Is there anything about Pink’s that hasn’t been said? Hard to imagine. After all, there’s a perpetual line, the walls are covered with autographed photos of celebrities, and it has been serving customers since Paul Pink started his pushcart in 1939. It has been lauded by no less than R.W. Apple Jr. and Ruth Reichl. Describing Pink’s is like explaining a bagel to a New Yorker— you don’t do it. But Pink’s is a pilgrimage, so this is more celebration than revelation.
Clockwise from top: a dog with relish, and a Chili Cheese Dog, a dog with cheese and a dog with a Mushroom Swiss Dog, and a dog with mustard and a Chicago Polish Dog.
A few quick facts. Pink's sells up to 2,000 dogs a day. They’re all-beef, and they’ve been sourced from Hoffy since Pink’s very beginnings, when according to the Times, Betty and Paul Pink, bought a portable hot dog cart “with $50 in borrowed money, running it on an extension cord to a hardware store one block away.” Pink’s moved into the small building it occupies now in 1946. It’s the same spot where the cart was, in what was then "the country." There are now other locations in San Diego, Las Vegas, and at LAX, the only location that serves the LAX International Dog (a nine-inch dog with three slices of bacon, sauerkraut, shredded cheese, and chopped tomatoes).
The hot dogs “have a natural casing that makes them snap when you bite into them,” declares Pink’s website. True, and there are a lot to choose from. For the tentative, the most famous dog, the dog to start with, is the chili dog (mustard, chili and onions), whose chili recipe Betty Pink devised. It’s a very finely ground meat, more sauce than chunk, and they know how to pour it generously. From there, it just gets better. It’s difficult to choose just one from a menu that includes at least 35 different combinations.
America the Beautiful: 12” Jalapeno Dog, Pastrami, Bacon, Lettuce, and Chopped Tomatoes.
The coleslaw, guacamole, and Polish dogs round out a cast of basic players. More interesting are the specials: the bacon burrito, the giant 12” jalapeño, the pastrami burrito, and the "America the Beautiful" dogs. But, the most expensive, and perhaps the most epic, is the "Three Dog Night" ($7.15): three hot dogs wrapped in a giant tortilla, with three slices of cheese, three slices of bacon, chili, and onions. To paraphrase, ‘Well I never been to heaven, but I been to Pink’s Hot Dogs stand.’
The top five sellers: the "Stretch Chili Cheese" (10”), bacon chili cheese, mild Polish, spicy Polish, and the Martha Stewart (“It’s a good thing,” the menu insists). The bacon chili cheese dog is topped with three strips of bacon, tomatoes, and cheese. The bun is warm and soft, the dog cracks as you bite, it’s wet with salty, spicy chili, and sliced cheese, and hey, those tomatoes practically make it a salad.
“Pink’s!” said a pretentious diner at Umami Burger, who was far too cool for his pink tie and jeans. “That’s where the douchebags go to pretend they know about hot dogs.”
Yes, even the haters define themselves by Pink’s.