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Traditional Hot Dog Vendors Disappearing From NYC Streets

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- When you think of food in the Big Apple, the hot dog is about as "New York" as it gets.

But those street-side vendor carts are in transition.

"The New York hot dog is part of our history, part of our culture," City Councilman Dan Garodnick told CBS 2's Katie Fehlinger on Wednesday.

Brightly colored umbrellas seem to beckon people to feast on the traditional dog.

"And then you have the ketchup and mustard -- just classic," customer Jennifer Call said.

But the iconic snacks -- and the vendor carts that sell them -- have undergone a facelift. Now, you can get almost anything.

"There's dessert trucks, and there's ice cream trucks," Chelsea resident Nita Nehru said.

"The fancy waffles, fancy chicken, sushi," added Andrew Pacifico of the Upper West Side.

And they're all creating competition for the tried and true hot dog.

Vendor Mohamed Elshamy said he sets up his cart strategically to make sure his dogs will sell.

"Here in the tourist areas, they just like the regular hot dogs," Elshamy said.

It's a pretty simple process. The hot dogs heat up in a bin of hot salty liquid, giving them that slightly soggy texture. But nowadays a lot of vendors cook right on their built-in grills. Part of that switch came from permits.

Now, many vendors are finding it necessary to sell more than just hot dogs in order to stay competitive. Councilman Garodnick, who said he loves the hot dogs with his favorite mustard and sauerkraut, wants to see the street-side food trucks meet certain health standards.

"They taste great. I would like to know that they are safe and that they are clean and free of problems," Garodnick said.

So he proposed a grading system that would rate vendor carts with a letter grade similar to the system now used in restaurants. It's food for thought since diners Fehlinger talked to said they worry about vendor truck cleanliness.

"I kind of test the waters by seeing how many people are on line. If there's a lot then I'll go," Nehru said.

Councilman Garodnick's grading system has already received an endorsement from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and the proposed plan would include input from the Department of Health.

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