Fast Food Review: The New York Dog from Sonic

First of all, let me get this out of the way: I object to the fact that “New York” always has to mean “New York City.” I don’t have anything against the Big Apple aside from it’s crappy traffic and baseball teams, but c’mon, get over yourself already. To me, the son of two born and bred Buffalo natives, “New York” means a lot more than just the country’s biggest city. Once more, if you talk to me about a “New York” dog, I’m thinking back to what really is the only hot dog I’ve ever known – The classic, all-beef Sahlen’s hot dog, cooked over a chargrill at one of several Ted’s locations in Western New York. It’s charred, crispy, and served with Ted’s famous red-hots, it makes the ultimate in summer day lunches.

So I was skeptical when Sonic rolled out four brand new hot dogs this month, questioning whether or not the new “premium beef” dogs would be any good. I mean, how “premium” can a hot dog be anyways, especially at a fast food drive-in? At the end of the day it’s still a fatty piece of processed meat shoved in between a bun with some condiments, right? Well, according to Sonic, it ain’t, especially when it comes to the “classic” flavors of the New York Dog:

A 100% pure beef hot dog grilled to perfection and topped with spicy brown mustard, grilled onions and crunchy sauerkraut in a soft, warm bakery bun.

Not gonna lie: this seems like an interesting concept. No, I’ve never experienced an actual New York dog from the streets of NYC, but if I was going to give one of these Sonic dogs a try, I figured it might as well be the one that doesn’t come with the alien goo looking relish (Chicago) or the standard ketchup, relish and mustard (All-American). So I tried to keep an open mind - Ted’s prejudices and all - and made the walk down to Sonic on a cold and rainy day out here in Utah for a lite lunch.

(Sidenote: I love the concept of a drive-in, but gee-golly, I wish Sonic could get some indoor seating in it’s cold weather locations. Northern Utah, as I have said before, is like Hoth. A nice hamburger or hot dog is peachy on a sunny day outside a fast food place, but amidst a rain-snow mix? Please Sonic, help a car-less brother out! Anyways, the first thing I noticed about the dog was the heat. It steamed the viewing panel on it’s little container sleeve, which oh by the way looks like something a Stormtrooper MRE would come in. There were some gimmicky and hyperbolic marketing buzzwords on the package, which almost made me consider how pathetic I was for being the only guy at the place. Nevertheless, the toppings were plentiful enough, and a discernible aroma and steam came from the hot dog.

The first thing to go wrong was the bun. It wasn’t “bakery fresh” by any means. One side has a decent pillow of softness, but the other was almost rock hard. It’s as if someone had let half the bun stale, and the first bite into said part of the hot dog was a total letdown. As you can see, the hot dog itself it dwarfed by the bun and the toppings. Thankfully, those toppings provide good flavor, and the dog itself was surprisingly pleasing. Not crispy on the outside or smokey like my beloved Ted’s, but it had a modest snap and a mildly sweet, beefy flavor that, remarkably, didn’t came across as Bar-S like in processed taste. The mustard was mildly spicy, but kinda weak.  The mustard did have a whole grainy zing to it which worked well with the caramelized onions, which really added good flavor. The Kraut wasn’t overpowering or too watery, although the one-two combo of mustard and kraut won’t be pleasing to those who like sweet relish on their hot dogs. It definitely is a savory dog, but it doesn’t come across as overly salty or fake, and the chewy interior of the hot dog wasn’t bad at all.

I do wish it was a bit bigger though: I chomped through mine in only a few restrained bites. At $1.99 for just the hot dog it’s not a bad deal, but it falls more in the snack category if not paired with a side and drink. Health-wise you could do a lot worse for 350 calories, and even though it’s small, it has enough punch to tide you over for a few hours. I’d favor a more distinctive snap on the casing and smoke flavor, but hey, for a fast food item it comes across as pretty good. My really big complaint then is the bun. Eating a stale bun is never good eats, especially when you have a fairly messy and wet condiment package. Other minor complaints would be the lack of heat and relatively modest dog to bun ratio, but like I said, for $1.99, you could do worse. If you’re a savory hot dog fan I’d recommend giving this particular dog a try, and if not, you totally need to get your behind up to Buffalo and get to Ted’s. And yes, that means you too, Murray.

Pros: Innovative design for major fast food chain. All beef hot dog doesn't taste like Bar-S "product." Grilled onions have nice formalizations and sweetness. Dog itself is surprisingly beefy. Stormtrooper MRE, 'nuff said. Not having to hear Keith complain about skipping on the white sauce.

Cons: Total Bun failage. Sonic discriminating against car-less college students. Less than stellar snap in dog. Could use a little more heat. Good source of NaCl and a whole bunch of stuff people would probably tell me isn't great for my body.

Taste: 7.25/10
Value: 7.25/10
Grubbing on-the-go: 5.00/10
Price: $1.99

Overall GrubGrade: 7.00 (Decent)

More Info: SonicDriveIn.com
Nutrition Facts:
Sonic New York Dog
Calories: 350
Fat: 19 g
Saturated Fat: 7 g
Trans Fat: 0 g
Cholesterol: 40 mg
Sodium: 1290 mg
Total Carbs: 32 g
Fiber: 2 g
Sugar: 4 g
Protein: 14 g

27 comments on “Fast Food Review: The New York Dog from Sonic

  1. Greg B. says:

    Dirty Water Sabrett from a cart in mid town Manhattan with Mustard and Kraut, a pretzel and a grape soda.

  2. ChrisLad says:

    Honestly kind of what I’d expect. Sonic produces lots of ordinary tasting stuff. Not great, not gross, just alright. The bad bun is really unacceptable and is the services fault. They cost like 10 cents each. The employee should have noticed the staleness and used another bun.

  3. Graham says:

    A hot dog can either really hit the spot, or make me say “Never ever again.” I concur with this review, grilled dogs with a crunchy outer skin are the best. When Iron Gate Grill ran the concessions at Logan River Golf course, they sold a phenomenal dog: It was grilled, then placed on the bun, inserted in a foil-lined bag, and displayed in a heated glass case. I think the self-contained delivery system helped kind of steam the bun, at any rate I never got a bad one. Then they had a siiiiiick condiment bar, plenty of relish, red (!) onions, a selection of mustards, jalapenos if you were inclined, ketchup, and on and on. I liked to eat them two at once. With a chilled Michelob Ultra in a slimline can.

    • Adam says:

      I’ve only been to Iron Gate once – last year at the Statesman dinner. I thought it was pretty good. Do they serve dogs at the restaraunt?

      • graham says:

        Nope, the dogs went out when they quit contracting the food service at the golf course. If you go to Iron Gate I recommend two items above all others: the black and jack burger, and the Chicken Gryuere (Gyurere? Gruyere? Gruyere.) sandwich, which comes with carmelized onions and a delicious balsamic vinegar sauce. Iron Gate also does a phenomenal job with catered events like our Statesman dinner.

  4. I got a $1 off coupon to try a combo so I did…Chicago style. The condiments outpowered the not bad beef frank. Worth it with the $1 off coupon but not enough for me to want to go back. If they have a different special and I felt like a hot dog and needed one more item for satisfaction I’d probably also give it another go but here in Wisconsin we don’t have many hot dog choices in the non-winter.

    • Adam says:

      You know, I’m not huge on Sonic’s main offerings. I actually like their sides (tots), but when it comes to most things, I think they’re average. I’d take this to any of their other main menu items though.

  5. skippymom says:

    Awww I am so sorry about the bun. That would’ve done it for me – I would’ve had to ask for a new one – stale bread squees me out.

    My Mom was from Brooklyn and this was her favorite hot dog – she called it a Coney Island and would order it wherever they had dogs and kraut – but I don’t think she ever had one as good as the ones she got in NYC.

    Liked the review – now I am craving a dog. [My fav' is mustard and chopped onion. :)]

  6. James says:

    Ted’s sounds great, but I don’t see anything called a “red hot” on their menu.

  7. missouri says:

    I think the taste is acceptable bordering on good – not great – but the hot dog is too small. Three large bites and it’s all over.

  8. Kevin says:

    I, too, wish I had a car to go there. haha

    One of these opened kind of close to me, but not walking distance.

    How do I make an account to comment here? like, with a picture as Greg B has

  9. Chefprotoss or dan says:

    I’m not the biggest dog fan but when I have a craving I go to either bens chiley bowl in dc for a half smoke(speaking of which, ryan should give them a review since its a historical landmark where the presedent brings forign dignitaries and he lives not far away. 11th and U dude) or I hit up 7eleven for a spicy bite. Nothing from 7eleven should taste good but jesus the spicy bite hits the spot.

    • Ryan says:

      Yeah I definitely should… there are a lot of spots on my list that I haven’t featured yet. The closest I’ve come to Ben’s was at Nats Park for a half-smoke… (2nd pic, collage, top center) http://www.grubgrade.com/2010/04/05/grubbing-at-nationals-park-whats-your-favorite-ballpark-grub/

      • Chefprotoss or dan says:

        I think its great that nats park has bens and not some mediocre never heard of it stand(ahem! Yep, please fix the food at the mci center mr leonidus!), but you really should check out the real thing. When the rioters burned down and destroyed most of north west, no one dared to touch ben’s. For good reason. All the history plus the food is killer and one of a kind… I wish I could put a cot in the kitchen and live there. Its trully a special place.

        Oh and if you haven’t you should check out the food in adams morgan right down the street. Amsterdam falafel and fries, pizza mart etc… You would be in grub grade heaven broseph.

  10. rob says:

    Oscar Meyer cooked in the microwave with a supermarket bun … the only dog I will eat.

  11. Rachel says:

    Um, wow to the scenery! More pics of the mountains, please!!

  12. Mike N says:

    My favorite hot dog was from Howard Johnson’s! Best kids menu ever. :)

  13. Jamie says:

    Thanks for the review. I’ve been meaning to try one of these, but alas, Ted’s Hot Dogs is actually on the way to Sonics by my house (Tempe, AZ). I usually just go over to Ted’s. I just saw him there about a month ago (he’s a tiny old man, and nice) and his food is genius.

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  16. somesteve says:

    Let’s Go Yankees! this dog doesnt look like my type. I either like mustard or cheese on my dog, NY or otherwise.

  17. stale bun…. sigh. what a rip off.