Hot Dog of the Week: Pastrami Dog
"Take two of the best classic deli sandwiches and combine them."
Kosher hot dogs have always been a staple of New York delicatessens. It was only a matter of time before a deli man or two decided to pile some of that delicious pastrami on top of a frankfurter. The components are pretty self explanatory: all-beef kosher hot dog piled high with good, moist pastrami, on a poppy seed bun, maybe garnished with a squirt of deli mustard.
I found one here in Philadelphia at Famous 4th Street Deli, probably our most well-known classic delicatessen. My Pastrami Dog came with at least half a pound of pastrami piled on top. I made it all the way through without a knife and fork, which wasn't easy, but well worth it.
At first glance the Pastrami Dog doesn't look too different from other meat-on-meat atrocities. But it makes more culinary sense, almost a no-brainer. Take two of the best classic deli sandwiches and combine them.
A lot of newer hot dog joints are offering a similar Reuben dog, usually with corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and Thousand Island dressing—but at that point, you really are losing the hot dog underneath all the stuff.
The simplicity of frankfurter-pastrami-bread-mustard is perfect and pretty true to the deli experience. Although a mound of slaw on top and some half-sour pickles on the side can also really do the trick.
You would think that the Pastrami Dog would be available at every delicatessen on the East Coast, but sadly that's just not true. Katz's doesn't have it on the menu. In fact, the only New York delis where I could find one these days are Noah's Ark on the Lower East Side and Artie's Delicatessen on the Upper West Side, where they make a double pastrami dog.
Hot Diggity Dog in Brooklyn does a "Windsor Weenie," which is closer to a Reuben dog with melted Swiss cheese and kraut. Philly has them at Famous 4th mentioned above and at Hymie's Merion Deli just outside Philadelphia, they call it the "Tel-Aviv Tommy."
Where the Pastrami Dog has really taken off is the West Coast, especially in the Los Angeles area, where it seems to be on the menu of half the delis and hot dog joints in town, likely popularized by Pink's in Los Angeles where they call it the Brooklyn Dog.
Then there's the ultimate Pastrami Dog in Los Angeles—probably a total abomination by delicatessen standards—called the Oki Dog: two hot dogs, pastrami, chili, cheese and pickles wrapped in a tortilla. Served in a crazy crumbling shack, Oki Dog gained cult status in the late 1970s and early 80s as a favorite after-show hangout for the early Los Angeles hardcore scene. Legend has it that Darby Crash (late singer of the Germs) ate his last meal there.
It's often billed as an "East Coast classic" but I bet Pink's moves more of these a day than the entire city of New York does in a week. West Coast hot dog fast-food chain Weinerschnitlz even has a Pastrami Dog on their menu. It's almost a case of regional food mistaken identity. I imagine tourists from Los Angeles combing New York City, asking people on the street where to get "the original" Pastrami Dog to confused blank looks of bewilderment.
Other Meat-on-Meat Hot Dogs
There are a few other hot dog concoctions that are unique to delicatessens. Most delis offer some sort of frankfurter entree, with two dogs or knockwurst served with beans and maybe a side of cole slaw. In the Philadelphia area, almost every deli has the very un-kosher bacon and cheese covered Texas Tommy.
The hard-to-find kosher alternative to the Texas Tommy is currently up there in my top five hot dog holy grails. A Kosher Tommy is an all-beef frank wrapped in salami, sometimes covered in cheese that was popular a few generations ago when Philly had large Jewish working class neighborhoods. There might be two or three delis way out in the northeast section of the city that still make it. I can only eat so many hot dogs a day.
The Kosher Tommy was likely the inspiration for the "Philly Dog" at Steven Starr's recently opened Square Burger which takes a salami-wrapped dog and tops it off hot peppers, tomatoes, homemade pickles and mustard. In Baltimore Delis they wrap them in fried baloney.
With the wave of newly revived interest in classic delicatessens spurred by David Sax's fantastic book and same-named website, Save The Deli. The Pastrami Dog just might be due for a major comeback.
2290 Broadway, New York NY 10024 (map)
Hot Diggity Dog
263 Prospect Park West, Brooklyn NY 11215 (map)
Famous 4th St. Deli
700 S. 4th Street, Philadelphia PA 19147 (map)
709 N. La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles CA 90046 (map)
Hawk Krall is a Philadelphia-based illustrator who has a serious thing for hot dogs. Dig his dog drawings? Many of the illustrations he has created for Hot Dog of the Week are available for sale: hawkkrall.net/prints/.