Dog Day Afternoon
Photo by Anne Fishbein
When I moved to Los Angeles from Brooklyn, the man I’d moved here for affixed a button to his cap that read, “We don’t care how they do it in New York.” What I missed most about my hometown were the constant elbow-rubbing and small-talking one gets on the streets and subway, and food on the fly. Sure, I could find a slice of pizza here, but I had to drive to get it, which struck me as absurd and uncivilized.
Los Angeles is a destination town, and with the rare exception of, say, a pastrami sandwich at the venerable Langer’s, we don’t fight traffic for food we eat with our hands.
Luckily, the as-close-to-estimable-as-a-hot-dog-joint-gets Skooby’s is on an ideal walking street, Hollywood Boulevard, which means you can grab a doggie and get along — though if you do, you’ll be missing half the joy.
Situated directly across from Musso & Frank and beneath the marquee of the closed Ritz Theater, Skooby’s is small, sparkling clean, with a chipper red-and-yellow motif; its appearance since November at this tatty crossroads of tourists and locals and wig stores and belching buses is sort of like running into a friendly little elf.
Unlike Pink’s Hot Dog Stand, with its steeragelike crush of those waiting to order, the scene inside Skooby’s is cool and relaxed, the menu simple: snappy, all-beef Papa Cantella franks served five ways, French fries and cold drinks. You can watch the swell counter guys grill the dogs, toast the French rolls, push the Idaho potatoes through a press and pour the fresh lemonade from a pitcher so plump it looks as though it should be on the cover of Real Simple. Or you can wait outside; the guys will call your name when your food’s ready.
There are six stools fronting Skooby’s, and it’s here you’ll find sustenance of the sort that walks. On a recent visit, while waiting for my Skooby’s Original with “classic toppings” (mayo, spicy mustard, relish, ketchup, jalapeños and onions), I was flanked by a couple discussing the Tour de France in French, and a mysterious man in black reading a 1949 novel called Nevada Lawyer that had one of the coolest pulp covers I’d ever seen. I was about to say something about the book when the guy next to him, who was eating his dog topped with crisp crumbles of bacon and melted Cheddar, beat me to it, and then asked to taste one of the man’s fries; the man obliged.
And about those fries, I throw down the gauntlet: Skooby’s makes the best French fries in town — a mix of strips and chips, twice-fried in peanut oil until sienna-brown, crisp but still soft inside, and tossed with salt and special seasoning. The little serving of “gourmet dipping sauce” (garlic-and-roasted-red-pepper mayonnaise) pushes the good-grease level off the charts.
Another day, while I was working through the memorable quesadilla dog — the flour tortilla, given a quick singe on the grill, came oozing tongues of melted Cheddar and jack cheeses and a lick of basil mayo — the company included two teenage girls in peasant blouses who waited for their lunch while sitting on Errol Flynn’s sidewalk star (they’d gotten their dogs with chili, made smooth and mellow with Guinness; you can also get the chili on the fries, though to me this is gilding the lily); a demi-punk from the Musicians Institute a block away who stopped in for a bottle (yes, bottle) of Coke; a tall, blond Norwegian family who parked the baby stroller and pondered the menu; and a guy who said what sounded like “goola goola goola” into his headset. We sat, chewed, watched folks on the boulevard whiz and amble by. There was no sense we needed to hurry or clear a stool; there was time and room for us all.
As I was leaving, I noticed the “Fast, Free Delivery” sign. How far? “Within walking distance” said the counter guy, a policy so stunningly antithetical to Los Angeles I had to laugh. Then I took what was left of my Arnold Palmer (half iced tea, half lemonade) and walked to the newsstand on Cahuenga. This was civilization.
Skooby’s, 6654 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; (323) HOT-DOGS. Open Mon.–Fri. 10 a.m. –10 p.m., Sat. till 2 a.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Street parking. Dogs $2.50–$7.25. Cash only.
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