My search for the best hot dog in New York continues….
SADLY, JAPADOG IS NOW CLOSED.
Anybody who’s wandered up and down St. Mark’s Place in the East Village knows it’s a cheap bastard’s paradise. You can get both pizza or falafel for $1 and the Japanese food along this block is notorious for being affordable and greasy. At one time, it’s where runaway artists and homeless kids were able to eat for pocket change. Today, it attracts mostly NYU students. But the one thing that hasn’t changed is that the food is cheap and fast.
And at first, Japadog seemed a natural fit into this community. The Canadian-born hot dog shop started as a food cart in Vancouver before becoming hugely popular for their Japanese-inspired hot dogs. I first came by on opening day (about a year ago now). The excitement was high and the lines were long.
Fast forward a bit and now every time I walk by Japadog, it’s a ghost town. Nobody seems to crowd this place like nearby Mamoun’s falafel. And my guess is it’s because of the price.
Most of their hot dogs hover around $5 or $6 for a single weenie. If you want a drink or fries, it’ll cost you close to $10. Now granted, that’s not bank breaking, but compared to the other cheap establishments on St. Mark’s, it’s like taking out a second mortgage.
This was also exciting to me because I realized I could maybe try two different dogs and not cough up an arm and a leg. So I picked two of their signature hot dogs – the Terimayo and the Okonomi. Both feature unusual hot dog toppings and sounded different enough. One was with a beef frank and the other with a pork dog.
Except both of my dogs were served with beef. When I questioned the lone employee, he told me all the Junior sizes come with beef sausages. Ah ha! I knew there was a catch. After I complained to him and told him I would have ordered differently, he added a sign to the menu. It should have been there all along and I was peeved I got the short end of the stick.
I put aside my disappointment and picked up the dogs. The Terimayo is probably their signature. Featuring a sweet brown teriyaki sauce, fried onions, Japanese mayo, and lots of nori seaweed strips, it was certainly unlike any dog I’d tasted before. I found it a little heavy on the mayo and while the flavors worked together, I’m not sure it elevated this dog at all. The dog itself was rather lackluster. It was smoky and salty, but that’s about all it had going for it.
Problems continued since the Okonomi (which is usually served with a pork sausage) was comprised of the same common unimpressive wiener. I’m surprised these dogs were grilled (they were, I watched them) because there was no blister or enticing pop.
This beef dog was topped with smoky bonito flakes, a savory brown sauce, crunchy fried cabbage, and even more mayo. They love their mayo here (they even have a wasabi mayo for squirting), which would be sacrilege in some NYC hot dog circles. I imagine this is a play on the traditional Japanese street food okonomiyaki (which you can get down the street), but it doesn’t work quite as well. Part of the fun of that dish is the lively squirming bonito flakes. These seemed dead and slightly stale. Once the sticky toppings slid off the back of the dog, I had no interest in continuing to eat this. I wonder if things would have been different if I had received the pork dog, like originally advertised.
My latest experience at Japadog was by far my most disappointing. I had actually enjoyed the flavor combinations the first time around. Perhaps the quality has suffered since business has no doubt not turned out to be what they hoped. Or perhaps I shouldn’t have ordered the Jr. dogs (which were no less than 3/4 the size of the full one). While the flavors and atmosphere fit right in with the buzz on St. Marks, these overpriced and lackluster dogs can’t last too long.
Does Japadog have the best dog in NY? These are not your ordinary NYC dogs to be sure, but the links themselves left something to be desired and the toppings are inventive, but not completely cohesive. A disappointing 6 out of 10.
|30 Saint Marks Place (between Second and Third Avenue),