Restaurateur Stephen Bruce has already gotten folks to pony up $1,000 for an ice-cream sundae. So what’s a measly $69 for a hot dog?
Make that an “haute dog.” Bruce’s famous Serendipity 3 restaurant in New York City celebrated National Hot Dog Day June 23 by marrying a foot-long tube of meat with such decidedly nontraditional accoutrements as black truffles and foie gras, served on a pretzel roll grilled in white truffle butter.
The steep-priced sausage is rich food in more than one sense of the term: Serendipity 3 was seeking to set the Guinness world record for the world’s most expensive hot dog.
“It’s fun, I always want something bigger and better,” Bruce told the New York Daily News.
Since opening Serendipity 3 in 1954, Bruce has marched to a different drummer in the kitchen: For example, he’s the creator of now world-famous Frozen Hot Chocolate (Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was a huge fan).
And Bruce’s cunning culinary strategies for drawing attention to his restaurant have paid off: Lines at his Upper East Side location often snake all the way down the block.
The eatery had already entered Guinness World Records for making the world’s largest hot chocolate (four gallons) and, for its 50th anniversary, concocting the world’s most expensive sundae (complete with an edible 23-karat gold leaf). But to take one of the humblest of traditional American foods, which can be purchased for a single dollar at street carts throughout the Big Apple, and sell it for a sum that induces sticker shock took some doing — even for Bruce.
The meat itself wasn’t enough to do it: It’s pure beef, but it’s readily obtainable on Serendipity’s standard foot-long, which normally sells for $8.50. It required duck liver, truffle butter, truffle mustard and heirloom tomato ketchup to make a customer feel like they were getting their money’s worth for the exorbitant price.
Bruce himself personally sized up the perfect person to be the first to sample his extra-expensive entree: Trudy Tant, an unsuspecting tourist from South Carolina visiting New York with her mother and daughter, tried to enter Serendipity 3, only to find the restaurant was closed for a press conference about the new hot dog.
When she turned around and walked back out, “this man came running out after us and said he heard we were inside a minute ago, and would we try their special hot dog,” Tant told the Rock Hill (S.C.) Herald. The man in question, of course, was Bruce.
“We weren’t even hungry; we just went to Starbucks before that,” Tant said. But she was up for an adventure and tucked into Bruce’s creation. After two bites, she commented: “It was good; gourmet taste.”
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But then came the hard part: In order for Serendipity 3 to be entered into Guinness World Records, Tant actually had to pay for the mega-priced meal. As she swiped her credit card, her daughter Maia texted her dad about mom’s purchase.
Down in South Carolina, Leonard Tant got a little weak in the knees about the news. “I knew she was going to spend some money in New York — but $69 for a hot dog,” he told the Herald later. “I was thinking a purse, some shoes. A hot dog?”
Still, Tant’s purchase did the trick — the deluxe dog will now appear in the next edition of Guinness World Records, along with her name. And for being such a good sport, Bruce treated her and her family to a full meal on the house.
Afterward, Maia told the Herald that the restaurant certainly lived up to its name.
“It was serendipitous for us to go there at that time, that day,” she said.