Imagine walking into a small hot dog shop in the East Village, stepping into a vintage phone booth to your left and then being ushered through a secret door and into a speakeasy as soon as you press the buzzer. Although PDT is far from a city secret anymore, it's still a mysterious delight for those who've never been.
A bit ago, I found myself walking down the few steps from the sidewalk and entering Crif Dogs, a hot dog joint with just a few tables and a line nearly reaching the door. A. only sold it to me as a place that made "gourmet hot dogs," but when I saw him head straight for the phone booth, I perked up. "Is that PDT?!" The dimly-lit lounge is very cozy and if you sit at the bar, you'll be talking with your neighbors in no time - especially if one of them is considering ordering a bacon-infused drink.
The bar, or lab as I called it, is so well-stocked and the bartenders so skilled in their mixology that even if you have no idea what you'd like from their menu, you could explain what tastes you like and they'll whip something up for you. "It's like watching a performance," I said, mesmerized from watching our girl work her magic. Grabbing this liquor, that syrup and garnishing with the flick of her wrist, you could tell she had this down to an art. (By the way, even though the cocktail menu changes frequently, the Framboise Fizz is a great choice for those who like fruity drinks with a kick.)
The wonderful part is that you can order food from next door without leaving your seat. Crif Dogs does things to hot dog I would've never dreamed of, but then again, I'm a simple ketchup girl. They take things much further: deep-fried franks served as a BLT or in Philly-cheese-steak form. I mean who would think to add cream cheese to a hot dog? Momofuku fans can try the David Chang-inspired Chang Dog, a bacon-wrapped hot dog smeared with the chef's Momofuku Ssäm Bar red kimchee purée. My favorite was the Wylie Dog, a frank nestled next to a breaded strip of deep-fried mayo and topped with tomato molasses, onions and shredded romaine lettuce. The fried mayo sounds suspect, but trust me when I say it was so yummy I had to convince A. to trade me his for my Chang Dog.
I do believe you have to call and make reservations for PDT these days, but if you luck out on a random evening like we did, it's sure to be a romantic, not to mention unconventional, treat.