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syd's dogs


glenn
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In the interests of research (only!), I visited Syd's and Rutt's yesterday. I'm adding a hot dog at Melt. I absolutely loved the foot long dog at Syd's. It was grilled and perfectly cooked. I did not care at all for Rutt's, but that's probably more of a personal thing with deep-fried dogs.

I ended up going to Best in Newark and picking up a case of the same dogs that Syd's uses. [the owner at Syd's say they have a dog exclusively prepared for them but that was contrary to the info I rec'd at Best.] My primary concern is price... like, do hot dogs really cost this much?! I was a little taken aback by Syd's price of $3.10 for a dog. Period. Nothing else except the usual toppings. And their toppings weren't homemade. After visiting Best and plunking down a wad of dough, I realized why the price was so high. I will have to charge a similar price (though we will be using a great homemade relish.)

I don't know if this is the best place to pose this, but I'm wondering if the general public will be willing to pay that kind of money for a dog, albeit a great dog. Will I be limiting my clientele to dog connoisseurs? For those of you who don't fit into that category, like me, would you pay $3+ for a dog?

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First of all, it's a very large dog, so the price is not so out of line, and if you make it clear that it's a "jumbo" (and not just $3+ for a standard, Sabrett size) I don't think you'll have a problem at all.

Second, it's a great dog, so I think that it'll sell itself by word-of-mouth once the first people try it. Heck, even though they're sort of expensive for you to buy, I think you should go find a schoolyard somewhere and give them out.

Anyway, compared to what Nathan's charges in the mall for a standard sized dog, it's not even out of line. I can't imagine anything but runaway sucess with them.

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

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Oh, you're the Melt man, with the amazing sandwiches! I love you! $3.00, for a jumbo, excellent hot dog, is a pittance. I promise. Now, don't forget the brown mustard! I adore relish but as I'm having to avoid raw onions and garlic, I tend to avoid the homemade relishes, so a good brown mustard is a MUST! I personally like Kosciusko. What's with that yellow stuff? It's inedible except for a soft pretzel. Honestly, I've paid $5.00 for an excellent and large well grilled hot dog and felt that it was worth it. A good hot dog is a meal! And I'm just a poor single girl who needs her extra do-re-mi for shoes. Of course, I've also paid $2.00 for a big, spicy sausage hot dog from the Cuban carts in downtown Miami and been thrilled as well, girl taste buds, go figure. So, can I tell you that I really don't get the cotton buns? I almost always end up throwing out the bun. Why do those buns taste like paper? Are you planning on a premium bun? I'd pay extra for that, too! I dream of a hot dog bun that equals the dog it swaddles, it's only happened to me 3 times in all of my years! Once, I had a hot dog in a bun made like a parkerhouse roll, it was delicious! OK, I'll stop rambling now; I suppose I'll be one of those crotchety old ladies......... "Where's the beef?" :laugh:

PS: I really like your shop.

More Than Salt

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Hey Glenn!

I agree $3 is about pretty standard for a "gourmet," supersize dog. I recently went to a supposed famous hot dog place in Chicago paid $4+ for a dog and then got told off (that's their marketing plug - insults with your dog!)! :) Now's a good time to start it too - summer is synonymous with good hot dogs!

tamara

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Glenn,

I've been to Syd's many times. I know the current and previous owners as well as the plant manager and other people at Best Provisions. Let me tell you with absolute certainty that the dog you bought at Best Provisions is the same dog sold at Syd's and it is not made exclusively for them. They may be the only restaurant that buys this particular dog, but it is available to anyone who requests it. People like me go to Best's and just ask for the Syd's dog. There was a place in Livingston called Don's that used a 4 to a lb dog (Syd's is 5 to a lb) that is shorter and fatter than Syd's. The Old Homestead on the Irvington/Union border used this same dog. Both places went out of business. Their customers asked the owners what dogs they used and how they could get them. Someone at Best told me that they were going to discontinue this dog, but since so many people requested it and showed up at the plant, they continued to make them.

The previous owner of Syd's offerred to sell me the Syd's dogs at $5.50 per pound, but was kind enough to tell me that I could get them cheaper at Best's, which I have been doing for years. Syd's dog is $3.10, but with tax comes to $3.29. I buy 2 pounds for $7.00, which comes to 10 dogs. That means 70 cents a dog plus the cost of a roll which is 10 cents or less if I buy the food service buns. 80 cents for a Syd's dog that I make at home the same way; simmerred in water then thrown on a grill.

You can also get a smaller dog. They have dogs in all sizes. Syd's is 5 to a lb. They have a 4,6,8,10,11,12, and maybe others. I strongly urge you to go with the natural casing dogs. All Best dogs are the same recipe. Made from a mix of choice and lean beef, I've been told by butchers that they are a high quality dog. The smaller sizes are actually a little cheaper per pound. The Syd's and Don's dogs are more expensive because of their size and shape.

I believe that you can sell the big dog for cheaper than Syd's and still make a profit. I would recommend preparing it like Syd's; simmerred, then grilled on a gas or charcoal grill. I've had dozens of hot dogs and been to many hot dog restaurants, and there is no dog better than what you get at Syd's. This dog and Usinger's angus dog are my favorites for an all beef dog. If you just want to use a griddle, let me suggest that you use the smaller 8 to a lb dog. You can either slow cook it on a griddle like Father & Son, which used this dog before they switched to an inferior dog (upsetting many long time customers) or simmer it in water and then throw it on the griddle for a short time like Jerry's in Elizabeth does.

Syd's dog is expensive, but people buy it at that price. Syd's was originally in the Weequahic section of Newark and people from Newark still come there. The place is usually packed at lunchtime, and though it is a luncheonette serving a variety of food; many, if not most come for the dogs.

Because I know where to get these dogs, I don't go to Syd's as much as I would if I couldn't get them. But most people don't know the source or care to seek them out. You would do well to go with the Syd's dog or the smaller 8 to a lb dog. Jerry's sells this one for $1.50 and is making money hand over foot. Oh hell; all this talk is making me seriously consider opening my own place. Good luck to you and let us know what you decide. I'll make the trip to your place when you add a dog.

Also, take what the owners of hot dog restaurants say with a grain of salt. The Galloping Hill Inn in Union serves a beef/pork dog that is very good. Originally made by a German butcher shop in Union, the Galloping Hilltook the recipe and had it made by a bigger hot dog manufacturer in Connecticut. I know who makes this dog and their distributor. I've bought this dog from the distributor to make at home. The owner of the Galloping Hill Inn told me the whole story. But yet he tells customers and newspaper people who interview him that they (The Galloping Hill Inn) makes their own dogs on premise! Which is blatantly untrue.

John the hot dog guy

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I'm not quite sure why Syd's led me to believe that they had an exclusive on the Syd dog. I think it was Eric, the owner, who I talked to and I let him know why I was asking, but like I said elsewhere, who cares :)).

The meltdog was on the menu today for the first time. We only sold 4 or 5 but that's probably because we were frightfully slow. The reaction was excellent. Which leads me to think maybe I'm not charging enough :). We serve it with homemade relish (which is sweet and has a kick to it). For an additional charge, we add our own 3 cheese sauce and cajun fries. The whole package is 5.25. While it's still way too early to make any judgments, there were no complaints, only compliments. And I must say the dog comes out great on our panini press cooked at maximum temperature. It's got a barbecue taste to it. However, my problem is the roll. It's a standard size roll and the dog hangs over it by about 3" on either side. I'd love to find an inexpensive long roll, but that's probably asking too much. Rebecca, any idea where I can get those rolls that you mentioned?

Regarding Don's dog, I like the size and shape better. I opted for the Syd dog instead for 2 reasons, perhaps silly ones. One is the foot long dog is a novelty and one that fits in with our concept (snob appeal?) of being different. The other reason is Don's dog, as John pointed out, is heavier and therefore more expensive. I wanted to keep the price point as low as possible.

[Tamara, somehow I have to figure out a way to put some expensive items on my menu so I can participate in Restaurant Week! Maybe a Moses grilled cheese sandwich :)]

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However, my problem is the roll.  It's a standard size roll and the dog hangs over it by about 3" on either side.  I'd love to find an inexpensive long roll, but that's probably asking too much.

Keep the regular sized bun, because that emphasizes the size (kinda like a codpiece that lets a little bit show). Just make sure the bun has enough firmness not to become flaccid.

Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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I've heard that Pechters is not making their own buns anymore and Bakers Touch is now making a cheaper bun rather than the better grade food service buns which are individually baked instead of stuck together like the inferior supermarket ones. The best hot dog bun I know of is made by Rockland Bakeries. I use it with the Syd's dog. Do you just sell the dog alone without fries? And for how much? I usually have mine with just mustard. I'll have to see how it tastes on a panini press. Good luck, and give it time. I think the dog will become very popular.

John the hot dog guy

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Buns seem to be a matter of controversy (not just here on eG). People seem to be evenly divided about whether to use a "normal" bun or longer bun on a big hot dog. I stated my preference, but I also want to keep prices down.

[...]Do you just sell the dog alone without fries? And for how much? I usually have mine with just mustard.

Our basic dog is $3. That comes with any of the basic toppings... homemade relish, kraut, mustard and ketchup. [we have a squeeze bottle of Gulden's mustard and Heinz ketchup on every table - a scenario I wanted to avoid but is simply unavoidable.] The deluxe comes with the above plus our own three cheese sauce and cajun fries and is 5.25.

[One of the reasons I put dogs on the menu (as I think I stated) is to give an alternative to kids. 1.50 or 1.75 was what I first had in mind. I keep getting sidetracked by trying to be gourmet everything and the result is kids get excluded cuz they can't afford it. I know I can also put a less expensive dog on the menu in addition, but I don't have room to store everything I have now. My mistake is probably reading these dang internet forums. Without them, I'd probably be in blissful ignorance and serving a mediocre dog for 1.50 and making the kiddies very happy. :))]

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Glen

How about Martins Potato Buns,about $2.29 in the supermarket probably 60% or less wholesale. White Manna uses them and it makes a big difference in the burger "package".

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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In New Orleans they sell Lucky Dogs in carts for $5 and no one bats an eye ...they are oversized and delicious :D

Xander: How exactly do you make cereal?

Buffy: Ah. You put the box near the milk. I saw it on the Food Channel.

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glenn, sounds really wonderful. have you thought about Toufayan's Snuggles rolls?

i hate the cheap white fluffy rolls, will use the Pepperidge Farms top split(new england style) buns and toast them but if i can find the Snuggles that's what i want my dogs to go into.

their website: http://www.toufayan.com/snug.htm

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Those Toufayan buns sound good! I'm just your basic foodie, but I can tell you that at home I take a really thick, large slice of egg bread or rye or white mountain bread and I toast it in the oven for a few minutes. I then fold the bread into a bun, it's delicious to me. I wager it would even better if I put it on a grill for a few minutes with some kind of fat, but not practical with my little newspaper grill! So, you could offer to do that for an extra charge, use a heavy slice of your excellent breads! You can always have 2 versions of dog service, the $3 meltdog and the $4meltmelt..... I am going to bring my daughter as soon as she gets back home in July and we are going to share a sandwich and each have a hotdog.... I can't wait to share your place with her! Wish I lived closer to you!

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Syd's and many other hot dog restaurants used Bakers Touch hot dog buns for years. They cheapenend the buns, and now most of the places have switched to either Rockland or Sabrett. I would go with Rockland as they are the closest thing to the original Bakers Touch. Pechter's also stopped making their own hot dog buns. You may want to check out Wonder. I think that they may make a food service bun that is better than the supermarket version. Rockland is the best available. Sturdy and good. I like when the dog hangs over the bun (love those end bites too!) and in the case of the Syd's dog, it's only about an inch on each side. I think it looks good as well.

I wouldn't go too crazy over the bun because the focus should be on the dog. And even that isn't of ultimate importance since your restaurant is known mainly for other things. You can always eliminate the dog or change it if you want to concentrate on kids. Brands like Oscar Mayar and Ballpark are intentionally made bland in order to appeal to the palate of a kid. But I would think that you would be better off going with a quality dog in keeping with your quality, upscale image.

I'm glad to see that you are open on Sunday's. I'm usually only off Sunday and I'd like to try the Meltdog. Hope you will be there.

John the hot dog guy

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Thanks for all the suggestions. John, coincidentally, we are using Rockland's. Not by design though.... it happens to be the bun that our purveyor (Dairyland) carries. I actually called Rockland today to see if they have a bigger bun. I'm waiting for a call back. But the small bun is working out. I find if we put cheese on the entire dog, the relish sticks to the cheese and it's not so messy. It's also pretty cool looking. Also, grilling the bun for 30 seconds or so keeps it firm. So, for the moment anyway, I'm happy with what we have. And it's cheap... wholesale price is about 10 cents and it enables me to keep the price at $3 (which I still think is outrageous! - but then again, I remember having to use 2 credit cards at a basketball game for a crummy dog.)

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$3 is not outrageous for an oversized dog. Most if not all of the casual restaurants here in central NY state (where income levels, availability of discretioanry money and prices are all lower than NJ) charge $2.00 - $2.50 for a standard sized Hoffman's or Meier & Ranz dog. Oversized dogs are typically $3.00 - $3.50. Sure there are cheapies available at ice cream stands and a few street carts but your prices are completely reasonable.

Stick with the cheap bun. I consider the bun to be no more than a vehicle with which to hold the dog and keep the relish or mustard from getting on my hands. It's really just a disposable hotdog holder that happens to be edible - plain and bland is good if not desirable.

I feel completely differently abnotu hamburger buns - a good thick juicy burger needs both the support and the complementary aspects of a proper roll and cheap generic rolls don't cut it for that.

If you wanted something with a bit more texture and substance than what you've been getting I should think that one of the Portuguese commercial bakeries in Brooklyn could provide it but the unit cost would kill ya and I doubt that it would help sell more dogs. Not to mention that kids (if that's a part of your consideration) seem to be totally cool with bland rolls on hot dogs - it's all about the dog.

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