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Jason Perlow

Battle of the Fort Lee Dogs

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Holly,

         As always, I enjoyed your post and reviews on your web page. I went to Callahan's, Hirams, and the Goffle Grill last summer. I liked them about the same;as they all use Thumann's franks for deep frying, but as you stated, the Hirams dog was a little plumper.  Great chili at the Goffle Grill. I usually just put mustard on my dog, but I like to sample the chili from these places, so I get one with chili, or put chili on half the dog.

            After e-mailing Thumann's, I was invited by the plant manager Bill Merkent to Thumann's for a tour. A very impressive place; big but also very clean. They have machines and technology like you wouldn't believe. They can measure and adjust the amount of fat in their products while small butcher shops can't afford this type of quality control. Mr. Merkent told me that all the places that use their deep fried hot dogs are using the same product (ingredient wise) but in the case of Callahan's and Hirams come in different shapes and sizes. Their hot dogs for grilling are even better in my opinion. These can be purchased in almost any supermarket. The only places I know of that grill these particular dogs are the Dog House Grille in Hackensack and the Snack Bar at Hall Stadium (Little League) in Union.

           Each place that serves the deep fried Thumann's has their own way of making them (sizewise and length of time they cook them, blanching or not, etc) But the differences, as far as I'm concerned, are minor. My favorite place to get this particular type of dog is Rutt's Hut, because they are already in the oil when you order them, and there are different degrees of cooking. I like them well done.

              A very popular place in Paterson is Libby's Lunch. They are one of the oldest Texas Weiner places in N.J. Similar dog, with excellent chili. They add cummin to it, which gives it sort of a unique taste.

               Holly, you're gonna kill me, but one place I forgot to mention that you must try is Frank & Fries in Rahway. This is a small place with a monster motif. Their motto is "Food so good, it's Scary!" Their hot dogs taste like no other. A pork and beef blend that is griddled and then finished off on a charcoal grill. They are made by Kohler Provisions specially for Frank & FRies. They have a unique tangy taste that are like no other dogs. People either love them or hate them. I love them, my family hates them. But they do a great business, so more people love them. They also have the best fries and chili I ever had, so that is reason enough to visit.

           Father & Son is also a great place for all beef dogs. I would rate theirs along with Syd's as the best all beef dogs I've had with the exception of Usinger's. I'm off tomorrow with nothing to do, so I will conduct my own taste test and decide for myself which is better. I'd love to see a review of this place (Father & Son) on Holly Eats.


John the hot dog guy

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I stand corrected. I called the plant manager at Thumann's and he said they supply Hiram's only. They used to supply Callahans until 35 years ago but had problems with them for some reason. Callahan's now uses a beef/pork frank from Marathon (Sabrett) and has been using this for at least 35 years. I spoke with someone at Marathon and learned a few interesting things. This company makes 2 basic hot dogs; an all beef, and a beef/pork dog. They come skinless or natural casing and in different sizes. But there are only 2 recipes used. The beef/pork dog is served at the Windmill, Callahan's and the Hot Grill. It is grilled at the Windmill and deep fried at the other 2 places. It does not contain semolina or soy like the Thumann's frank made especially for deep frying.

This explains why the dogs from Callahan's and Hiram's look so different on Holly's web page. I went and compared them, and while similar, I preferred the dog at Hiram's. A little more flavor. This is the same dog that is used at Rutt's Hut.

Another interesting thing I learned is that the all beef basic Sabrett dog is the EXACT same dog served at Papaya King, Gray's Papaya, and Katz's in New York. The first 2 use 10/lb while Katz's uses 8 per lb. All the hype about proprietary recipes and special spices are just marketing gimmicks used by these companies to provide a mystique surrounding their product. I got this info from a big shot at Marathon. For those of you from N.J. Boulevard Drinks in Jersey City (Journal Square) serves the same dog cooked the same way as both Papaya places. I've paid $37.50 for a 5lb bag of dogs at Papaya King when I could've got them at a Sabrett distributor here in Jersey for $17.50. See my post on the N.Y. forum discussing this in detail.


John the hot dog guy

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When I went to high school, we all went to Hiram's. Callahan's didn't exist. I graduated from Weehawken H.S. in 1945. I recently returned with my wife and we tried both places. Hiram's gets our vote.

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This could be a topic for an eGullet summer field trip.

Team A visits Hiram's, tastes and records its findings, and goes on to Callahan's. Team B does the reverse.  Teams gather and compare notes.

Or, tasters gather in the park overlooking the GWB, as runners fetch the samples and return them to the  waiting crew.


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

rancho gordo

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I was riding east on Route 46 and stopped at Callahan's last weekend.

I had two regular hot dogs and some french fries. I had never been there before but just kind of followed what other people ordered. Nobody said "all the way" so I didn't want to look like a fool and order that. The hot dogs were pretty good but I wouldn't rush back there. I'd still rather go to the hot grill or Rutt's. I did like that fact that they had the hot onion topping - maybe the Sabrett brand? John?

I also thought it was a bit pricey. Two dogs and a small french fry and a cup of water to drink was $7.90

If I was in the area and hungry again I would stop but not make an intentional trip.

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I've never been to the Callahan's on rt 46. I think this is the only location (other than the original in Fort Lee) that is left. They had a few others that are now closed.

I, too prefer Rutt's Hut and the Hot Grill. In fact, I just ate at the Hot Grill a few hours ago. My guess is that the onion mix is supplied by Sabrett since they supply the hot dogs. I spoke with someone from Marathon (Sabrett) who told me that Callahan's, The Hot Grill, and the Windmill all use their beef/pork frank. The Windmill grills theirs; the other 2 are deep fried. And they are different sizes. But The Hot Grill's dog tastes exactly like Callahan's since they are the same dog cooked the same way. I prefer this dog with the chili sauce. I think the Hot Grill uses this particular dog because it is fairly neutral tasting, and lacking the spicing of a kosher style all beef dog. It doesn't overpower the chili sacue. Actually, it is more like a holder for the chili sauce. I buy the chili and bring it home to serve on the dogs I cook myself. I've found that the chili goes well on all beef dogs also.

What's interesting to me is that Rutt's Hut and Hiram's use the same dog (Thumann's for deep frying) while Callahan's and The Hot Grill use the same (Sabrett beef/pork). Yet most hot dog lovers prefer Callahan's to Hiram's; but Rutt's Hut to Callahan's. Maybe the relish at Rutt's is a factor here; but I personally like the Thumann's dog better.


John the hot dog guy

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It's funny sometimes I am in the mood for Rutt's and sometimes I'd rather the Hot Grill. I used to go to Rascal on Route 46 in Totowa/West Paterson but they closed down. The Falls View across from the Home Depot on Rt 46 was terrible.

John what do you think these places are paying their suppliers for these hot dogs?

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The hot dogs used by Rutt's Hut, Hiram's, The Goffle Grill, Libby's, and others (Thumann's specially made for deep frying) go for $2.99 per lb wholesale. These dogs are not available in supermarkets or to the general public. Rutt's will sell you some, but they charge $5.00 per lb. I happen to frequent a pizzeria on my mail route that uses Thumann's cold cuts. The Thumann's distributor will sell the deep fry franks wholesale to the pizzeria (5 lb minimum) who then sells them to me for the same price. Five pounds is a lot, even for me. Especially for me since I like to try different kinds, so I've only taken advantage of this 2 or 3 times. Once in awhile I'll by a lb at Rutt's.

Grote & Weigle of Conn. is another hot dog (and meat) producer from Conn. that supplies many of the Jersey hot dog joints. Many Texas Weiner places use their dogs. They make a special beef/pork dog for the Galloping Hill Inn and their all beef dog (one of the best) is served at Father & Son. I found out that their N.J. distributor is located in Newark. I've been there a few times, and they too will sell you any of the franks made by Grote & Weigle. You must by a minimum of 5 lbs. Their price is also $2.99 per lb. I happenned to meet one of their sales reps who was at the distributorship in Newark. He told me that the $2.99 price is charged to all restaurants that buy their products. He told me that other companies sometimes charge different customers different prices depending on volume purchased.

Then he told me an interesting story about the Hot Grill. This man goes to a lot of hot dog restaurants trying to sell his products. Most of the places have long standing relationships with their hot dog supplier and are reluctant to switch. He happenned to be at the Hot Grill one day when they had a problem getting dogs supplied from their distributor (Sabrett). The owners of the Hot Grill were so fed up that they placed a huge order for a similar dog from Grote & Weigle. They now order from both places. This was confirmed to me by someone from the Hot Grill and someone I know from Sabrett. When this happenned (2 or 3 years ago) the Hot Grill took the Sabrett name off their website.

Three places that I frequent the most (out of many) that use Grote & Weigle products are the Hot Grill, Galloping Hill Inn and Father & Son. The first 2 are heavy volume places that sell a lot of dogs. I asked about which place buys the most dogs from them and I was surprised that the Hot Grill buys 3 times as many dogs as the Galloping Hill Inn. And, as I said, The Hot Grill also buys from Sabrett; and probably a bigger quantity. Here I go again rambling on; but from what I've been told, the places in Jersey that sell the most hot dogs are The Hot Grill, Texas Weiner ll in Greenbrook (rt 22) and Rutt's Hut. And probably in that order.


John the hot dog guy

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I've been to these places, and I guess I just do not like deep fried hot dogs. Growing up in New York City with all the grilled dogs, this is the only way I like a dog cooked. While Katz's on Houston is near the top for me, the absolute best hot dog for me is Papaya King on 3rd Ave and 86th. The dog is perfectly grilled, and the bun is nicely toasted (a must) and the hot dog is actually extremely hot!! (In temperature). Anytime I am near this place I have to get 2 (or 3).

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I hear you regarding Papaya King. A lot more flavor than the deep fried dogs. All depends on the mood I'm in. I love the combination of the deep fried dog at Rutt's Hut along with their delicious relish. For me, at least, deep fried dogs were an acquired taste. And I love the Chili sauce at the Hot Grill. But for a grilled dog, with just mustard (in order to fully appreciate the flavor and texture of the dog) it's hard to beat a well done grilled dog from Papaya King. Katz's uses the same brand dog (Sabrett) but it is bigger and not cooked as long.

The only dog place that I would rate higher than Papaya King for an all beef dog is Syd's in Union, N.J. Rated the best dog in N.J. by the Newark Star Ledger. Although taste is subjective; many people love the flavor of the Syd's dog. It is a long 5 to a lb Best brand dog that is simmered, than charbroiled. A little less spicy than the Papaya King dog, it has a wider range of flavors without being overly spicy or salty. It's hard to pick a best hot dog, but Syd's would be right at the top.


John the hot dog guy

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I think I am going to have to meet up with you John at one of our favorite places. I also tried the Texas Weiner II on Route 22 on my way home from work one evening. Maybe I am biased with growing up on Rutts & Hot Grill & Rascal house & JJ's (love them spicy onions) - that I somewhat wasn't too excited about the hot dogs there. Kind of the same impression I had of Callahans. I definately will have to check out Syd's soon. I live in Verona so I am pretty much in the middle of the hot dog mecca.

I was asking about price because if these places are charging almost $2.00 for one hot dog - I was trying to calculate the profit. How many would you say come per lb. @ $2.99?

Maybe it's time to quit the 9-5 and open up a hot dog shack?

I also have a place in South Florida where a lot of the population comes from NY/NJ area. There are no good hot dog joints from my travels in the area down there. Now years ago the X-mayor of Wayne (Messercola?) opened a place on Sample Road in Pompano Beach and I think he used the Johnny & Hanges name.. but it didn't last. I know nothing about the resturant business but what a gold mine it could be with all the old timers and northerns down there! No white castle either for crying out loud!

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Let me know when you want to go to Syd's; I'll be happy to meet you there. The hot dogs sold to Rutt's and the Hot Grill, although made by different companies, come 7 or 8 to a lb. Size varies a little when you are dealing with natural casing hot dogs; which these are. The dog at Syd's is 5 to a lb and expensive. $2.85 and they charge tax; it comes to around $3.00. But it is delicious and they cook it perfectly. Hot dog producers charge by the pound. So the bigger the dogs (4 to a lb at the Windmill and Max's) the more the restaurant will charge you.

I live close to Best Provisions who supply Syd's, Jerry's, most of the Italian Hot Dog places, and others. They charge around $3.00 per lb if you go there yourself. I think the hot dog places may get them cheaper. But they charge $3.40 per lb for the Syd's 5 count dog because of the different size. I used to be able to buy as little as one pound; but since 3 people died from lysteria after eating Sabrett hot dogs a few years ago, the government imposed stricter regulations including that franks have to be sold in sealed crovac packages. As a result, you have to buy a minimum of 2 lbs. Which ain't bad. I figured it out. $6.80 for 10 big dogs plus a dollar for a dozen Baker's Touch hot dog rolls (used by Syd's and many other places; a superior hot dog bun) sold across the street at Karis, a store owned by Best. This comes out to about $.78 for a delicious footlong dog that I cook the same way at home as Syd's does rather than $3.00. This is why I don't go to Syd's too often. But they have the best reubens I've had, along with excellent hamburgers and milkshakes. Everything there is great. My friends say that their onion rings are the best; even better than Rutt's Hut. I don't eat onions myself.

The dogs at Texas Weiner ll are about 80% pork and made to be cooked on the griddle. Similar to Schickhaus. Ok, but nothing out of the ordinary. Some people swear by them. I would avoid this place as they charge $3.50 for a 6 to a lb dog with mustard, chili, and onions (The Texas Weiner). Other places, namely Manny's Texas Weiners in Union, Texas Weiner l in Plainfield, Middlesex Texas Weiner, and others in south Plainfield and Dunellen use the same exact dog (size and all) with a similar chili and charge between $2.00 and $2.25. I go to the one in Union when I'm in the mood for a chili dog and too lazy to either cook one and use the Hot Grill's chili (which I keep at home) or drive the 17 miles to Clifton. The same producer (Grote & Weigle) makes a different, and in my opinion, better dog which is served at the Galloping Hill Inn in Union. This place is right down the street from me, so I go there a lot. Beef and pork; but a higher percentage of beef than the Texas Weiner dog. But the chili there is lousy so I never get a chili dog.

Also, you must try an Italian Hot Dog from Charlies in Kenilworth. The best. I even got my daughter a job there.


John the hot dog guy

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Just in case anyone plans a taste testing trip, remember that the Texas Weiner in Union (across from another Home Depot) is about a mile from Syd's in Millburn.

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I think I am going to have to meet up with you John at one of our favorite places.  I also tried the Texas Weiner II on Route 22 on my way home from work one evening.  Maybe I am biased with growing up on Rutts & Hot Grill & Rascal house & JJ's (love them spicy onions) - that I somewhat wasn't too excited about the hot dogs there.  Kind of the same impression I had of Callahans.  I definately will have to check out Syd's soon.  I live in Verona so I am pretty much in the middle of the hot dog mecca.

I was asking about price because if these places are charging almost $2.00 for one hot dog - I was trying to calculate the profit.  How many would you say come per lb.  @ $2.99?

Maybe it's time to quit the 9-5 and open up a hot dog shack?

I also have a place in South Florida where a lot of the population comes from NY/NJ area.  There are no good hot dog joints from my travels in the area down there.  Now years ago the X-mayor of Wayne (Messercola?) opened a place on Sample Road in Pompano Beach and I think he used the Johnny & Hanges name.. but it didn't last.  I know nothing about the resturant business but what a gold mine it could be with all the old timers and northerns down there!  No white castle either for crying out loud!

Include me in. I work in the top weiner area of the world (Clifton). We should make a road trip to Wildwood to the Hot Dog House.


I'm a NYC expat. Since coming to the darkside, as many of my freinds have said, I've found that most good things in NYC are made in NJ.

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I'm in. Let me know. I work in Piscataway and can come home via 22 any night.

Hmm.. love those Rutt's Hut onion rings.. will definately try the ones at Syd's when we go!

I also love Italian hot dogs, so I'd be curious to try the place your daughter works at John. As long as you don't make me to go Jimmy Buff's - (bUrP)


Edited by NJ2FLA (log)

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Jimmy Buff's is way too greasy; everything is cooked in a steel pit and lays there until needed. But they are the only place open on Sunday night which is when I often crave an Italian Hot Dog. After football and around the time when the Sopranos and Six Feet under were on.

Tommy's in Elizabeth makes a good Italian Hot Dog (their potatoes are fantastic) but they use small, pencil thin 10 or 11 to a lb dogs and are skimpy on the peppers. Charlies uses bigger dogs and has the best peppers.

Syd's is open till about 7:30 Mon thru Sat. Maybe one night next week?


John the hot dog guy

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Jimmy Buff's is way too greasy;

John - To this point I have agreed with you 100% and have gathered most of my knowledge about Jersey Dogs and much of same about hot dogs in general. But...

Now I have to change that to 99%. There is no such thing as "way to greasy" especially when it comes to Italian Hot Dogs.


Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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Holly, you are probably in the majority when it comes to Jimmy Buff's. I know a lot of people who won't eat an Italian Hot Dog anywhere else; for them, the grease makes the dog. And I must admit, for some reason, I prefer Jimmy Buff's if I have been drinking a few beers. But for a lunchtime treat, I prefer Charlies because of the bigger dogs and more vegetables. You need grease on this sandwich; I just think Buff's overdoes it.


John the hot dog guy

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I only stumbled onto NJ hot dog culture a few months ago, and was wondering:

Are fried dogs unique to northern NJ, or does the rest of the world know about them and I just never noticed?

Also, for Italian (or Newark) dogs, are all Jimmy Buff's created equal? I wasn't too impressed by the Irvington one. It wasn't the grease load as much as the lack of other flavors. Would a trip to one of the others be worthwhile?

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David,

Deep fried hot dogs are not unique to N.J. but I believe N.J. may have been the first to cook dogs this way with the invention of the Italian Hot dog and Paterson area Hot Texas Weiner in the 1920's. Other places that deep fry their dogs include Missouri and Texas (corn dogs) and baltimore, Md. (regular dogs). But for the most part, deep fried hot dogs are a north Jersey thing.

As for Jimmy Buff's; they are all pretty much the same. I go to the Irvington location because it is closer to my home; but I have been to the other 3. There is no difference that I can discern. Jimmy Buff's invented this kind of sandwich, and a lot of people think that they are the only ones that make them. The other well known places, including Charlies grew out of Jimmy Buff's. As I said in my previous post, many people consider Jimmy Buff's the standard. It's what they grew up on. If you ever get one to take home, you know that you have to put the bag on the floor because of all the grease that seeps through. Many other people hate Jimmy Buff's because of all the grease. As I said, I prefer Charlies, but I go to JB's because they are open on Sundays.

Both places use similar bread. Both use Best brand franks. Charlies uses bigger dogs (8 to a lb rather than 10) Charlies gives you more peppers (and they are much tastier) including red ones that Buff's doesn't have. The mustard is superior at Charlies. For me, the dog and peppers make the sandwich; that's why I like Charlies. As for potatoes, Charlies is sliced thinner, and they put on more; both places are good. Jimmy Buff's has everything laying in the oil for a long time; and the peppers and onions are mixed together. I get my sandwich without onions, so they have to pick some peppers out of the mix. And they are chintzy with the peppers. At Charlies, the ingredients are put in a deep fryer when the sandwich is ordered. Everything is fresh, and not laying in the oil for who knows how long. The sandwich is fresher and tastier at Charlies in my opinion.

Why don't you try one at Charlies and let us know how you like it compared to Jimmy Buff's? Located at 49 Michigan Ave in Kenilworth. Exit 138 off the Parkway, make a left, go 2 or 3 lights and make a left onto Michigan Ave. The people I work with went to both places and are unanimous in preferring Charlies.


John the hot dog guy

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So the question is whether to try Charlie's or Syd's first???

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John, I've been trying to find information about Grote & Weigle and couldn't find anything. Can you post their address/phone number/webpage as well as the information of their distributor in Newark.

Thanks

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Zorro,

Grote and Weigel has a webpage (groteandweigel.com) that has their address and phone #. I would call them if Iwere you. It took them awhile to get back to me via e-mail.

Their distributor in N.J. is Three Star Beef Co. Located at 128 Orange St in Newark. (973)624-3331. You can buy any of the dogs that they make as long as you buy 5 lbs. They make dogs for Galloping Hill Inn, the many Texas Weiner places, Father & Son, and they have a 4 or 5 to a lb dog called Boardwalk Griddle Franks that are sold down the shore; most notably Jenkinson's at Point Pleasant.


John the hot dog guy

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I checked out the Dog House Grille today on the way home from Costco in Hackensack. White Manna was slammed and I remembered a mental note I had made regarding the collective failure of the New Jersey eGullet crowd to actually try the place as opposed to just talking about it. :raz:

The place is a total dump, and a characterless one at that. There are three dog formulations available: 1) "Water Dog," which is a Sabrett natural casing beef frank, boiled; 2) "Griller," which is a Thuman's dog grilled slowly to a crisp; and 3) "Ripper," which is a Thuman's dog deep fried. It's $1.50 for the Sabrett and $2.25 for the Thuman's. Included toppings -- as many as you like -- are kraut, relish, raw onions, and shredded cheese. The homemade toppings are 20 cents extra each and include red onion, chili, Italian potatoes, and slaw.

There didn't seem to be any Dog House Grille traditions in place -- I attempted to ascertain what the in-the-know customers order but the counterman seemed perplexed by my inquiries. So I tried one griller with chili, cheese, and onions, and one with kraut, relish, and onions. I also tried a ripper with slaw. The latter was the best -- both the plump crispy dog and the cool creamy homemade slaw were superb. The chili dog was quite good as well -- much better chili than I'd have expected. The kraut was too wet and therefore made the bun soggy, and the relish seemed to be an undistinguished, packaged product, so that dog wasn't a winner.

The buns are not heated -- warming them a little would be a major improvement.

I must have misread the menu sign because I didn't notice French fries offered, but the takeout menu I took with me lists hand-cut "big dog" fries in various configurations. I ordered onion rings, which tasted as though they were frozen specimens -- not bad, but not worthwhile.

There's also a full menu of burgers, sandwiches, wings, wraps, et al. Apparently the place changed hands awhile back and expanded its offerings in an attempt to capture some of the corporate lunch business -- they affixed an "& Deli" to the name of the place and made the rallying cry "Not Just Dogs!". The burgers that came out of the kitchen looked quite promising.

There is Boylan's creamy red birch beer in the soda fountain, by the way. Free refills.

The Dog House Grille & Deli

60 River Rd.

Hackensack, NJ 07601

201-646-0200


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Was the chili actually "chili" or was it "all the way sauce"? The difference being that "all the way sauce" is much more liquid than solid and not something I ever fully embraced on my hot dogs. (I know, I know... for shame... I should move to Texas or something.)

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