photo by Voice Media Group
St. Marks Place has held on as the nexus of New York’s counterculture, so it’s appropriate that Brian Shebairo and erstwhile partner Chris Antista (for whom Crif Dogs is named; try saying “Chris” with a mouthful of hot dog) chose that street to turn the city’s perception of hot dogs upside down. These are no dirty-water dogs, nor are they mere vehicles for mustard. Shebairo and Antista traveled the eastern seaboard to locate the tastiest dogs, and in 2001 they began serving the fruits of their research. Sink your teeth into the spicy redneck, a bacon-wrapped frank topped with coleslaw and jalapeños. Or bite into the chihuahua, also bacon-wrapped, but topped with avocado and sour cream. With its quirky menu, old Pac-Man console, and cheap beer, Crif Dogs quickly became a place to unwind late-night. When Shebairo helped open attached speakeasy Please Don’t Tell in 2007 — accessed via the restaurant’s nonfunctioning phone booth — the dog joint became a gateway for cocktail tourists and booze-obsessed locals alike, and remained an indispensable destination in its own right.