Having spent my formative years in a bumbling Northamptonshire village
where the most exotic event on the calendar was French exchange student
week, TV served as a window on all things non-village, non-small town
England, non-inbred. The late 70’s, & the 80’s re-run schedules,
were littered with classic TV cop-series: Kojak, Hawaii Five-O, Starsky and Hutch and the Streets of San Francisco.
The good guys, at least in my food-focused head, had one thing in
common – as a cunning disguise, they all bought and ate hotdogs from streetcarts whilst scoping out the shady villain in a blacked out sedan across the road. Hotdogs might have arrived in my life thirty years ago via Karl Malden down a black and white tube, but I still don’t think I’ve ever scoffed a genuine ‘dog.
I couldn’t find a US food blog with even a mention of a hotdog streetcart. Did they all die out with Steve McGarret and Danno? More importantly, what the hell are cops using for cover in the States these days? Sidewalk Frappuccino floggers? I had to know. I emailed NYC-based Josh at The Food Section for the latest word on ‘dog street and the news wasn’t good, "I don’t know anyone who actually buys hotdogs from street carts, to be honest. They exist, but I think they live on in the movies as nostalgic nosh. Many of the carts have been augmented to serve up kebabs and other griddled meat sandwiches, which seem to be more popular." Although he went on to say Gray’s Papaya, Papaya King and Frites and Beignets (F&B’) all sell ‘dogs. Childhood illusions cracked, if not shattered, I felt sure that there’d be a hotdog seller somewhere in Saigon. With a little bit of detective work of my own, I found one at the serving hatch pictured above at The Hard Rock Cafe, 22-24 Mac Thi Buoi
Street in District 1.
I’m fairly certain it’s no relation to the famous
Hard Rock Cafe chain – this page
would seem to confirm that – but they’ve nicked the name and logo
anyhow. They offer ‘Hot dogs and more’ –
the ‘more’ being six different kinds of burger. There’s also a seating
area and bar inside. There are seven ‘dogs on offer; regular,
Debreziner, Franfurter, Krakuer, 100% Beef Bratwurst, 100% Pork
Bratwurst and 100% Chicken sausage. Prices range from 40,000VD to
55,000VD. Service is efficient and friendly. Everything is cooked while you wait. All ‘dogs come with chips,
diced onions, mustard and ketchup. I opted for a 100% Beef Bratwurst ‘dog
to go. I didn’t get any onions, but I did get a bag of coleslaw, one of mustard and the other of ketchup.
Chips were good – crisp, well cut and tasty. Moving on to the main event, both
the bun and the sausage were awful. The bun was dry and hard. The sausage had that over thick,
elastic surface which means your teeth have to do all the work to break
through to the bland tasting beef core. The coleslaw was a lumpen joke, the mustard of the cheap,
plastic tasteless variety. As for the ketchup – well – I saw which bottle it
came out of (a hellish local brand) and decided to steer well clear. In retrospect
maybe the ‘regular’ or the ‘frankfurter’ ‘dog options would be a better
buy. But the whole experience was rather unpleasant. So much so, that I
only got through half of this before the remnants hit the bin. If this is what TV cops scoffed throughout the 70’s no wonder no-one’s blogging from any remaining Manhattan streetcarts. Although I would, if I had the chance.