street in the urban jungle. The setting in Horton Plaza is about as urban as we get in this ’ville, and it’s remarkably pleasant. The combination of that and the classic New York street dog flavor is a blast from the past, and it is well worth experiencing now and into the future. Even if Trump’s elected.