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Jason Perlow

Battle of the Fort Lee Dogs

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BATTLE ROYALE

When I lived in the Fort Lee area, I used to go to Callahans on Palisade ave, as I was introduced to the place by Jhlurie and his family, who were avid fans of the joint. Callahans makes a serious hot dog as well as italian dogs, and is also known for its massive foot long super dogs "So Big! So Good!". They also make really good italian sausage and beef sandwiches.

For years, however, I was intrigued that no less than 200 feet away from Callahans, on the same side of the street, was Hirams, another hot dog joint. Hirams always seemed to attract a seedier crowd, and the act of going there represented a major transgression among my group of friends, so I never went there. Hirams has been in business a long time, although i suspect Callahans has been around longer, but both were around during the time of Palisade Park was in its heyday.

This evening, jhlurie and I decided to risk life and limb to try BOTH hirams and callahans within minutes of each other and to compare them to each other, strictly on the basis of who had better dogs. The results may surprise you.

We first went to Hirams, being that neither Jhlurie or I had been there before. Hirams is different than Callahans in that it is more of an actual "hangout" and it serves alcohol. Its a much smaller joint, with a much more limited menu. When we walked in a group of people were having beers and dogs and watching a football game, and from the feeling I got, I suspect that this same group did this every week.

In both restaurants, both of us ordered the simple dog, choosing not to go with more aggressive toppings in order not to marr the intrinsic qualities of the actual specimen. I had mustard on mine and jhlurie went with a mustard/ketchup combo.

The hirams dog appears to be grilled or quickly flash fried, and appears to be a pork/beef hybrid. Outside was a natural casing and had a nice crunch when you bit into it. Buns were also lightly toasted, and had no unusual qualities -- it was a hot dog bun.

The inside of the hirams dog had a pale pink color when compared with the grilled outer casing -- the actual flavor was neutral, not having the intrinsic garlicky/paprika taste of a kosher/jewish style frank.

The regular Callahans dog (as opposed to the super)was slightly larger than the Hirams dog, and exhibited very similar taste and texture characteristics in both the casing and the actual filling. In fact I was hard pressed to tell the differences between the two. Both are deep fried with natural casing and both appear to be pork/beef hybrids of the same proportion with a similar neutrality of seasoning. (According to http://www.foot-long.com, the Callahans dog is deep fried.)

My opinion of both of these dogs is perhaps a more aggressive topping such as chili/cheese or Italian style (not avalaible at Hirams) is probably necessary to have a more meaningful experience -- personally I prefer an all beef hot dog done in the kosher style with a more pronounced seasoning, so that the dog itself may be appreciated on its own, with simple, less obfuscating toppings such as mustard or kraut.  But this is probably just a display of my ignorance, so if Holly is watching, may I simply say that given my admitted bias, perhaps I am not worthy of judging such legendary dog establishments.


Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Jason,

          I'm the guy who loves to travel around to different hot dog places. I live in Union, N.J. which I would put up against Chicago as the hot dog capital of the world. I've been to Hiram's and Callahan's and can tell you that one reason these places taste similar is that they use the exact same brand of hot dog. That would be Thumann's Franks for deep frying. This is different than their regular frank for grilling. The difference is that the one for deep frying plumps more; and contains semolina and another ingredient that the one for grilling does not. Both types are made from pork and beef and do not have the spicy,garlicky taste of a Nathan's, Best's or other all beef hot dog. They are called bologna sticks and Greekers. This type of deep fried dog is popular in North Jersey. The same Thumann's frank for deep frying is served at the following places: Callahan's, Hiram's, Goffle Grill, Rutt's Hutt, Libby's, Red Chimney, Eagan's, and others. All almost exactly the same in taste due to using the same brand and being cooked the same way, although I prefer Rutt's Hutt because they have varying degrees of cooking. In and outers are just put in the oil a little while, rippers are cooked till the skin breaks; (see Holly's website for a picture of these) wellers are very well done, and cremators are black. This place has a great atmosphere, and a restaurant section with a bar. There is a place in Hackensack that I have yet to try called the Dog House Grille that serves both the Thumann deep fried and the griller as well as boiled Sabrett's. Personally, I find the two different types of hot dogs (all beef kosher, or kosher style, and beef/pork) like comparing apples and oranges. People who like all beef usually look at the beef/pork kind as bland, while the people who prefer the beef/pork say that the all beef are too spicy/garlicky. I like both types although most of the time I prefer an all beef kosher style dog. Holly's hot dog page is excellent. Syd's in Union makes a high quality, charbroiled all beef dog supplied by Best Provisions in Newark. Jerry's in Elizabeth uses the same brand dog, but boils, then grills it for extra crunchiness. Both make the best dogs in the state in my opinion. For beef/pork or rather pork/beef (I believe they are usually 60%pork 40% beef) Galloping Hill Inn in Union, Max's in Long Branch, and Martell's in Point Pleasant make excellent dogs. I've found that the best pork/beef hot dogs that you can buy to cook at home are sold at Union Pork Store in Union and Schmidt's Deli and Meat Market in Clark. These 2 are 50% pork and 50% beef and are superior to the ones sold at three places I listed above. For the best all beef dogs to cook at home, nothing beats Usinger's from Wisconsin. Forgive the long post; hot dogs are my passion. Or one of them.


John the hot dog guy

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There is a place in Hackensack that I have yet to try called the Dog House Grille that serves both the Thumann deep fried and the griller as well as boiled Sabrett's

Yes, I passed this by a few times but never been there. I also noticed from a bergen record article that was framed up on a wall at Hirams that apparently Cubby Q's italian dog (also in hackensack, right across from the bergen county jail) was in the top 3 rated dog places in NJ, right below Rutt's. I've had Cubby's ribs (which are ok) and their pulled pork sandwich (very good, BIG!) and chicken bbq sandwich (also very good and big portion) but never tried their dogs.


Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Every time I think I've eaten my last North Jersey dog people keep coming up with more and more places.

I'm really getting tired of the three hour drive for lunch.


Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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It's Hot Dog Johnny's.  Was there last week.  Good, but no Rutt's Hut or Syd's.  Beautiful setting though.  Very green, very shady.

I grew up further east on Route 46 and remember stopping at Hot Dog Johnny's en route to and from college.  The pre-Water Gap stretch of Rte 46 was always the favorite part of the drive.  

Interstate 80 was just happening then.  Because Rte 80 cuts straight across to the gap, rather than dipping down and following Rte 46, I think it has kept that portion of Rte 46 pretty much the same as how I remember it some 30 years ago.

We also stopped a bit further up at King Cole.  Another nice setting, but the dog was two hours stale.  It was about 4PM though.  Anyone else know the place and if it's worth a second visit at a busier time of day?

(Edited by Holly Moore at 10:07 am on Sep. 3, 2001)


Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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Quote: from Holly Moore on 11:30 pm on Sep. 2, 2001

Every time I think I've eaten my last North Jersey dog people keep coming up with more and more places.

Well "Dog House Grille" seems pretty new--months at the most.  Callahan's has been around since the 1950's at least, and Hiram's for quite a long time as well.  Cubby's is a few years old, I think, but might not always be on a hot-dog list because they are primarily a BBQ joint.

Callahan's is actually famous in a local historical sense because it became quite well known because it was a pit stop on the way from the GW Bridge to the Palisades Park Amusement Park.  

The way my Dad tells the story, Callahan's became popular enough that several branches opened, and as the franchise phenomenon began to show its ugly head in America,  the owner decided to allow franchises.  But after a few years the franchises did badly--and the quality varied so much--that the Callahan's name was damaged beyond repair.  The owner suppossedly bought back the franchise licenses, closed all but three of the restaurants (only two are open now), and ran the place the way he wanted to.

But I think he has since passed on, and the remaining two Callahan's are (I think) owned by someone else again.


Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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I went to the site for their distributor (mainly a distributor of "Jewish" movies, whatever the heck they mean by that) and don't see "Footlong".  Maybe we should contact the filmmakers and ask them where the heck it is and "where" 7thArt distributors distributes to.  The dates on the "whats going on with the film now" part of the website are all in "2000", although the main webpage was updated last month, so maybe the deal was just inked.

Overall I have to think that the amount of material for a hot dog documentary would be pretty slim, unless they either make it a convincing travelogue or a deeper historical view.  If its just a bunch of visits to hot dog stands and interviews with customers/owners it will... pardon the phrase... bite.


Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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I used to `love the ultimate in hot dogs, the best in the city and in the nation.  Only one answer: the original Katz's on Houston St.  From the time I was 13 until about 60, the pull of a hot dog at Katz's would take me from Brooklyn and later North Jersey to the lower Eastside.  Unfortunately, a garlic allergy came along and I am not able to eat that wonderful dog any more.  However, down here in cental Jersey, there is an Italian deli in Point Pleasant, Joe Leone's, that sells wonderful  non-garlic sausage which is plump, juicy and has a spicy kick to it.  Grilling it brings out all the mouth-filling satisfaction.  Its an ethnic switch and a great delight.

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A garlic allergy?  Oh man, I couldn't even imagine trying to eat sans garlic.  Not just hot dogs but almost ANYTHING.  Well, on second thought, in recent years I've grown to love Thai, Indian and Vietnamese--which don't really use it, but so much of the Spanish, Italian and Chinese food I love utilize Garlic like crazy.


Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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How about Johnny and Hanges in Paterson.  Or is it Hanges and Johnnies.

they been around for quite some time, although they are in their new "cleaner" digs only recently.

deep fried.  and pretty good.

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I tried the Cubby's "Special" hot dog today. Wow.

When I ordered it, I asked the owner what was on it and he looked at me with an evil smile and said "don't worry, you'll like it"

It was a foot long thumann's dog with HOT chili, melted cheese, and 3 huge strips of crispy premium bacon served on a toasted fresh Italian hero roll.

evil. Pure evil.


Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Quote: from jhlurie on 5:29 pm on Sep. 4, 2001

in other words, "the heart attack special"

shall we move this to the "Road Show" thread, whilst we mention a difibulator as a necessity?  this should be in *any* "foodies" bag-o-tricks on the road. ;)

on an almost unrelated note, has anyone noticed how much not fun it has been in the past year or so to email and participate in boards or forums, due to the fact that it takes, like, 5 minutes for dictionary.com to return the correct spelling of words like "difibulator," which, i've no doubt, spelled incorrectly, along with many others in this rant?  or is it just me... :(

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Jason has not yet revealed if upcoming eGullets will feature a spell checker!

On the other hand, I've never seen anyone here lectured for a misspelking.  Or even a typoo.


Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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I've found that editors, while often an impediment to the writing process, do serve one useful function - that of a reasonably intelligent spell checker where none other is available.  Perhaps there should be an eGullet editor, with no power to rewrite (devistate) opening paragraphs or anything else, and only able to correct spelling errors.

So much for my freelancing efforts.


Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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Kinda kidding about the editor thing, Jason.  

I know it is wrong.  I know it is unfair.  I know it is detrimental to my writing aspirations.  

But I am driven.  I can not help taking a poke at editors whenever inspiration and opportunity present themselves.


Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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So today I finally made it to Callahan's and Hiram's.  Also Mr. Dee's, the Goffle Grill and a hot dog trailer called Bear's.  And Anthony Wayne.  I'm not one to squander a trip to North Jersey with out some serious eating.

But to the point, of the two, I liked Callahan's dog a lot better.  John, as in the guy named John who knows everything about every hot dog ever consumed, says both dogs are Thurman's beef and pork blend.  I'm not going to question John.  But the Callahan's dog is long and narrow while Hiram's is short and plump.  Both are deep fat fried.  Callahan's, to my taste, cooks to a much better texture.  Hiram's, on the other hand, has it all over Callahan's in terms of seedy ambience.


Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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Thoughts on the Goffle Grill, and the Anthony Wayne?

The AW looks positively gothic at night, with dark rooms, flickering lights, and varies between a few people and totally empty. Hot dogs are good, worth a detour, but not worth a special trip.

The Falls View (late of Paterson) is almost directly across the US 46, adjacent to the eastbound lanes. Adequate dogs, but the chili leaves me flat. Interiors are late "McDonald's" and very bright.

Rail Paul


Apparently it's easier still to dictate the conversation and in effect, kill the conversation.

rancho gordo

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My father used to take me to Anthony Wayne back when Rte 46 was the major access to NYC.  I liked it then, like it now, though I didn't have a hot dog.  They cook over a real charcoal grill and I go for the burger, steak or mixed grill.  It's great in warm weather when the tables are set up outside the dininig rooms, but the inside dining rooms are early American not gothic.  Nowadays you really have to want to get to the Anthony Wayne, not the easiest access from Route 80.

As to the Goffle Grill, ok but nothing exceptional.  Liked Callahan's and Bear's trailer the best this trip to NNJ.


Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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Jason, what do you mean by URL tags linking properly? Is it significant that you brought it up in a hot dog thread?

Yours,

Robert

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