Upon hearing about bulgogi hot dogs from a friend some months ago, I was skeptical of a modern mish-mash between East and West. I am familiar with the concept of fusion, but this just sounded ridiculous.
In one corner, a Western classic that’s as American as baseball. In the other corner, a traditional Korean dish that is passed down from generation to generation. How did the idea of intertwining the two items come about? Was it from a stroke of genius, or a thought from half-baked randomness?
New York Hot Dog and Coffee has 107 branches in Korea, so the idea isn’t as crazy as it sounds. It must be doing something right. Last year, the company opened it’s first American branch in Greenwich Village in New York City.
I have confessed my love for bulgogi, but the hot dog on the other hand, is akin to having an illegitimate child begging for my attention. I don’t remember the last time I had a hot dog, and I don’t miss it.
You see, hot dogs never did strike me as food, more like unwanted mixed and packed meat scraps that are reminiscent of my high school cafeteria’s mystery meat. Yet, this odd couple has intrigued me, and has rattled my culinary curiosity.
After reading reviews and being somewhat satisfied by the ratings, I decided to venture out to New York Hot Dog and Coffee. I would put my hot dog prejudice aside for the day. Like drinking and driving, like fire and ice, like sleeping pills and laxatives, hot dogs and bulgogi don’t go together.
Or do they?
My fellow foodies Boon and Meishan came along for the ride. As we approached the entrance, one of the employees opened the door and greeted us. It was a quiet Saturday afternoon there and we didn’t see many customers. Somehow I doubt there’s going to be door service if it gets really busy.
Adorned on the wall directly across from the counter, are larger than life pictures of people stuffing their faces with hot dogs. One of the employees approached us and asked if we were first-timers. Indeed, we were. He told us that the most popular items on the menu was #6, the Bulgogi Hot Dog, and #7 the Kimchi Bulgogi Hot Dog. Fair enough, #6 and #7 it is. As we waited for the kimchi, bulgogi, and hot dogs to be cooked on the grill, we walked around the place and noticed a back room where the decor took a page out of a bar lounge.
When we received our food, we found our way to the back area.
One of my friends was disappointed with the small amount of kimchi, so she went back to ask for more. A wise decision.
We dug into the kimchi bulgogi hot dog first, because, well, because it’s pretty and colorful. Surprisingly, the flavors went together rather well, and the toasted bun is a nice touch. Each layer of flavor is easily distinguishable and the flavors don’t seem to overpower one another. The hot dog, buried underneath the bulgogi, reminded me of 7/11’s Big Bite.
After eating the kimchi version first, the original bulgogi hot dog didn’t have as much of a flavor impact on the palette. In fact, before the last bite of the second hot dog, I scooped up scattered bits of kimchi from the first hotdog and placed them into the bun. Kimchi makes everything taste better. It didn’t have the spiciness and savoriness of the first dog, but the sweetness of the bulgogi complemented the salty hot dog nicely.
In the end, we weren’t blown out of the water by this unlikely combination of meat, but it was good enough to warrant a future visit to the shop. The Korean toppings on the hot dog are simply just that, toppings. Think chili cheese dogs and you will understand. Barely Recommended.
New York Hot Dog and Coffee
245 Bleecker St
(between Carmine St & Leroy St)
New York, NY 10014