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In Search of the Perfect Hot Dog – A New York City Adventure

Written by Molly Brunette.

Most of you probably don’t think of hot dogs when you think of New York City and all it has to offer. I didn’t either – not until I brought my 9 year old daughter, Krista there to visit my sister and brother-in-law, Joan and Angus Campbell. I visit annually and I have to say, bringing a child to this city certainly changed the way I saw it!

Our adventure began with our flight being delayed out of Lansing due to inclement weather. This actually made things interesting, as we were able to test out the efficiency of the new Northwest terminal in Detroit. I told Krista we were going to have to run at top speed to make our connection. This is something she does extremely well and was up for the challenge. I am happy to report that thanks to the many moving sidewalks, it is possible to go from gate 50 to gate 20 in a matter of minutes.

We arrived into Newark right around rush hour and were met by Joan in baggage claim. It is now possible to take the train from the airport right into Penn Station. Sure, we could have taken a cab, but kids like different modes of transportation so off we went! With Joan leading the way, we took a short tram ride to the train station. Krista has flown too many times to count, but this was her first train ride – she was fascinated. She then experienced Penn Station during rush hour as we transferred to the subway and finally, a short walk to Angus and Joan’s upper west side apartment. We decided to walk to the 79th Street Boat Basin Café on the Hudson River for dinner. This was an appealing choice for several reasons – it’s outdoors, it’s kid friendly and because dogs are welcome, the family dog, Chorney (the Russian word for “black”) was able to come along. It was at dinner that Krista fell in love – with the New York hot dog. She enjoyed it so much that she ordered another one. A pattern was developing.

The next day, I was on a mission. If you are like me, the phrase, “Back to School Shopping” is considered one of the scariest group of words in the English language. Never fear though, as I had a plan – it’s called Macy’s. I was hoping that taking her to the biggest department store in the world would eliminate the need to spend an entire day (s) trying to outfit one child for school. The trip was a success – talk about one stop shopping! On the way home, we exited the subway and what did we see, but – a hot dog vendor! Buying hot dogs on the street – what a concept! Krista again enjoyed two hot dogs.

Not long after this, the 4 of us (sans Chorney) ventured out to Times Square for dinner. If you’re hoping to read of the exquisite cuisine this city is known for, you may want to skip this part. When traveling with children, the goal is always something they will enjoy. We tried an Olive Garden, but the line was lengthy so we ate at Texas BBQ instead – Krista thought their hot dogs were pretty good. There are several family type restaurants in the area so if the line is too long at one, there’s always something else nearby. After dinner we wandered around a bit, stopping at the Toys R Us to see the full size Ferris Wheel inside, checking out Times Square and people watching. Then it was on to the New Amsterdam Theatre to see The Lion King. If you haven’t seen this yet and enjoy theatre, it’s a must. The theatre was built in 1903 and has been beautifully restored. The production itself was awesome. I had heard so much about it, I was afraid I might be expecting too much, but it was everything I had imagined. The costumes and the stage sets were incredible. Descriptions do not do it justice – you must see it for yourself. One suggestion I’d like to make is to get the very best seats you can; preferably in the Orchestra. While our seats in the Mezzanine were very good, I would have preferred to be on the main floor. Tickets are still difficult to get, so planning far in advance is necessary. If you are not staying in the Times Square area, finding a cab after the show can be a bit of a challenge. Joan suggested we head up to 8th Ave. and start walking away from the theatre district. After observing others, Krista caught on to the art of cab hailing and it wasn’t too long before one stopped for us and we were on our way.

The next day Krista and Angus planned to go in-line skating. Angus skates for the Central Park Skate Patrol, so Krista got a lesson out of the deal too. We rented skates for her at Blades on West 72nd Street. From there it is just a short skate to Central Park. They skated in an area called the Bandshell. This was quite entertaining for the non-skaters (Joan, Chorney and me) as there were some very talented skaters there strutting their stuff – great people watching! If you were wondering – Krista gave the hot dog vendors in the park her stamp of approval. Prior to this, we stopped for lunch at Gray’s Papaya (at 72nd and Amsterdam), which is famous for – can you guess?! – their hot dogs. Up until recently they were only 50 cents. They are still a great bargain at 75 cents each.

By now, we had sufficiently exhausted Krista (and me!) and it was time to head home. This time our Detroit connection gave us enough time to take the escalator to the upper level and try out the tram – it’s very efficient and fast. Krista really enjoyed her time in the Big Apple. Her book on New York City Hot Dogs will be out early next year.