"To some hardcore hot doggers the very concept of a $7 eco-friendly gourmet hot dog is offensive...but Bark has done their homework."
At long last, I recently found myself at Bark, Park Slope's two-year-old hot dog boutique that features local, organic ingredients and homemade everything. They serve lard-basted artisanal frankfurters from an "upstate New York Alsatian butcher" in a bustling, eco-friendly, modernized log cabin-meets-diner setting.
Hot dogs, for many people, should be eaten at a side-of-the-road shack or from a makeshift grill outside a bar at 3 a.m. They should be a break from the modern world of socially-conscious healthy eating, and the smoke and mirrors of trendy ingredients and high prices. To some hardcore hot doggers the very concept of a $7 eco-friendly gourmet hot dog is offensive.
But unlike other "high-end" hot dog purveyors, Bark has done their homework, and kill it with the food. Absolutely stunning, perfectly prepared, lard-basted Hartmann's wieners are served on lightly toasted top split buns (which have a crunchy outside but a soft middle). They almost look too good to eat. No kimchee fusion hot dogs here though—just American classics like you've never had them before, with some of the best ingredients in the world. Washed down with onion rings and local beer.
My favorite was a surprise even to me. I've always thought of baked-bean topped hot dogs as something the stands in Delaware or Florida might erroneously call a "Boston Dog" (not a true regional variation). But the house-made baked beans were so good I almost ordered a bowl (which you can do for $3; all of their toppings are available a la carte). Chock full of pork flavor, tender and swimming in a thick sauce that can only be the product of long, slow cooking, and topped with finely diced red onions and yellow mustard, these are hands down the best franks and beans I've ever had.
And while baked bean dogs aren't a bonafide traditional variation, baked beans themselves may have been one of New England (and America's) first regional foods. Influenced by French cassoulet and flavored with salt pork, bacon, molasses or maple syrup, baked beans were originally cooked for hours in bean pots over a fire or buried underground. If you've never had the real thing, you don't know what your missing.
Somewhere along the line, baked beans and franks got mixed up with each other, in the bean suppers of Maine where Red Snappers are thrown on heaping plates of slow-cooked beans with a side of brown bread, or hastily made dinners composed of a can of beans and a pack of hot dogs from the 7-Eleven.
Other highlights were the NYC Classic Dog, topped with Bark's house-made cart-style red onion sauce and French's bright yellow mustard. Almost identical to a cart dog, but taken to the next level. Toppings are minimal with this one so you can really taste the delicious Hartmann's dog.
The Chili and Cheese Dog was another winner: all-meat chili slathered in white cheddar sauce and finely diced red onions. The Slaw Dog was just OK. The slaw was sort of bland, and I definitely prefer sweet, creamy, almost liquid slaw to the rough-cut "gourmet" slaw you find in restaurants. At least on a hot dog.
The Pickle Dog was also decent, a slight nod to Chicago without overdoing it. The line of mayo helped to offset the vinegar of the house-made pickles and mustard. All the mediocre Chicago Dogs, or some other kind of "riff" found at just about every hot dog stand in the country, is getting a little old. I Imagine that for people from Chicago, it's like me (from Philly) seeing all sorts of abominations involving roast beef, Swiss cheese, panini-pressed bread, and whatever else called a "Philly Cheese Steak."
I also give Bark points for their shameless use of yellow mustard. I don't think there's a jar of Dijon or whole-grain in the place. Yellow mustard gets a bad rap as a neon chemical-filled monstrosity, but the bright yellow color comes from turmeric, not food coloring. They say it best on the back of the menu: "some things are just American classics."
Along with serving some of the most well-crafted hot dogs I've seen, Bark also has great burgers, fries, breakfast, and a terrific selection of beer from $3 tall boys of Bud Light to $15 growlers of Six Point IPA.
More Hot Diggity Dogs
- Nicky and Pete's in Philadelphia »
- Dogmatic Gourmet Sausage System in NYC »
- South Philly Dog »
- Danny's Drive-In in Stratford, Connecticut »
- Fat Franks in Bellows Falls, Vermont »
- El Completo, Chile's Take on the Hot Dog »
- Red Snappers in Maine »
- Zweigle's in Rochester, New York »
- Cincinnati Cheese Coney in Ohio »