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Want a New York Hot Dog? Make a Reservation

April 29, 1999|ART BUCHWALD

The thing that makes New York such a great place is that as ethnic group after ethnic group arrives here, with just the clothes they are wearing, in no time they become financial successes through their own energy and ambition.

This is particularly true of those who go into the hot dog stand business. The city corners are now loaded with food carts, and many of them have become the most popular places for people to have lunch.

What is amazing to me is how the number of street carts has exploded. When I first came to New York in September, my hot dog purveyor, Juan San Fillippo Usted, sold frankfurters, soft drinks and Baby Ruth bars.

The next month I noticed that besides hot dogs, he was offering hot tamales, knishes (potato hand grenades), egg rolls and roasted chestnuts.

I said, "You're expanding."

He replied, "The sidewalk on Madison Avenue and 50th Street has been good to me. Come back next week and try my Crepes Evita Peron."

When I came back, Juan had a new umbrella featuring, in beautiful Old English lettering, the words: "Specialites de Jour--Duck l'Orange, Filet de Sole Saute, Poulet in a Paper Bag and Apple Pan Dowdy."

By this time, Juan was wearing a chef's hat and sniffing the contents of his pots and pans.

He said, "I'm in a panic. The New York Times is going to review me tomorrow, and my truffles haven't arrived."

"Is this it, or are you going to expand your menu any further?"

"The city is complaining that my customers are taking up all the sidewalk, so I'm only adding sweetbreads and Iranian caviar in a baked potato."

"Juan," I said, "I admire you. You have made sidewalk eating a gastronomic pleasure. May I have a hot dog?"

"I'm sorry--for hot dogs you have to order 24 hours in advance."

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