Rockaway Dirty Water Dog

On any beach day here in Rockaway we can enjoy Peruvian specialties at La Ceviche, exotic Hawaiian poke bowls from Edible Island. Also at Lowtide (Beach 97th) we can indulge in the deliciously rich pulled pork sandwiches from Breezy’s BBQ. If you want something lighter, have a fresh fruit smoothie from La Fruteria, among other tasty beach delights. They have the best burgers at Rippers (Beach 87th) and what about the decadent arepas at Caracas (Beach 106th)! In Far Rock on Beach 17th there’s Dreadsurfer. Oh that spicy Jerk Chicken!  We can enjoy our local favorite, Cuisine By Claudette and other beach grub uptown at Riis Park too. It feels like overnight we were afforded gourmet beach eats steps away from our beautiful sandy shore.

But what did people eat at the beach before Rockaway got “cool”? It’s well known that the locals ordered (and still do)  pizzas, delivered straight to the sand. The concessions were around in the 80’s and 90s but they served basic burgers and no frills fries.

The conversation came up and I asked my extended Rockaway family what they ate on those long summer days on the beach, as kids. “Mostly families packed coolers.” Cousin John said. “Sandwiches were made but they would always get smooshed up and the bread would get soggy” my brother-in-law Chris added. My mother-in-law Maureen and her sisters knew that dragging all the kids down to 116th for lunch was more effort than it was worth and eating out was expensive for their large families.

A cooler with ice was heavy to tow with 4 kids, the cousins, chairs, towels and toys. As a resourceful young mother, Maureen tried to consolidate and make her daily beach excursions as simple as possible. She didn’t remember exactly when, but one day she saw the extra thermos lying on the kitchen counter and thought… hot dogs. She filled the thermos with the dogs, added a package of sauerkraut and  poured in boiling water. BOOM.. in the late 80’s, the Rockaway Dirty Water Dog was born.

The trend took off and numerous families in Rockaway Park started making and bringing the hotdog filled thermoses to the beach.  Mothers were thrilled for sheer convenience, this meal feed many people and prep took all of 10 minutes. The hot dogs were easier to eat on the beach, you didn’t even need plates. And no more soggie sandy-sandwiches.

Want to eat like the locals, old school style? Here’s the recipe for the Rockaway Dirty Water Dog

6-12 hot dogs, depending on the size of your thermos.
1 package of sauerkraut
Boiling water
A fork

1. Fill a thermos with as many hot dogs as you can fit.
2. Open and add in a large package of sauerkraut. Pour in the boiling water.
3. Tightly screw the top back on the thermos
5. Pack up your condiments, buns and fork (the fork is essential) and your ready for the beach!

By the time you get hungry after swimming,  the hotdogs are hot and ready to eat. Bring an additional thermos for water or iced tea – still so much less to lug than bringing a big cooler weighted with ice.


I spotted this vintage thermos at Zingara (202 Beach 91st St, Rockaway Beach, ). It would be perfect for Rockaway Dirty Water Dogs!

tagged in community, hot dogs, summer