A vegetarian walks into a hot dog joint...
An awful one-liner, for sure, but in my instance it was a beyond (meat) pleasant surprise at Rock City Dogs, one of the newest eateries on the downtown Bay Shore strip.
The restaurant, located at 3 E. Main Street, is the joint venture of Stevie Reno, Tom McGiveron, Stephen Bennett and Vina Vollmer. The restaurant, which offers eat-in and takeout, serves up traditional American grub with a twist: nearly every menu item is inspired or named after classic rock-and-roll icons, songs, albums and more.
Stepping inside the restaurant feels like stepping behind the curtain. The dark, industrial environment with vibrant Hollywood-style lights invites you back- stage. As the rock-and-roll tracks play (Aerosmith, David Bowie, Boston, just to name a few that cycled while I was seated), the scent of grilled patties wafts over from the kitchen. Beware, a towering David Bowie in his Ziggy Stardust-era will watch you enjoy your meal.
The amount of detail that the owners went through to commit to the music theme is impressive. The back- side of the menu looks vaguely like the cover of a vinyl record by The Smiths (?!) and employees sport black backstage-esque T-shirts that include a list of upcoming tour dates (future locations?)
There’s a plethora of funky hot dog options, ranging from the classic “Chicago Dog” (pickle, onion, tomato, mustard, neon relish, sport pepper, celery salt on a pop- py-seed bun) to the “The Springsteen” (deep-fried hot dog, turmeric-relish mustard, and onion rings).
Those are the headliners—but opening acts include more burgers, salads and fries. And not to fret, my veg- an/vegetarian pals—there’s no shortage of vegan dogs and Impossible Burgers, which can be subbed out for any regular meat.
Wanna go V.I.P.? Grab the restaurant’s namesake hot dog, which comes with lobster, whipped horseradish, tomato, champagne mignonette and caviar. RCD tater tots are on the side.
Our table ordered an “AC/DC Dog,” a butterflied hot dog with scrambled eggs, bacon crumble, maple and topped with mint on a french-toast bun. While I couldn’t taste this dog, it seemed like any brunch-lovers dream: it’s a sweet and salty breakfast dog, and likely the best hangover brunch you could ever ask for. And it’s paired with teeny-tiny pickles.
I opted for the “T-Rex Burger” (classic 8 ounce with lettuce, tomato, onion and “Styx fries”) and swapped the beef for an Impossible patty. I added avocado for an extra $3, because I couldn’t resist.
I may or may not have experienced an existential cri- sis when I first bit into the burger because it tasted so much like real beef. And, no, this is not sponsored by the Impossible Burger. In a worried fit, I forced my brother to try the patty and confirm it was artificial—which it clearly was. (Note: this occurs every time I indulge in fake beef. No shame.)
After my short-lived panic, I devoured the burger quickly. It was absolutely scrumptious. If you can, make sure you order your side of plain fries with the garlic aioli—it’s the perfect pairing. Trust me.
Everything was so delicious, so “fire,” that it actually sounded the fire alarm. We were forced to evacuate stage left.
Okay, not quite.
It just so happened that during our meal, a neighbor- ing restaurant triggered the boisterous ringing of a fire alarm. From what I understand, most of the downtown businesses’ fire systems are linked, so once one restau- rant’s alarm rattles, they all do. It was both hilarious and frustrating, but had absolutely nothing to do with the quality of Rock City Dogs.
In basic: The service was incredible, the food was tasty, and the ambience alone was worth the price of the meal. Any music-lover, young or old, should pop into Rock City Dogs and jam for a while.
Rock City Dogs is open Monday through Wednesday, 4:30-10 p.m., Thursday 4:30-12 p.m., Friday through Satur- day, 4:30-1 p.m. and Sunday 11-6 p.m. They can be reached at (631) 876-2530.