Do You Know the Hot Dog Man?
Don't you hate that awkward 20-minute layover in between classes? There’s no point in heading back to your apartment. It’s a waste to even attempt to try to knock out some homework in Bird. And Starbucks? The line’s unbearable as always. So what’s the best way to kill time? Eating a hot dog, obviously.
Alex Hodgkinson has rolled Pinocchio’s Push Cart onto campus right across the street from Bird Library. When Hodgkinson’s not on the field as the Syracuse Football kicker, he’s whipping up gourmet hot dogs and sausages. Yes you read that right, gourmet hot dogs.
Don’t worry, he’s not exactly belting on the corner of Walnut, “Ask me about my Wiener?” But he’s sure hoping you will. And why wouldn’t you? Despite how Alex’s received more than enough inappropriate commentary about his hot dog operation — “Can I taste your meat?” — Pinocchio’s Push Cart is off to a solid start.
Although Alex is basically a superhero, cooking up some mean dogs by day, and starring on the Football team by night, he took the time to fill us in on what it's like to be the “hot dog man.”
Cori Rosen: Why hot dogs and sausages?
Alex Hodgkinson: Well, hot dogs and sausages because I’m half American and I’m half English, so it’s kind of a reflection of myself. It was one thing I missed from home, sausages. Here they watch NFL or whatever, but I would watch my sports and eat my sausage sandwich. It was something that I missed, and I was like fuck it, I’m going to bring it here and see if it hits. People have enjoyed it, so I think people like British things here in America.
CR: Like One Direction.
AH: One Direction, there you go! If One Direction can do it, why can’t I do it?
CR: So do you do mustard or ketchup?
AH: I personally do ketchup, but the thing that makes a sausage sandwich is red onion caramelized chutney. So it’s not a liquid form, but more of a sweet, almost like a jam texture. It’s delicious! I drizzle it with some olive oil and it just sets the bread off in the right direction as soon as you put it on.
CR: I need to come try that. Do you sell that one?
AH: Yeah we do! And maybe you could drizzle on a bit of ketchup, but you don’t need a lot, just to give it a bit of tomato.
CR: It’s funny you say that, because my parents raised me by telling me you should never put ketchup on a hot dog, you should have mustard. Yet, I never like mustard on a hot dog, I always like ketchup.
AH: To be honest, on a hot dog, if it’s a straight American dog, I’ll do a bit of both.
CR: Is the caramelized red onion dog your favorite hot dog you sell?
AH: Yes, it’s got to be. I’ve been calling it the British Banger, just for now, because you know people often have heard of bangers and mash, which is the bangers and the mash potatoes. I like that, but I think this has got more to it. And you top it off with a bit of arugula, grill the bread slightly, and then it’s really good.
CR: So these aren’t just your average hot dogs?
AH: I’m basically doing what I like and then just whacking in there and just seeing if it hits or sticks. When you’re early or around campus, you’re very limited. I’m not denying there’s not an okay variety, but I just wanted to be able to make what I like and give it to the people.
CR: How did you get this whole thing started anyways?
AH: I met a guy with a truck, basically, and asked him if I could bring it on campus and help out with the marketing and stuff like that – change the menu up, cater it more to the students and get the publicity out there... There’s carts all around London and I’m sure there is in New York. I was always like, “Fuck, I really need to get something started. I think I’ll really like this.” I always had a lot of ideas when I grew up and a lot of people were like, “Oh Alex, calm down.” But when I have it in my head, why not? What’s stopping me? I was lucky enough to grow up in the middle of London, expose myself to all different concoctions and stuff like that. So when I came over here, I was like why not try and start it?
CR: So if you could put anything on top of a hot dog, what would you do?
AH: One you may have heard is the Chilean dog. You either wrap the dog in bacon or you sprinkle bacon on top.
CR: Oh my God.
AH: But then, you put a chunky salsa and some guac on there. And then on top you actually sprinkle some crinkled up chips like really fine to give it that texture. Even when I make sandwiches or anything, I like that different texture to it. I like that crunch.
Since your mouth is now watering, make sure to hit up Pinocchio’s Push Cart at the top of Walnut Park across from Bird Library, which Alex shoots to have open daily from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. And if your mouth isn’t watering for some reason, please seek medical attention immediately.
Photos by Dana Salzman