Naturally, all of these hot dogs are all-beef, otherwise they wouldn't be "NYC Hot Dogs." Also- can't have chili, (Midwestern style) can't have tomatoes, bright green relish, "sport peppers" and celery salt ("dragged through the garden" Chicago style). Otherwise, anything goes. Don't steam the bun, though. Or put poppyseeds on it. Or stick a stick through it.
7. Papaya King. $
Gray’s Papaya knock-off.
6. Crif Dogs on St. Mark’s Place. $$
All kinds of cutesy toppings and stuff. Deep-fried, wrapped in bacon, blah blah blah. More kinds of cheese than you want to think about. Cheese doesn’t belong on hot dogs, but if it did, it would come out of a can and be just “cheese.” it wouldn’t be “ swiss gruyere” or “crumbled feta” or something that you have to specify.
5. Brooklyn Diner on 57th Street. $$$
Most massive hot dog you’ve ever seen. It’s more of a full-size ring bologna without any curve to it than a hot dog. Still, it's fun and photogenic if you're in the mood for impressing somebody back home.
4. F&B (Frites & Beignets) on 23rd street $$
Tasty Belgian dogs with interesting toppings. Dogs are snappy and garlicky and good, and it's kind of fun to experiment with strange stuff you've never tried before. The fries are great too, and the beignets are worth a trip by themselves.
3. Dirty-water dogs from anyplace on a city street. $$ or $ depending on location
Sabrett’s or Nathan’s or Hebrew National or whatever, coming out of that dirty water they all taste the same. Which is pretty damn good. And it always hits the spot when you're out walking around.
2. Nathan’s Famous on the Coney Island Boardwalk. $
A legend. They do everything right.
1. Gray’s Papaya $
They’re not overwhelming. They’re the perfect size to have two. Buns are toasted on the grill but not too much to darken them. No extraneous toppings, just ketchup, mustard, sauerkraut and onions. A real New Yorker would never order more than two of those toppings at a time, but any combination of two is acceptable except maybe sauerkraut and onions. Super-cheap, the papaya drinks are fantastic. Coconut champagne too.