NEW YORK — Jose Gutierrez, age 56, has been selling hot dogs from his food cart on Central Park South for almost fifteen years. While business was always steady enough to cover expensive permits and supplies, this particular hot dog stand has never seen the kind of popularity it is enjoying this week. On Monday, Gutierrez referred to his cart, which sells Sabrett hot dogs and sausages, as a “gourmet food truck,” inadvertently launching one of the most successful marketing campaigns in New York hot dog history.
After hearing that the hot dog stand was actually a gourmet food truck, customers have been lining up in droves, often waiting as long as twenty minutes for a $2 hot dog. Gutierrez admitted that when he used the term he was totally unaware of the food truck phenomenon, which has seen craftily decorated mobile restaurants springing up throughout the city, selling everything from mac-n-cheese to milkshakes.
Renowned food critic Adam Richman visited the hot dog stand on Thursday to enormous applause and adoration from the foodies already in line. Richman ordered a hot dog with ketchup and mustard, and then gave his expert opinion of the product, telling everyone, “This is really, really good. Mmmmm.”
“It’s just this delightful bit of Americana,” said customer Leslie Marinas, a Brooklyn native who was taking pictures of the hot dogs. “I mean, I Instagram pictures of everything I eat, but the pics from this hot dog stand always come out the best.” She then took two bites, set the hot dog down and left.
“It’s so charming because the water is never totally clean, and hot dogs can be in there boiling for anywhere from four to eighteen minutes,” said Laura Edelman, an amateur clothing photographer from Williamsburg. “It’s authentic. Not like those…” she paused and looked side to side, then said in a low voice, “stationary restaurants.”
When asked if he planned to expand, Gutierrez responded with a resounding yes. On Wednesday he decided to incorporate a bottle of Sriracha hot sauce with his ketchup and mustard. He placed the new bottle on the shelf to wild, thunderous applause from his crowd of epicurean admirers.
Gutierrez, since becoming an overnight sensation, has learned more about what food trucks actually are and how the business works. “Basically, a gourmet food truck is any one who sells food on the street and tweets about where they are,” he said. Gutierrez is planning to tackle the social media aspect of hot dog preparation over the course of the week.