Summer of (Hot Dog) Love: Bark Hot Dogs

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The end of the summer is just around the corner, and I haven't gone on a single vacation, or made it out to the beach even once. But still, this summer has been pretty great—I've been rediscovering the pleasures of hot dogs.

I've never really spent much time thinking about hot dogs; I consider myself more of a burger girl. It was my good friend, Serious Eats contributor and hot dog aficionado Hawk Krall, who introduced me to the nuanced world of regional hot dogs. Thanks to Hawk, I've spent a good part of my summer trying to find the best dogs in the city.

I first read about Bark Hot Dogs this June. Local beers, house-made pickles, and custom dogs basted in lard butter—this was clearly the hot dog place of my dreams. I spent the ensuing month and a half religiously following the progress of Bark on the web and also making a few stalker-worthy trips to their Bergen Street location in Park Slope. Finally, last Tuesday, Joshua Sharkey (formerly of Cafe Grey) and Brandon Gillis (of franny's fame) opened Bark to the public.

Hot dog bliss, after the jump.

On arrival, my hot dog loving partner and I spent a good ten minutes debating which hot dogs we should try. I settled on a Bark Dog, Chili Cheese Dog, Beans & Frank, and Slaw Dog, with an order of Salt & Pepper Fries.

Our order was delivered to our table on cafeteria-style metal tray (just adding to the charm). The buns were perfectly browned on their sides, looking more like a New England lobster roll bun than a typical hot dog vessel. The dogs themselves were a good inch and a half longer than the buns on both sides, and had a U-shape that almost made them seem as if they were smiling.

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The Chili Cheese Dog was truly awesome, tangy white cheddar cheese sauce with a perfectly Cheez-Whizzy thickness, and chili with a richness and depth that made me want to order an entire bowl of it. The Slaw Dog was topped with creamy cole slaw just sweet enough to set off the meaty dog, and the cabbage kept its crunchy integrity. The Beans and Frank Dog was dressed with baked heirloom beans accented with smoky pork, onions, and mustard. These baked beans were a revelation—miles away from the can of Heinz that most of us are used to. And the Bark Dog, finished with a red pepper relish, had a pleasant sweetness and kick all at once.

But amazing toppings aside, the dogs themselves were fantastic. Bark uses hot dogs made by Hartmann's Old World Sausage, an Austrian butcher shop in Canandaigua, New York. A beef and pork blend housed in natural casings, the dogs are snappy, juicy, and seasoned to perfection—and the lard and butter combination that they are basted in certainly doesn't hurt.

20090818pickledogsbark.jpgFour hot dogs and an order of fries seems like a decent order for two people—but we wanted more. Thus, round two. We decided to test Bark's preserving skills, ordering the Pickle Dog and the Kraut Dog. The Pickle Dog came with two different pickles, slices of sweet bread and butters, and a long spear of dill. These pickles tasted homemade in the best way possible; they had a freshness and snap to them that reminds you that they are, in fact, cucumbers. The sauerkraut that graces the Kraut Dog is aged in oak barrels, and comes out with a mellow flavor, nothing like the soggy and salty sauerkraut that gives this stuff a bad rap. Its acidity and crunch that is perfectly offset by the sly addition of mayo to this dog.

Everything that I sampled at Bark was pretty damn near perfect. The dogs are stupendous and the fries were some of the best I've had in a long time (house-made, thin, perfectly fried and seasoned, and gone in under a minute). The drinks measure up to the rest of the menu, with four beers on tap (including Six Points and Kelso), all Brooklyn brewed and all a mere $3 a pint. House wines are provided by Shinn Estates, one of my favorite Long Island vineyards. Finally, if you're looking for something sweet, shakes (peanut butter and blueberry-sweet cream), cakes (sour cream chocolate), and Foxon Park sodas from Connecticut are on the menu, too.

Give Bark a shot, and you, too may find yourself in a summer of hot dog love.

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