The Legend of Hot Bird and White Hot Dogs
Today I checked out another great HD blog called Buddies and Hot Dogs, and it made me realize it’s been almost THREE WEEKS since my last dog. I was inspired, and when Ali asked what I wanted to do today there was only one thing that came to mind: Hot Bird!
This nuclear yellow sign, and 2 or 3 others like it, stands out like a beacon for something that always seemed elusive to me: healthy BBQ. We moved to Prospect Heights in Brooklyn about 8 years ago and the sign told us to turn around and go get some. But there was no Hot Bird to be found. I never did any research but we had to guess that the place went out of business a long time ago. I’ve seen people on my street still looking to find it and it has been the subject of conversation bordering on legendary status. But then this year, after Ali and I left The Great Hot Dog Cookoff, we turned the corner and found a place called Hot Bird that was open for business.
The new Hot Bird seems to make no sense on a block of businesses for car washing, repairs, window tinting and glass repair, until you realize that the restaurant is a converted repair shop. The garage is cleaned out and looks virtually the same except for a bar and some tables, like something you’d probably find in Williamsburg or Gowanus. This is not the location of the old Hot Bird, which actually closed in the 90’s. For more info on the legend, check out this NY Times article.
The food is outside however. High end food trucks seem to be the new trend around the country. But I always get a kick out of stationary trucks. There are a couple of places that serve up food out of trucks that don’t move, and we hit up both of them today.
The food at Hot Bird is mostly hot dogs and sausage sandwiches but they also have burgers and grilled polenta sandwiches. It is definitely not a BBQ joint but they do have a pulled pork sandwich. The patrons are made up of hipsters, yuppies, and some kind of hybrid of the two, which means that you will pay anywhere from $4-$10 for a tubular meat sandwich. But the outdoor courtyard with picnic tables was very relaxing, with the high fence somehow buffering out most of the noise on Atlantic Ave.
Two selections on the menu caught my eye. One was the Knock-mi which consisted of a smoked polish pork knockwurst (provided by Jubilat Provisions) split lengthwise, griddled, with banh mi veggies (one of which tasted like licorice), kimchee, and spicy peach mustard. The other was a Snappy, a pork and veal dog scented with mace and nutmug, topped with Juniper beer sauerkraut.
I couldn’t really understand what was the deal with this dog because it looked like a Brat but was labeled as a dog. It wasn’t until doing a little research before I started writing that this is actually a white coney from Syracuse NY. Hofmann Sausages is located in Syracuse, a city that was recently featured in Man vs. Food (start the clip at around 6:45). They went to a diner where they were serving up white coneys, which get the color from using egg whites in the mix. With my sandwich, the tangy beer sauerkraut and strong mustard overpowered the coney. By itself, the dog was very light and reminded me a bit a breakfast sausage, making it a very unique taste. I should say, however, that this dog reminds me of like when huge guys are named Tiny. It’s called a Snappy but didn’t actually have any snap. It was a surprisingly soft dog. I wasn’t disappointed but just confused.
The Vietnamese Banh-mi is one of the best sandwiches ever. Mike will back me up on this. Recently, it seems as if I’ve come across hot dog cooks trying to combine the two. To me, this sandwich was something different than just a dog with banh mi toppings. You had polish pork smoked sausage, Vietnamese banh mi veggies, Korean kimchee, and some kind of south/southeast Asian inspired mustard all on a potato roll. I was amazed that all the ingredients were distinct and did not overpower each other. The smoked sausage had a strong flavor and the veggies offered sweet and tangy tastes. The mustard provided heat and took on somewhat of a curry flavor. This sandwich had so much weight that it was flattening out the potato roll.
Ali wasn’t feeling the dogs. She had something else on her mind: cuban sandwiches and grilled corn. We walked down Fulton St. to the popular and always busy Habana Outpost. This is another spot with a stationary truck that serves up one of the best cuban sandwiches I’ve ever had. When Ali bit into hers, the juice from the pork streamed out of the bread. The corn is also perfectly grilled and topped with cheese, spices, and lime. This solar-powered party spot sometimes has DJ’s or movies projected up on an adjacent wall. Sometimes the lines can be long but the food is always worth it. You can always wait with your frozen mojito.
I started off the morning jogging a 3-mile loop at Prospect Park. Somehow I managed to balance out the exercise with a white coney, smoked sausage banh mi, and a cuban sandwich. This could be the start of a beautiful Sunday tradition.
Hot Bird: 825 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn NY 11238
Habana Outpost: 757 Fulton Street, Brooklyn NY 11217