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Chicken, foie gras, and beef brisket? at The Vanderbilt

November 8, 2011

I can hear you judging me through the screen.  I’ve already been judged recently for being a grown adult who puts ketchup on his hot dogs.  And you know what, I don’t care.  The hot dog path I have taken is to eat and find weird stuff.  And I had no idea up until a few weeks ago that the small-plates restaurant The Vanderbilt makes homemade hot dogs right on the corner where I live.  This year on Halloween I decided to forego candy for meat in tube form.  The time was right and the gears started churning.

The Vanderbilt front entrance...at night...with no flash.

The Vanderbilt is run by chef Saul Bolton, who also runs a restaurant called Saul in the Cobble Hill neighborhood in Brooklyn, 10 minutes down the street.  Saul has one Michelin star and is an incredible place to eat.  My neighborhood, Prospect Heights, and my street in particular has seen a wild transformation over the past 10 years.  It’s now a destination for a growing dining and bar scene, and people come from other boroughs to come hang out!  The Daffodil hardware store went out of business and Bolton moved his new hot spot in to the large space.  It’s become a popular and trendy place with a beautiful marble bar and dark reclaimed wood walls.  Old timey clear filament dimly lit bulbs dangle from the ceiling.  You can also sit at another bar in front of the kitchen watching the food fly!

I should start by saying that the food has gotten a lot of critical praise.  I, however, haven’t been too crazy about the food and usually don’t go because it’s pricey.  But there are some things I really like there, like the brussels sprouts with sriracha, honey, and sesame seeds.  They also make a bunch of homemade sausages like smoked kielbasa (which is very good), weisswurst, grilled merguez, and blood sausage.  My mission on this night was to try the Bird Dog and the beef brisket dog.  The beef brisket dog is only available after 11:00 pm  but they were happy to cook one up for me.  Before I talk about the Bird Dog, I have to talk about a couple of things I tried beforehand.

The bartender must have picked up on my interest in meats and sausage, and started talking to me about the charcuterie program one of the chefs runs.  He then pulled over a glass jar filled with what looked like limp pretzel logs.  He took one out with tongs and explained that it was called a Jim’s Slims, essentially housemade Slim Jim’s, but sooooooo much better.  Soft and juicy with oil covering your fingertips.  This was really really great.  He then brought over another jar and put down a few pieces of housemade jerky, made from flank steak with a thai bbq marinade.  This was really delicious and a great counterpoint to the softer spicier Jim Slim.  He also made a great drink for me called a Hudson Buck which is bourbon, apple cider, molasses, ginger, and housemade bitters.  This was autumn in a glass, and perfect to drink down with smoked meats and dogs.

Bird Dog and Beef Brisket Dog

The Bird Dog is a chicken and foie gras hot dog with pickled slaw on a potato roll.  It’s the one on the left in the above picture.  The slaw was nicely pickled, with the seeds still roaming about.  The potato roll was toasted and tasty, soft and not too bready.  Bird Dog also appeared to be grilled on the flat top and had a bit of snap.  Then you remember that it’s a chicken dog, a meat that ain’t the most flavorful for a hot dog.  I don’t want to bash chicken dogs, though, because I’ve had some beef and pork dogs that don’t taste like much.  And I also like how they use foie gras pieces inside the dog, instead of discs as a topping.  However…if they didn’t mention foie gras on the menu, I don’t think I would know it was there.  You can see it visually but didn’t seem to add much to the overall product.  I think if they keep experimenting, and maybe change to beef or pork, this could be pretty interesting.

Grilled Bird, hidden beef brisket

I found the beef brisket dog to be the more flavorful of the two, yet still kind of mild.  This also had pickled slaw and potato bun.  There was no mustard on either of these, and I didn’t bother asking for any, since the slaw was tangy enough.

In conclusion, my vote goes to beef brisket dog.  It’s $6 and is only available after 11pm for the late night menu, and also possibly on the brunch menu.  The chicken foie gras dog is $14.  I don’t imagine I would get this again, but probably only because it’s $14.  I think they should probably change up the toppings for each dog too, but then again, they keep it simple, which I also like.  The best part of the night was the cool bartender hooking me up with some excellent snacks and a great drink.  I will most likely be going back for those Jim’s Slims and jerky.

The Vanderbilt   570 Vanderbilt Avenue, Brooklyn NY

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