There is such a thing as a magnificent hot dog. Strangely enough, finding it at Liebman’s Deli in Riverdale has outweighed every other personal insight I’ve had lately. In the months since my girlfriend broke up with me, I’ve learned a couple things about how I deal with what I don’t like, and even more importantly, about what I like to eat. The breakup sent me on a journey of discovery, and I woke up living in Riverdale. Don’t believe me? Come on up to Liebman’s and see for yourself.
Liebman’s comes off as an inauspicious place at first. It’s a glatt kosher deli tucked onto 236th street off Johnson Avenue, right between Mother’s Bakery and an Italian restaurant I’ve not yet braved. There are two categories of things at Liebman’s: things you have to try, and things you just really should.
First off, focus for a second on Kasha. Not “Kashi”, mind you. Kasha is a grain that old Jewish people eat. It’s sort of like rice, but a little grainier, and a bit nuttier. That brings us to the first thing you have to try: Kasha Varnishkas. Basically, they take a big bowl of boiled Kasha and noodles and serve it with brown gravy. It sounds simple. It is simple. It is simply amazing.
Now let’s talk about the focus of this piece: hotdogs. These guys have revived the fine art of spinning hotdogs on a really hot surface for an entire day. They use plain old Hebrew National beef franks, but there’s something about how they cook them all day that just makes them awesome. The hotdogs are a little tough on the outside, so when you bite into them, you know you’ve just bitten through the skin. I know that I just made it sound gross, but it’s fantastic. I like to order them with onions and mustard. They have these onions, and they sauté them also for like, the entire day. Once they get on that hotdog, they’re god damn perfect. They’re some of the sweetest, most flavorful damn onions I’ve ever had, and when you put a dash of mustard on it, it’s like God came down and put junk food on your plate.
They’ve made me change the way I make hotdogs at home. I can’t simulate the all day spinning, so when I’m at home, the hotdogs are boiled, but the onions are a go. Half a medium onion is enough for two hotdogs. They don’t have to be diced, they’ll probably be better if they’re not. Cut the onions long and thin, sauté them in some olive oil until they’re nice and transparent. You can then have them sit for probably ten minutes or so, so there’s no need to get nervous or do everything at once, making sure that you ruin the whole dish.