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John

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  1. Another long rant on the trendy "haute dog." I've cut and pasted from previous posts. I don't really care for this current "haute dog" trend as well as chefs getting involved with hot dogs. I just posted about this on Roessler's facebook page in response to a link posted there on the same subject. A lot of what I posted is from some of my previous posts and comments. I'll cut and paste it below. One reason places do this is to drive up the price. Let me quote Holly Moore from the book Man Bites Dog. Holly, like myself prefers the minimal sausage because he doesn't think that "mixtures of flavors ought to be forced on a beautiful hot dog." The true hot dog is the product itself; the fancy ones are inauthentic. Hot dog establishments do this for several reasons. "One is that toppings can drive up the check so that you can sell a three dollar hot dog for five with junk on top of it. Second, the owner is not confident in just the hot dog and thinks that they have to do more to get any sales." What follows are my opinions on the haute dog trend. Warning: it's a pretty long rant you may want to skip. Not a fan of the trendy new "haute dogs". A hot dog is a simple unpretentious food. The focus should be on the meat and spices, not on esoteric junk that bored faux chefs use to amuse themselves and try to convince others how creative they are. These fancy pants ingredients detract from the frankfurter, which should be the focus of the experience. I can see them laughing at old school Jersey hot dog joints like Rutts Hut and Charlies Pool Room and questioning the manliness of these designer haute dogs. Or as a friend calls them, alternative lifestyle hot dogs. You don't buy a hot dog called a haute dog and you don't get it from a fancy chef. You get it from a guy in a tank top with hairy arms who is probably named Nick or Vinnie. Guys like this have sense enough not to use white truffle butter and duck foie gras. The hot dog is an icon and an important part of American culture. People don't want it messed with. Two unfortunate souls in New Jersey (the hot dog capital of the world) learned this lesson the hard way. They tried to bring the "haute dog" concept here with predictable results. After much hype and fanfare plus glorious reviews by the biased liberal media, the place was struck by lightning! A sure sign from above and a warning to cease their foolishness. They did not listen, and as a result their business died a slow miserable death. The guys were never heard from again. It was so bad that the rats and pigeons wouldn't even eat the left over scraps from the "haute dogs" that were in the dumpsters. Even rats and pigeons have standards! Contrast this to Rutt's Hut, an old school Jersey hot dog legend. You can't even get across the parking lot without encountering pigeons who are so bold that they try to take bites of hot dogs from people who are walking to their cars. These pigeons are so brazen that they routinely shake down rats for lunch money. Any faux "chef" would be appalled upon enetering this stronghold of American hot dogs. The decor hasn't changed since 1928. The only toppings you can get on your dogs would be mustard and Rutt's special relish. No kraut, no chili, no foie gras. If you ask, they not so politely tell you to go somewhere else. They stick to what made them a legend. Their loyal customers wouldn't stand for any frivolous changes. By the way, their relish is like no other and goes perfectly with their deep fried dogs. Created by an old German gentleman rather than some fancy pants "haute" chef. None other than the bambino himself, Babe Ruth, used to eat at Rutt's Hut . While todays "haute" ballplayers perform on steroids and amphetamines, the Babe, a true American hero, did it on hot dogs and beer from Rutt's Hut. I find articles like these amusing. And I realize there are people who like these things. I just enjoy poking fun at what I consider a pretentious trend. For me the frankfurter is what I'm looking to enjoy. When you have all these other things masking the flavor of the actual frank, you might as well use a cheap dog. I call these creations witness protection dogs because it's hard to determine their true identity. When I enjoyed a Roesller's dog at Rawley's some 11 years ago, I had it with mustard only. I focused on the taste, spicing, preparation, and how hot the dog was. Everything else is secondary. Today when you see a hot dog establishment reviewed, you rarely hear what brand is served, if it has a casing, if it's all beef or a beef/pork blend, how it's prepared, whether grilled, fried, heated in water, or some combination. Instead the focus is on the toppings and other secondary things such as cute nicknames for the different dogs. By and large, they have it backwards. If you don't start with a quality frank, it doesn't much matter what you do to it. If you do have a quality frank, it doesn't need more than a bare minimum of toppings that enhance rather than take away from the flavor of the hot dog. Not everything needs to be gussied up. I don't want a chef anywhere near my hot dog. With regards to hot dogs, less is definitely more.
  2. 1) "We get our dogs made specially for us" Easily the most common lie in the business. Owners say this so that you will think you can only get a particular dog from them. There are exceptions, such as the Galloping Hill Inn and Marci's, but more than 9 times out of 10 it's a lie. I was disappointed to hear this lie repeated twice recently at Rutt's Hut. Of course I didn't sit by quietly but called them on it. 2) "We make our dogs here" Not as common as lie #1, but I've heard it more than a few times. Galloping Hill Inn and Maui's were guilty of this. I ask to see the sausage making equipment. 3)"Our dogs are smaller so we can fit in more toppings" Bull$hit. Get a bigger roll. Many serve smaller dogs, charge the same as those who serve bigger ones and count on you not noticing. 4) "We use skinless dogs because the elderly have a hard time chewing the casing" No you don't. You do it because skinless dogs are cheaper. I've heard this one a lot. Once a guy who was located in an industrial area and served mainly factory workers gave this as a reason. I doubt he had very many elderly customers. 5) "You'll like OUR veggie dogs" Whoever invented this abomination should be shot. If you don't want to eat a real hot dog, get a salad. A real hot dog is made from real meat. Beef. Pork. Veal. Buffalo. Or any combination. Anything made from poultry, fish, or whatever the hell they put in veggie dogs is not a hot dog. I don't care what the label calls it. 6) Adding stupid ingredients like truffles, foie gras, raspberry wasabi sauce, cream cheese, and other assorted crap and calling it a "haute dog" enhances the hot dog. No, it masks the flavor of it. A true hot dog was meant to be enjoyed with mustard and/or a minimum of toppings that enhance, not mask the frankfurter. You wouldn't put this crap on a high quality pastrami sandwich. It's trendy, pretentious, and more often than not the invention of a bored chef. These people ought to be lined up next to the veggie, salmon, and poultry dog people. 7) "It's a hot dog; no one can tell the difference" I get this when I ask why someone is using a cheap, low quality dog. This one may not even belong on the list because in many parts of the country, particularly the south, hardly anyone cares about the actual frank; it's more about the toppings. Especially the slaw in places like Virginia and Carolina where they use a cheap, bland dog. 8) "Our special chili is from a family recipe dating all the way back to the Garden of Eden" Many, if not most hot dog purveyors make their own chili. But a lot use the canned kind (which is not a crime) but try to pass it off as homemade. 9) "You're a hot dog snob" No, I'm not. That term is an oxymoron, like jumbo shrimp. We are talking about a simple, unpretentious food. I look for a quality frankfurter, prepared well whether it's in water, deep fried, griddled, grilled, or some combination: at a decent size served hot on a fresh bun. There's no such thing as a hot dog snob, although the "haute dog" people who gussie up their dogs with all sorts of esoteric crap and have them with expensive wine come close. 10) "Hot dogs are good for you" I've uttered this one myself in an effort to get my wife off my back for complaining that I eat too many double Italian Hot Dogs. I tried to tell her they are a healthy, well balanced meal containing bread, meat, vegetables, and potatoes. She wasn't having it.
  3. John

    Marci's Dog House

    Marci's is a relatively new hot dog establishment serving primarily dirty water Sabretts. But they also serve sandwiches, subs, and grilled chicken breast with roasted peppers, fresh mozzarella and thin sliced garlic w/balsamic vinaigrette. As a hot dog fanatic who has reviewed hot dogs for the Star Ledger and runs the popular New Jersey Hot Dog Tour with my buddy Erwin Benz, I've been to literally hundreds of hot dog joints. Many of them specialize in "dirty water dogs" or hot dogs prepared in water. Let me say that Marci's is my favorite place that serves this type of dog. There are many factors that distinguish one place from another. Although the brand and method of preparation is the same and the dogs should taste similar from place to place, the serious hot dog lover considers whether the dogs have a casing, how big they are, if they are hot enough, how fresh they are, and if they have been left in the water a sufficient amount of time. Too long in the water and the dogs lose snap and flavor. The bun is also important. Many vendors use cheap supermarket buns that fall apart. Toppings/condiments are important to most people. Not so much for me as I enjoy mustard only most of the time. Rob Marciano is the owner of Marci's. What sets him apart as an owner is his generosity and willingness to please his customers. He cares about value, offering a bigger sized dog than most of his competitors. Rob serves a 10/1 Sabrett, which in hot dog speak means 10 to a lb. Competitors like Sal's in Clark and Steve's Hut in Linden serve tiny 12/1 franks and charge as much or more. Anything smaller than 10/1 is too small in my opinion. Most of those serving these tiny dogs don't think their customers will know the difference and are extremely thin skinned and defensive when criticized. Rob, although fairly new to the business, is related by marriage to Dee of Dees Hut in Roselle Park, who has been in the business for 50 years and also serves a great 10/1 natural casing dog. His dogs are the same high quality. But his chili is better. I don't usually have sauerkraut on a hot dog (I love it on bratwurst) but the kraut here is the best I've had. It came about because Rob listened to a customer who gave him suggestions about his sauerkraut. Unlike many of his competitors who think people like me should not dare to criticize them "because we don't know what the business involves." That's irrelevant. We are customers who are eating what they make so we have every right to voice our opinions, good or bad.. Sort of like complaining that we can't criticize a ballplayer who doesn't hustle because we never played pro ball. But I digress. Rob added his own touch to a recipe given to him by the above mentioned customer. The result is a sauerkraut that is by far my favorite. When this customer passed away, Rob donated a couple of hundred hot dogs to his son's school for a hot dog luncheon in his honor. I respect that people who make an excellent product have their recipes and secrets that they don't want to share because it's what makes their product special. I can tell you that the bun used here is better than any hot dog bun I've had. Sabrett stopped making them. Marci's gets theirs from a top notch bakery and they are better than what anyone else is using. His dogs are always fresh, hot, and more substantial than most of his competition. Great with just mustard, but his chili is excellent and the kraut is the best I've had. Marci's will be introducing an Italian Hot Dog soon. I was told it will be on excellent pizza bread and that the dogs will be Best's, which are better for an Italian Hot Dog than Sabrett. The ingredients will be fried as is proper for an authentic Newark style Italian Hot Dog. And the size of the dogs will be 6/1 which no one else is doing. Can't wait to sample this one. I don't usually give rave reviews since I've been to so many hot dog joints. But Marci's is exceptionally good. Marci's will be a welcome addition to this year's Annual New Jersey Hot Dog Tour. I had the Italian Hot Dog from Marci's Dog House yesterday. I was looking forward to it because I heard it would be special. Rare and unique bread, quality ingredients, especially 6/1 Best's dogs. And a few secrets in preparation that I could not persuade owner Rob Marciano to reveal. That's fine because it's what makes his sandwich what it is. I appreciate honesty, and as you know, too many people in this business are dishonest. And that's the good part. The bad part includes subpar ingredients, skimping on ingredients, and bad preparation. Not so here. I can't give an in depth description of exactly how this sandwich is prepared, except to say that everything is fried as it should be in an Italian Hot Dog. In oil. An exception may be frying the peppers on a griddle as some do. There are frying pans here, a skillet, a griddle, and a deep fryer. And of course a compartment for water to heat the dirty water Sabretts. No water is used in making the Italian Hot Dog. I asked. The pizza bread is from a bakery that Rob picked out after sampling the bread from numerous bakeries that make this unique product. The hot dogs are from Best Provisions in Newark and are 6/1 or 6 to a pound. No one I know of uses dogs this size. Mijo's Pizzeria did for a short time before they switched to a much smaller dog.I like that Marci's uses Best as it really is the best dog for an Italian Hot Dog. He serves Sabrett for the dirty water dog. The Best's are the standard recipe (Best has only one) and is not claimed by Marci's to be a "special recipe" or "made on the premises." That's good as I didn't have to search the truck for sausage making equipment. As you know the total sandwich is greater than the sum of it's parts. But I like to break down the parts. The bread is perfect. Most bakeries that sell a lot of pizza bread do a good job of making it. They sell to places that for the most part specialize in Italian Hot Dogs. Bakeries like America's Bakery and DiPaola's, which incidentally was just sold to Calandra's. Good solid pizza bread. But the bread at Marci's is a cut above. It's crusty on the outside; sturdy as well, but light and fluffy on the inside. Not doughy like many pizza breads. And fresh. It's the best pizza bread I've sampled. The hot dogs are Best skinless 6/1. Prepared well, they have that familiar taste I look for in an IHD. And in my opinion are the perfect size for this sandwich. I always liked the 8/1, but there is better balance and a better ratio of hot dog to the other ingredients with the 6/1. The dogs do not get lost in space. And even though this is a sandwich, no ingredient is more important than the actual frank. This is my favorite frank for an IHD. I had a double. The peppers are also fantastic. I knew the dogs would be what they were, and I heard the bread was going to be good. I didn't know what to expect from the peppers and potatoes. Marci's uses red and green peppers. I requested them soft and they were prepared as I requested. I liked the long cuts. I was surprised at how good they were. I didn't get how they were prepared, only that they were obtained from a very good source. Maybe a farm? Again I have to say that these are my favorite peppers on an Italian Hot Dog. Rob doesn't skimp. Many do and at least 2 places I know of use canned peppers instead of fresh. The potatoes were hard to characterize as far as shape. They aren't cut in silver dollar size slices, but they aren't exactly in chunks. More like slices and smaller than what you normally see. Golden brown, tasty, and with a nice little crunch. These are as good as any I've had. And that's saying a lot because several establishments making Italian Hot Dogs make excellent potatoes. Jimmy Buff's, Tommy's, Big Blues, Charlies Famous (on a good day), Uncle Petey's Weenies, and now Marci's Dog House. While Marci's other ingredients are better, in my opinion, than everyone else's their potatoes are as good as my 2 previous favorites, Uncle Petey's and Big Blues. All are different; all are great; and I can't pick one over the other 2. Put this all together and you have my favorite Italian Hot Dog. It's great to see that now trucks such as Marci's and Uncle Petey's have the capacity to put out authentic, and high quality Italian Hot Dogs since they are equipped with fryers. I strongly recommend Marci's for a great Italian Hot Dog. They are an exception that proves that you can be new to the business and make a high quality product. Rob put in a lot of time and effort researching not only Italian Hot Dogs, but the ingredients and suppliers as well. My only regret is that this sandwich is only available on Friday. And Saturdays this month. Marci's is a truck that specializes in dirty water Sabrett's, but wanted to make a top quality authentic Newark style Italian Hot Dog, Rob did a lot of research, searched for the finest ingredients, listened to people in the business and potential customers; and, with his cooking background combined all this to make one heck of an Italian Hot Dog. He is the only one at Marci's who prepares it, and everything is done by hand. It's time consuming and labor intensive which is why it will only be served one day per week. These will not be served on the New Jersey Hot Dog Tour for those of you planning to attend. So you have to stop by on a Friday. Or a remaining Saturday in May.
  4. John

    The Dog House

    Bob, I found out that there is a place near you that serves the Syd's dog. The Memphis Taproom on East Cumberland St. in Philly has a truck located in their beer garden that serves the Syd's dog. They have many topping combinations (most of which I can do without) and prepare the dogs on a griddle or deep fry them in peanut oil depending on the toppings and/or your preference. Many consider this the best dog in Philly. Unfortunately the beer garden (with the truck) is closed until next April.
  5. John

    The Dog House

    I went to the Dog House on Route 22 in North Plainfield yesterday to sample one of their dogs. I had called previously for information and had trouble understanding the person on the phone who didn't seem to know the brand of dog, only saying it was beef. The 2 guys working there who I presume were owners look like they are Middle Eastern or perhaps from Israel. I didn't ask. As mentioned they offer deli sandwiches such as corned beef and pastrami and also breakfast sandwiches. I was there for a hot dog, so I ordered one with mustard. The dog is a natural casing all beef Sabrett, either 5/1 or 4/1. My guess is 4/1. They also serve spicy Sabrett sausages and smaller hot dogs. Don't know the size as I saw the package from afar and the guys were hard to understand. You have a choice of boiled or grilled (griddled). They will deep fry if you request. If you don't specify, you will get a grilled dog. Basic toppings like chili, cheese, relish, etc. are offered. There is an Italian Hot Dog and Chicago dog on the menu. The IHD is the same dog on a regular roll topped with peppers, potatoes, and onions. The Chicago dog also uses the same big Sabrett, but tops it with mustard, relish, and peppers. No pickle, tomato, onions, or celery salt. And no Vienna frank. Not really authentic; but like most places that throw some stuff on a dog and call it a Chicago dog. Ditto for the Italian Hot Dog. Their Texas Weiner has mustard, onions, and chili. What they call a Coney has mustard and your choice of relish or sauerkraut. Never heard a Coney described this way before. As for my dog, it was prepared well. Definitely hot enough and fresh. Good sturdy Pechters/Rockland Bakery bun. The mustard was yellow but very spicy. Too spicy for my taste and too much was applied. The dog tasted good, but a little mild for a Sabrett. Probably because the mustard was so spicy. Very reasonaby priced at $2.75 for what is probably a quarter pound frank. Compare this to many places serving 12/1 dirty water Sabrett's for over $2.00. Tiny dogs and places that in my opinion overcharge for them are a pet peeve of mine. I'll always check out a place I haven't gone to, but only return to the places I feel give you value as well as quality. Jerry's in Elizabeth serves an 8/1 natural casing Best's (which I prefer to Sabrett) and charges $1.75. Also finished off on a grill. Not just the best dirty water dog, but one of the best in the entire state. Definitely in my top 5. Dees in Roselle Park and Marci's in Clark serve 10/1 natural casing Sabrett's for less than $2.00. I don't usually return to a place selling anything smaller than a 10/1; especially when they charge more than places serving a bigger dog. They think the customer won't know. A notable exception is Boulevard Drinks in Jersey City. Their dogs are tiny, but they are grilled and delicious. The last time I was there they cost $1.35. Sorry to get off track, but the Dog House serves a good if unremarkable dog at a great price. Although you can get it dirty water style, I prefer grilled most of the time. Not a destination spot that I would drive far for but a place I would return to, especially when I'm in the area. For less than a dollar more, it's like getting 3 dogs instead of one tiny 12/1 cocktail frank. I'm not unwilling to spend more money for a quality hot dog. I pay $6.99 a pound for top quality franks from European butcher shops and $8.99 a lb for Kocher's wonderful franks. But when you have many places serving the same dog, the ones that are more consumer friendly should be rewarded. Provided of course their product is good. Competition is a wonderful thing. For consumers at least. I'm looking for quality and value. I don't care that a place like the Garage in Millburn charges $6 for the same size dog I got yesterday because their rent is high or because you can see the ocean or the mountains from where they're located. Or that the owner of a hot dog cart dresses up as a chef to pretend he's serving gourmet food when what you just plunked down a couple of dollars for is a skinless 12/1 Sabrett served lukewarm that has been sitting in the water too long.
  6. John

    Rhode Island Hot Dogs

    I was in both Shaws and Stop & Shop. Saugy's were in both deli cases. A very good frank made from beef/pork/veal with a slight peppery taste similar to Sahlen's from Buffalo. While looking up Rhode Island hot dog joints before my trip, I came across at least one New York System type place that serves Saugy's. I forget where I found it; perhaps a review on Yelp or somewhere. If I come across it, I'll post it.
  7. I was to Rhode Island last weekend to visit my daughter who recently moved there. Although I wasn't there to sample hot dogs, I managed to get to 2 places. There were 2 more on my list that were close to one of the 2 that I visited, but unfortunately one was closed for the weekend for renovations (Moonlight House of Weiners), while the other one (Main Street 2000 Restaurant) is now an Indian restaurant. I went to New York Lunch first on Main Street in Woonsocket. They call hot dogs weiners or "gaggers", even "gaggahs". Most in this region consider a hot dog to be an all beef frank while a wiener is beef and pork. The product at New York Lunch is the same as what is served at New York System Restaurants. A tiny frank prepared on a griddle and topped with mustard, onions, meat sauce, celery salt and placed in a steamed bun. Coffee milk is unique to Rhode Island and is the preferred drink. I forgot to order one. New York Lunch is an old school diner that has been around for decades. The grill faces the window in this tiny storefront like many older places. The frank was the tiniest I ever saw. Maybe 2 inches. I can't even guess how many to the pound. It was $1.13 with tax. The frank was a skinless beef and pork dog from Grote & Weigel of Connecticut. I got mine with mustard, meat sauce and celery salt but left off the onions. The frank was warm, not hot, and somewhat mild but good. The bun was steamed nicely and slightly bigger than the dog. There was plenty of meat sauce. It, along with the celery salt provided a unique flavor; different than the Texas Weiners I'm used to in New Jersey. While I prefer a good Texas Weiner, I enjoyed the New York Lunch wiener and would return. I only had one because I wanted to make room for the 2 other places that I didn't get to (see above), another place that I did get to, and the family barbecue planned for later. The other place I went to was Spike's Junkyard Dogs in Providence. This would not be considered a New York System type restaurant. Spike's is a nice little place that loks like a typical fast food joint. I grabbed 2 dogs here; one with just mustard, the other with mustard and chili. The chili is a thin Mexican style chili with beans, not a hot dog chili. Unremarkable and not as good as the meat sauce at New York Lunch. The dog is all beef, skinless, and fairly thick about 5 to a lb. Although Spike's will not give out the brand, I found out that it is Mucke's all beef from Connecticut. A good quality beef dog that is well seasoned and is spiced more like a Chicago beef dog than a New York/New Jersey beef dog. Which means more paprika and less garlic. The dogs are prepared differently than anywhere else I've been to. They are put in a convection oven and finished off on a roller grill. While I'm not crazy about roller grills in general, my dogs were definitely hot enough and tasted very good. They are put on a thick bun similar to a sub or hoagie roll. Not usually crazy about that either, but the bread was the right size for the dogs and thicker and chewier than your usual hot dog bun. Overall a very good beef dog, but one I would get without chili. There are a good number of topping combinations here. The two places served different types of dogs, but I liked them both and would return. I enjoyed Spike's a little more than New York Lunch.
  8. John

    Connecticut Hot Dogs

    Connecticut is a great place to sample hot dogs. Although about 7 years old, below is a trip report I posted elsewhere. I hit numerous places in one day. Rosco's is no longer in business. Super Duper Weenie switched to Hummels but now uses a beef/pork frank from New Jersey. The DVD is excellent. I was sent one by the filmmaker. "A Connecticut Hot Dog Tour", will be having it's National TV Premiere during Fourth of July weekend on the Documentary Channel. http://ctoriginals.com/blog/world-television-premiere/ A special thanks to Long Dog for letting me ride with him on the Connecticut hot dog tour as well as doing an excellent job picking the places and organizing the tour. Directions were printed up for each stop. It was a damp, drizzly day, but we had a great time. Too bad more of you didn't join us. I was expecting a bigger turnout from the Jersey people who haven't tried Connecticut hot dogs. I had been looking forward to this day for a long time. Previously I've gone to Swanky Franks, Super Duper Weenie (Fairfield), Rawley's, and Capitol Lunch (Storrs). Everywhere on the tour was a new place for me. We did go to Capitol Lunch, but it was the original in New Britain. And we hit Super Duper Weenie, but it was the Stratford location. It was great to be able to visit the places that I had been hearing and reading about on these forums for so long. And finally getting to taste the Hummel's dog that is so popular in Conn. I have sampled a Hummel's at Swanky Franks, but I think it might be a different dog than what is used at the Glenwood, Blackies, Mac's, and Danny's. Or maybe not, but it's been a few years since I've been there. It was cool to be greeted by a big sign on the side of Danny's welcoming Roadfood.com's Hot Dog Tour. They hadn't been told by us that we were coming, so they must have read about it here. A nice little roadside restaurant that's much smaller than what I expected from seeing the pictures on this forum. In fact, all of the places look much bigger in the pictures. Nice staff, good service, pretty owner. The dogs are grilled, than deep fried. I had every dog half plain, and half with a topping. The Hummel's dog was a beef and pork blend (as were the Hummels served at Mac's, Glenwood, and Blackies). It is spicier than the typical beef and pork dog. It also has a certain tartness/tanginess that seems to be typical of many Conn. hot dog brands. A good tight casing with a nice snap. Unique and very good. If you like hot, spicy chili, this is the place for you. The spiciest chili that I've tasted up to this point. Next was Rosco's. I've had their dog (it is available in Jersey) but have never been there until today. They cook a regular sized dog and a quarter pounder on a griddle. This dog is mild tasting, but delicious and in no way bland like a lot of dogs in this style. In fact, it is the dog I buy most often to make at home. It's so good that I usually eat it plain. I had the smaller dog and sampled the homemade chili, coleslaw and relish on the side. All are top quality. The chili is thick, tasty and fairly spicy, but not overwhelmingly so. The coleslaw is one of the best that I've tasted anywhere, certainly better than at any hot dog joint. The relish is peppery and spicy. A little too spicy for my taste. Next time back I'll try the long dog with chili and coleslaw. I would strongly urge the Sterns or someone from Roadfood.com to visit and post a review as they have done with the other places that we visited. I have been to dozens of hot dog restaurants and none serves up a better dog than this place. Capitol Lunch was the third stop. They serve a small (10 or 11 to a lb) Rosol's dog that was grilled. It and the chili and relish are the same and tasted the same as they did at Storrs. The Storrs location also had a chili with peppers that the New Britain location didn't. The Cappy Sauce and relish were ok, as was the dog. Really rather average in my opinion. I've been told by a few people that those who are not from the area usually have the same opinion. Those that have grown up on the Capitol are usually the ones that give it the best reviews. Blackie's was next up. They are known for their relish and deep fried dogs. It was fairly dark inside, but the relish appeared to be very dark, almost brown in color. At first, I thought it was chili. Very peppery. I couldn't decide if I liked it or not. The dogs were Hummel's, but they were either cut along the side or ripped open from the oil. They lacked the tautness and snap of the dogs served at Danny's. Good flavor, but I liked the tautness and consistency of the Hummel dogs at Danny's better. Fifth stop was the Glenwood Drive Inn. A fairly big place with an ice cream shop attatched. They serve long Hummel dogs that have been charbroiled. A nice alternative to grilled or deep fried. These dogs were the same size (approx 5 to a lb) as the dogs served at Syd's in Union, N.J. Although the brands used are different (Syd's uses a spicier all beef dog) the dogs looked the same and had that charbroiled taste. I had mine with only mustard. Quality dog, one of the better ones that I've had. Our next destination was Mr. Mac's Canteen. They used the Hummel's dog that was similar in size to Blackies and Danny's, but smaller than the Glenwood. Wheras Danny's are grilled than deep fried, Mac's are deep fried then grilled. Very similar in taste. I had half of the dog with chili. This chili was overwhelmingly hot and spicy. There was even a sign warning of this. I know there are people who like their chili this way, but I don't. It overpowers the dog and becomes the whole focus of the taste experience. I thought that I turned into a dragon! This was even hotter than Danny's. But Danny's was a little thinner and better complemented the dog. At Mr. Mac's, I would get the dog with mustard. Or bacon bits. Lil' Dog had his this way, and it looked good. Our last stop was Super Duper Weenie in Stratford. This is a much smaller place than the original in Fairfield. They used a Miller's dog that was split and griddled. I had been to the Fairfield location twice and liked this dog. It's a little mild for my taste, but goes well with the homemade condiments. Even if you are using just mustard, it has enough flavor to stand on it's own. First time there, I got a plain dog w/mustard. It was my fourth or fifth dog of the day. Last time there, on my way home from UConn, it was my only stop. I had one plain w/mustard and a New Englander. The New Englander has mustard, sweet relish, sauerkraut, onions (which I left out) and a strip of bacon placed in the middle. Truly one of the better dressed dogs that I've had. This time, however, I had mine with just mustard, as it was my 7th of the day. We asked the manager about the dog used there, as we had heard that Miller's closed down and that the owner (Gary Zemola) had gotten the recipe and had the dogs made somewhere else. We were told that the dogs were similar, but not the exact same in recipe. Some or all of the sugar is left out in the new dog. My dog was smaller than the ones I had at Fairfield. Definitely not a quarter pounder. Cooked the same way, but a little drier and not as good as those I've had previously. It was a great day for sampling hot dogs. I left full and satisfied. Blackies and Capitol Lunch were good hot dogs, but not standouts. Super Duper Weenie was good, but not as good as I've had in Fairfield. Danny's, Mr. Mac's, The Glenwood, and Rosco's all served top notch hot dogs that are certainly representative of the finest in Connecticut or anywhere for that matter. Looking forward to returning again. Thanks again to Long Dog for a job well done. It was nice to see Lil' Dog again and to meet Lee (Mama Dog) Barbara Ct, Greasewheel, Andrea, and Andrea's mom. Also the friendly people who own and work at these fine hot doggeries.
  9. Jack's Frank & Fries is a new hot dog restaurant that's been open a little over a week. They haven't had a Grand Opening yet and are still in their "soft opening" stage. Located in a small strip mall on Rt. 22 West in Union behind the Sprint store, Jack's is a small clean restaurant with some stools and a counter for eating in. I stopped in yesterday and sampled their hot dogs, hot dog chili, regular chili (with beans) and two types of cole slaw; creamy and vinegary. The chili and coleslaw are homemade. For me the hot dogs are what I come for first and foremost. Everything else is secondary, but certainly adds to or detracts from the experience. The dogs are natural casing Sabrett all beef, 8/1. They are prepared 2 ways. Steamed or on a flat top griddle. The steamed dogs are actually steamed in a special compartment, not heated in hot water with the top covered which is what many consider steamed. I had my dogs grilled on the flat top. They were done just right and put on potato buns from Stroehmann's which made for a good frank to bun ratio. A Martin's roll would have been too big for this particular dog. I sampled 3 mustards which they are currently experimenting with. Admiration deli mustard, Gold's deli mustard, and Gold's dusseldorf. All 3 are great, but I prefer Admiration for a spicy beef dog. The natural casing Sabrett's here are on the same level as the best places in New Jersey and New York that serve them. Namely Papaya King, Gray's, Katz's, Dover Grill, and Boulevard Drinks. I prefer the dogs here to the Papaya places and Boulevard Drinks because the frank is a better size. BVoulevard Drinks uses a tiny 12/1 frank. Papaya King claims a 10/1, though to my eye it appears smaller. I've heard that they use franks that are anywhere from 12 to 10 to a lb. At 8/1, Jack's is a good size. Katz's deli in NYC uses a 7/1. But they charge close to $4.00 for it. Jack's is much closer to me and more affordable, charging more than a dollar less than Katz's, but using the same recipe natural casing frank and preparing them in smaller quantitites. Jack's is now my favorite place to get a grilled Sabrett natural casing dog. From talking with the owner I am confident that they will maintain consistency. It's always a good sign when the owner is there serving you your hot dog. I had one dog with mustard and one with mustard and chili. The chili here is very good. Thick as opposed to the thin Passaic/Clifton area Texas Weiner sauce, it had a hint of chocolate and is very similar to the chili served at Amazing Hot Dog. Highly recommended. The regular chili had beans and was much thicker. It too was good and had a good amount of heat. I preferred the hot dog chili. The homemade coleslaws were tasty and fresh. The vinegar coleslaw was very crunchy (maybe too much so) and the creamy coleslaw had a little bit of mustard and is patterned after Primanti's in Pittsburgh. Eric, who owns Jack's with his wife Linda, is from Pittsburgh. I would definitely order the creamy coleslaw when I return. Jack's offers traditional toppings along with a lot of untraditional ones such as sambal and cream cheese that I believe are a waste and do not belong on a quality frankfurter. To me they serve to mask rather than complement the actual frankfurter which should be what is focused on. Same criticism I had of Amazing Hot Dog except that Jack's dogs were served piping hot while Amazing often served theirs cool or even cold. But I do realize that many people like and seek out such toppings. I'll stick to mustard and maybe chili. Jack's serves a great hot dog. It is prepared well, which too many places today get wrong. I will definitely be back and am strongly considering adding them to the 8th Annual New Jersey Hot Dog Tour.
  10. http://www.nj.com/entertainment/dining/index.ssf/2011/05/windmill_mama_marcis_win_munch.html First off let me say that anyone could have entered this competition but few chose to. Some didn't want to pay the entry fee, some did not (or claimed to) not have employees to spare. Some wanted to enjoy the weekend and not work. And there were other reasons. Last year I actually contacted owners of hot dog restaurants to let them know about this event but no one I spoke with was interested. Out of the 5 places serving hot dogs only 2 are actually hot dog establishments. The Windmill and Jersey Johnny's. Two others are BBQ joints that overpowered their dogs with spicy sauces, brown sugar, and other ingredients that masked the flavor of the frank, and in my opinion do not belong. As far as the people's choice, the Windmill has won the last couple of years. But only in part because of the quality of their dog. Most people walking around are not aware that barbecue joints serve hot dogs. Or if they stop by the barbecue stands it is to sample barbecue. Six judges got to sample everything that was entered. The hamburgers were not really good. I liked the meatball hamburger with cheese and sauce, but that is not what I really consider a burger. More like a Meatball sandwich shaped like a burger on a burger bun. The Windmill was the only offering resembling a true burger. It was dried out and no better than the prepackaged burgers that people get from the supermarket, throw on the grill, and invariably overcook. It was fun, but there are much better burgers throughout New Jersey. The judges choice (and mine) for best dog was a standout and up there among the best that Jersey has in terms of a beef/pork frank. Precious few use the Thumann's griller and prepare it right. Mamma Marci's did and was the winner with the Windmill coming in 2nd among the judges. Jersey Johnny's made a mistake frying the griller and topping it with slaw, pickles, and pulled pork stuffed inside a monster sized roll. No one could find the dog much less taste it under everything. After the competition I had a classic Texas Weiner from Jersey Johnny's using the dog made for frying and topped with a good chili. Had they served this dog, it would have done well in the competition. The one Italian dog offered had good pizza bread, but steak fries instead of potatoes sliced thin or in chunks. The dog was grilled instead of fried. Not authentic and not good either. The place serving it usually uses the Thumann's beef/pork griller. An Italian Hot Dog should use a beef frank, preferably Best's. For this competition a spicy sausage was used instead of a hot dog. Totally overwhelming and much too spicy. Places that don't know how to make an Italian Hot Dog with the right ingredients shouldn't bother to make them at all. Below are my comments taken from my score sheet: Hot Dogs 1) Chop Shop BBQ. skinless Sabrett all beef approx 10/lb prepared in a smoker. My 3rd favorite although I really only liked 2 of the dogs. Decent tasting frank, good slaw and bacon, but too much going on. The dog was dr...y and obscured by the toppings. BBQ sauce shouldn't be on a dog. Neither should brown sugar. But the flavor of the dog was less masked than 2 of the others I rated below it. 2) Jersey Johnny's. Thumann's griller (4/lb beef/pork) prepared in a deep fryer. Johnny's actually has an 8/lb dog made for frying that they didn't serve. I had one later (after the showdown) and it would have been in my top 2. The dog we had was a 4/lb natural casing Thumann's griller deep fried. Again a decent dog, but this one should have been grilled. I didn't like the big roll. Was there a dog in there? Balance out of whack; too much bread, too much other things. Pulled pork should have been on the side with the pickles and slaw. Would have been better off serving the deep fryer with their chili sauce. 3) Southern Smoke. skinless Sabrett approx 10/lb prepared on a grill (not griddle). My least favorite of the day. The dog was bland and flavorless. And I took a bite where I got only meat. The creole BBQ sauce was overwhelming and totally masked the flavor of the dog which should get star billing while the toppings should complement rather than compete with the frank. 4) Windmill. Natural casing 4/1 Sabrett beef/pork prepared on a flat top griddle. Good solid German style dog. It took 2nd in my voting and is one of 2 that I would actually buy. Good snap and prepared well. 5) Mamma Marci's regular hot dog. 6/1 Thumann's griller (beef/pork) prepared on a flat top griddle. Excellent hot dog. Hands down the best in the competition and my favorite. Although I didn't like the sauerkraut, it did not overshadow the excellent quality of the frank. My favorite brand of German style beef/pork dog surpassing even most butcher shop/pork store franks. 6) Mamma Marci's Italian Hot Dog. approx 6/1 Sabrett spicy sausage. Although not an authentic Italian Hot Dog, I can overlook the fact that the dog is grilled rather than fried or sauteed if it tastes good. And the fact that fries instead of potato slices or chunks are used. They did use pizza bread. But there should be beef hot dogs in there; not a sausage which was much too spicy. This would be an average Italian Hot Dog that you would get in a place like a pizzeria that doesn't specialize in authentic Italian Hot Dogs if they had used a regular beef dog. Didn't like it. Hamburgers. 1) Southern Smoke. Just horrible. Flavorless burger that was gussied up with too much spice. Dry, and pineapple doesn't belong on my burger. I don't like avocado either. 2) Windmill. My favorite out of those sampled. A simple basic cheeseburger that tastes like your typical backyard burger. I can do better at home. Too well done, but passable and better than the others. 3) Mamma Marci's. I liked their meatball burger. Good bun, good meatball that was the only meat served that wasn't dried out. Good mozzarella and marinara sauce. Not what I expect or look for when I order a burger, but it was good for what it was. And prepared better than the rest. 4) Jersey Johnny's. Bland dry burger served with their Texas Weiner chili sauce. The sauce goes good with a hot dog, not a burger.
  11. Gilbert's Craft Sausages is a new company in Sheboygan County Wisconsin that opened late last year. You can check their site here for info about them: http://gilbertssausages.com/ Thanks to one of the co owners, Eric Romberg for posting about his company and specifically about their beef frank called the Froman. I've never heard about Gilbert's before but their hot dog sounded good. Described as a quality craft sausage with a unique collagen casing and made from whole cuts (not trimmings) of beef sirloin. Wisconsin may be the best state for sausages. It's up there with New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut when it comes to hot dogs alone. Usinger's is one of the finest hot dogs available. I had their beef dog (called the Froman) last night and again tonight. Last night my son and I compared the Froman with a Nathan's (natural casing), Vienna Beef (natural casing), and a skinless Hebrew National. All were heated (not boiled) in water. The Vienna frank was good, but not as good as the other 3 in both of our opinions. We both liked the Nathan's and Hebrew National a lot, but we preferred the Froman. It is just as it's described on the site. Individually wrapped and cooked in the wrapping so that it can stay in the fridge for a long time (6 months) without having to be frozen. The frank itself is between 7 and 8 to a lb; closer to 7. It has a nice soft collagen casing that differs from a regular collagen casing. It's called a collagen co-extrusion casing, which is basically a collagen casing that they are able to dial the thickness up and down in minute increments to get the snap they want. The result is a casing that has the snap of a natural casing dog, but doesn't leave the chewy, rubbery bits behind like a natural casing. The texture of the casing is excellent as is the texture of the meat. The meat is nice and firm and juicy. As for flavor, this dog has plenty of it. Very nicely balanced without being overpowering in the spice department. I would say that this dog has more in common with the Chicago style than the New York style of beef frank. But it's better than any Chicago brand I've had although Romanian Kosher franks are close. The spices are more paprika than garlic. Sometimes I might be in the mood for a very spicy Nathan's, Usinger's or Sabrett. Other times a less spicier beef dog like Best's or Gilbert's. And there are times that I prefer a milder German frank with no garlic and easy on the spices. That's why it's so hard to pick an absolute "best" hot dog. There are different dogs for different moods. But I will say that I haven't had a higher quality frank than the Gilbert's "Fromans" all beef dog. Made from whole cuts (not trimmings) of all beef sirloin, this dog is a winner. It's as good or better than any beef frank I've had. And that includes Best's and Usinger's I ran to Best's this morning to get some of their natural casing 8's to compare with the Froman's. I heated both in water and then put them in a hot skillet for a minute or 2. Both tasted great. Best's a little spicier, Gilbert's a little more tender and milder. Two of the best beef dogs I've had along with Usinger's, Sabrett, and Boars Head. Again it depends on the type and level of spicing you prefer and the mood you are in. No beef dog fries up better than Best. I have yet to grill the Froman. But Best's makes the Syd's dog which is excellent chargrilled. Heated in water and/or lightly grilled in a skillet, both are excellent. Gilbert's beef dog tastes exceptionally good prepared this way as the casing is nice and light and keeps the juices in. I will definitely be ordering this frank in the future. Franks this good remind me of the care and quality that goes in to hand crafted beer. I highly recommend Gilbert's Sausages beef (Froman) dog. It may just be the best hot dog you ever tasted.
  12. John

    Out of this World

    I called today to find out when they would be opening. Today is their first day, and I was told they would be open until 7, so I stopped in. Their hours will be 10:30 to 4 Mon. thru Thurs., 10:30 to 9 Fri. and Sat. Closed Sunday. I sampled 2 of their dogs. The Texas Weiner (minus onions) and their Vienna Beef dog. The place is tiny and there is no indoor seating. They will have outdoor seating when the weather gets warmer. I had my dogs there at the counter so that I could enjoy them fresh and while they were still hot. The Texas Weiner is a 6 to a lb Thumann's deep fryer. Same recipe dog as Rutt's and others, but substantially bigger. I like this size better than Rutt's 8/lb. If you just order a plain hot dog (Humanoid $2.00) you will get this dog. You can request the Vienna beef dog instead. In fact all dogs on the menu get the Thumann's except the Chicago dog unless you otherwise request the Vienna. The Thumann's dog was cooked long enough so that it resembled a ripper at Rutt's. It was nice and hot and the chili was in the same style as Libby's, The Hot Grill, and other Passaic County Texas Weiner joints. You can now get a top notch Passaic/Clifton style Texas Weiner in Union County. The dog plain is a good value at $2.00; a little expensive at $3.60 for a Texas Weiner. But an excellent example of the style. I was going to order a Chicago style dog until I found out that they fry not only the Thumann's frank, but the Vienna as well. Everything about their Chicago style dog is authentic except the way they prepare the frank. In Chicago it's either heated in water or steamed. A sizable minority of places (Gold Coast for one) offers char dogs. But not fried or griddled. This was a disappointment. I spoke with the owner who told me she is working on getting the dogs to the right temperature. She may offer the dogs boiled or simmered in water in the near future. I sure hope so. My fried Vienna frank (natural casing 8/1) was good, but not exceptional. If you want a deep fried beef dog, Best's is much better. So is Sabrett. Maybe Hebrew National and Nathan's too. The dog was hot and tasted fine, but it did not have the unique taste a Vienna Beef frank has that's been heated in water. The dogs at J's Beef were better. Even the Vienna dog I had at the Cheesesteak place in Matawan that was boiled too long in overly hot water tasted more like a Vienna. Hopefully the owner can be persuaded to prepare them the way they were meant to be. I'll be back again definitely for the Thumann's dog with mustard as well as the chili dog. I think I'll wait until they offer the Vienna beef dog in water or chargrilled. One other thing. They use a standard hot dog bun for regular dogs and the Rosen Poppy seed buns for the Chicago dogs. You can request the poppy seed buns for the regular dogs. I got one for the Vienna frank.
  13. John

    Five Guys 2011

    There are plenty of Five Guys restaurants in New Jersey. I have one in my hometown (Union) that I go to frequently. The burgers are well done, but juicy. Funny, but no one ever complains about the burgers at White Rose or White Diamond being well done. I love Five Guys and don't understand why so many people don't. The fries are the best I've had. Five Guys also makes a decent hot dog. A Hebrew National that is split and griddled. Have you ever tried Smashburger? They are expanding like Five Guys. Another excellent fast food burger.
  14. John

    Out of this World

    The opening will be delayed due to ongoing construction. The new date is March 1st.
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