David Bowie and Mick Jagger’s 1985 cover of Martha and the Vandella’s “Dancing in the Street” is a perfectly serviceable collaboration. But the video. Oh, the video. It’s an absolute train wreck. The clothes (really guys?), the “dancing,” the ridiculous emoting. For two great artists and performers, the video is the veritable opposite of a Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup’s two great tastes that go great together.
This is what popped in my head when I first saw that Crust Bakeshop was mashing up the legendary Coney Island “up” hot dog (homemade chili sauce, raw onion, and mustard) with the excellent pizza Crust Bakeshop just started making on Thursday nights (from 4-8pm only). And I had to have it. Just to know. An idea like this can only break one of two ways: deliciously defying logic so that you’re happily willing to sacrifice an artery or two or you smile politely when asked what you thought and say, “Thank you for trying.”
In this case, I am delighted to report that more is more. The Coney Island Hot Dog Pizza just works. Pizza is among the perfect foods – and if I am going to have something besides my hand convey the inappropriate number of “Up” dogs I already consume, might as well be some damn fine pizza done right by Crust. Plus it’s a family affair: Crust owner Alexis Kelleher is the daughter of the owners of George’s Coney Island. The pizza is a tribute to the beloved Worcester institution’s 100th anniversary.
The Coney Island pizza ($17) fits snugly in a 17” box and easily feeds 2-4 depending on your willpower or willingness to fight your friends and children for the last slices. A layer of Coney’s famous chili sauce goes down in place of red sauce, then mozzarella cheese shredded and sliced, followed by chopped Coney Island dogs. After cooking it is finished with minced onion and yellow mustard. (And relish and/or ketchup if that is what you’re into – I won’t judge. Okay, maybe about the ketchup.)
So how did this love child of old and new Worcester faves, come about? “We started pizza night with one regular and one special pizza and it caught on. We’d been talking about doing some kind of collaboration for the 100-year anniversary, and my mom said, ‘Well why don’t we try it with the pizza?’” The head-slapping moment was a hit and turned into a plan to offer the pizza as a special the second Thursday of every month in conjunction with Coney Island’s comedy night. (On that night only you’re allowed to bring it in to Coney.)
For Kelleher, the effect of the pizza cooking in her store is a Proustian moment: the hot dog as madeleine. “The smells are so familiar to me,” she says. “They trigger something. My mom asks me, ‘Why do you think people like it? Why don’t they just come get a hot dog?’ I think taking something that you love and making it a little different is fun.” Maybe the only downside is it’s available only once a month. Or maybe that’s an upside – an incentive to start running so I can blow the benefits all to hell once a month!
Crust’s pizza is a wonderful addition to Worcester’s surprisingly strong pizza scene (Dacosta’s, Pepe’s, Volturno, Wonder Bar, Nonna’s, and BirchTree twice a week) and a great way to grab extra stuff from the bakery after 3pm one night a week.
But the Coney Island pizza? Go ahead dance in the streets for that one.
Editor’s Note: Earlier in 2018, we broke that Crust Bakeshop will be expanding as North Main Provisions!