There's always been something comforting about this kind of food: corndogs, burgers. Plain as a Midwestern accent, simple as a pair of jeans -- until now.
"Comfort food is absolutely moving upscale,'' says Danny Meyer, who made his name way up the scale with some of New York's best restaurants. Now he, like other restaurateurs, is discovering there's a big market for down market food.
Meyer owns a New York barbeque joint called Blue Smoke, where rich people eat the same food as anyone else -- except it's different.
Meyer asks, "Who ever wrote the rule that champagne isn't gonna be as delicious with ribs as beer would be?"
And who ever wrote that cheese fries can't be made with three different kinds of gourmet cheese.
"I'll bet you this cheese didn't come out of a can,'' observes Schlesinger.
Said Meyer: "Well I'll bet the stuff that came out of the can doesn't even qualify as cheese."
So how much of a market is there for this fancy, common food? Well, they're lining up for dolled up hamburgers and hotdogs at another snack bar run by Meyer in a nearby park. It's the only hamburger stand with a wine list.
Danny Meyer's hamburgers are almost as fancy as Chef Charlie Palmer's Corn Dogs.
"We put it on a stick, just like the corndogs in the fair, you know,'' said Palmer.
But it should be noted that the stick is about the only thing similar to a corn dog that Palmer does.
Chef Palmer makes his corn dogs without the dogs. He uses lobster meat, and a mousse, to make an "appare." When's the last time you made an "appare?"
"You're just going to fry them until they're golden brown,'' said Palmer.
They come out looking like corn dogs. But that's where the similarity ends.
Was there something wrong with regular corn dogs that made Palmer feel like he had to improve upon it?
"Well, yeah, they were made with hotdogs," he says.
But the lobster corn dogs are a hit.
"They ARE good," says one diner.
A new twist and a high price: $9 each. Compare that to the $3 an average real corn dog costs. It proves some comfort food … is only for the truly comfortable.
Next page: Lobster Corn Dog recipe