Get this: There are children in New York who have never eaten a hot dog.
Seriously. A couple of them showed up in Central Park the other day.
Andrew McDonnell, the entrepreneur behind the Good to Go Organics carts that have begun popping up in the city, was standing next to one of his three wiener stands and talking about the provenance of the toppings that grace his organic dogs. The grass-fed beef for his chili comes from Kinderhook Farm in Columbia County, N.Y. The sauerkraut, which Mr. McDonnell’s team picks up in person at the Union Square Greenmarket each week, hails from another Hudson Valley grower, Hawthorne Valley Farm.
As Mr. McDonnell talked about how “people in general are just looking for a better quality of food,” a young Manhattan mother ordered her two children what she said would be the first hot dog they had tried.
Another mom, Shephali Gupte, lined up with her two children moments later and said that in her household, too, the street dogs that had won her stamp of maternal approval came from Good to Go Organics. “I’m a big fan of street food, but it has to be more wholesome,” Ms. Gupte said. “I wish there were more of these kinds of carts around the park.”
But wait. What about that classic pushcart up the way, capped with the red-and-yellow umbrella? “I’d choose this over that, even though this is more expensive,” she said.
If you’ve passed through the city in the past century or so, you might expect that pushcart to be serving what everyone (even a drooling aficionado) likes to call a “dirty-water dog,” a hot frank plucked with tongs from a metal vat full of warm, salty liquid.
The delivery system is simple. The cooking method is rudimentary. And the result, with the way that soft bun sops up spare droplets of broth, is so essential to the New York gestalt that visiting world leaders must take a ceremonial bite for the cameras when strolling our sidewalks.
Water-heated wieners can be found on countless blocks of the city, and plenty of people are still ordering and devouring them. The other day, Gerri Queren, an airline employee from Queens, was picking up one with sauerkraut and mustard near the southeastern corner of Central Park.
But the way New York is has been changing. Parents who insist on wholesome, natural franks in Central Park are one of many challenges quietly, slowly chipping away at the street-corner dominance of the dirty-water dog.