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Iconic Food #10: Dirty Water Dog

In today's epicurean delight filled world, sometimes you just want a plain old, soul-satisfying dirty water hot dog. Heated just enough to warm your innards and served flavorful and moist in a fluffy white bun, New York's dirty water dogs are sold by the millions on corners from Gramercy Park to the Grand Concourse.

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The Ubiquitous Sabrett Umbrella

Most New Yorkers have a salivating, Pavlovian response to Sabrett's blue and yellow awnings, which can be seen shading food trucks and metal push carts throughout the city. Filled with mouth-watering hot dogs, these carts can be found in parks and the trucks (which give up their blue and yellow signature stripes for regulation green and white) in the streets. Sabrett is the leading purveyor of the moist, flavorful dogs, selling thousands of tons each year. The all-beef hot dogs are known for their signature snap and natural casing.

Other private push cart owners also serve up dirty water dogs, and many of these have licenses allowing them to serve grilled options too. No matter who you buy them from, purists typically go for the franks fished out of heated vats of seasoned and salty water rather than their gentrified, grilled counterparts.


Some Say it's the Bun

Doughy, white and ungrilled, dirty water dog aficionados cite the delicately moist bun as the key to hot dog success. Flavored by the dripping dog nestled inside it, the bun soaks up the flavors of meaty juices, seasonings and salt, while retaining its spongy texture.


Others Say it's the Water

Unless you're going to the wrong street vendor, "dirty water dog" is really a misnomer. The water, which looks cloudy and scummy, is actually filled with seasonings, not bacteria. While recipes vary, the typical dirty water dog lives in a vat of water seasoned with onion, vinegar, red pepper, cumin and nutmeg for not more than one hour before it's served. Some sweeter dogs are fished out of vats which have ketchup or tomato sauce added to the watery mix.


You Want Mustard With That?

Kids often go for ketchup, and their parents go for sauerkraut and bright yellow mustard. But only in New York can you get the tomato-onion topping that originated here. No matter what type of topping you crave, the distinct taste and texture of dirty water dogs will compliment it just fine.


From the Stadium to the Shore

Despite competition from nouveau-dogs, tofu-tots and kimchee-dressesd organic options, water-heated wieners can be found everywhere you go in New York. Dignitaries, both local and international, won't leave the city until their photo is snapped wolfing one down. And with good reason. The dirty water dog is the taste of New York, and isn't going away any time soon.


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Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found at

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