I found out from a friendly Katz's employee and later from the person in charge of private label at Marathon Enterprises (Sabrett) that the dogs used at Katz's are Sabretts with natural casing that come 8 to a lb. They are slow cooked on a griddle. Here in Jersey, I can get 3/4 of a lb (6 dogs) for a little over $3.00. At Katz's they go for around $7.99 per pound. I buy these dogs, as well as Best's from Newark, and other brands from around the country (via mail order) and grill them. If you want more info on this, see the thread on the Definitive New York Hot Dog. Papaya King and Gray's use the same dog (Sabrett's natural casing) but these are smaller, coming 10 to a lb. My contact at Marathon says that these places; Papaya King in particular, like to hype their dog as being made especially for them with special imported spices and casings. This is an exaggeration. The spices and casings may be imported, but the dogs are the standard Sabretts and not made special.
It was fun to be able to tell people that. It was fun for about three years, until Ed Levine wrote a piece for the New York Times in May of 2005 and brought the same information to a larger audience:
YOU know those hot dogs that you know and love, and can't wait to eat this time of year? The ones served at Katz's Delicatessen, Gray's Papaya, Papaya King, the legendary Dominick's truck in Queens and the best "dirty water dog" carts?
They're all the same dog, manufactured by Marathon Enterprises, of East Rutherford, N.J., the parent company of Sabrett.
Now, the hot dog identity thing is relatively common knowledge (among those who care about such things).
This past weekend in the Times Magazine, the Lee Brothers punctured another New York City myth of differentiation when they pointed out that pretty much all the top places are getting their smoked salmon from the same supplier:
If you've ever taken sides in a debate over which New York purveyor has the best smoked salmon, you might be surprised to learn that Zabar's, Citarella, Balducci's, Costco and Wegmans — in fact most grocers on the East and West Coasts, in the Midwest and even a few in Puerto Rico — buy their fish in large part from the same smokehouse: Acme Smoked Fish.
So . . . what else can we debunk? I'll start by resurrecting a point that has been made in eG Forums discussions a few times in the past:
It's commonly believed that many of the gourmet markets in New York make their own mozzarella. Well, in a way they do. But as far as I know nobody is taking milk and turning it into cheese. Rather, they're buying manufactured cheese curds, heating the product and molding it into balls of mozzarella. It's the equivalent, conceptually, of buying pre-made dough and baking it into loaves of bread (or pizza). Not exactly "make their own." And, to top it all off, in every instance where I've been able to observe the raw product (not many, but I expect a little investigation could reveal a widespread practice), the curds come from . . . Polly-O. That's right, Polly-O Gold Curd. Google it and weep.