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Callahan's of Fort Lee


Jason Perlow
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Today I went to Callahan's, in Fort Lee, in order to get one of my last fixes of hot dogs and hamburgers from this landmark restaurant, which has been in continuous operation since the early 1940's.

Originally owned by the Callahan sisters, Leonard "Artie" Castrianni purchased the restaurant in 1950, greatly expanded its offerings, and continued to operate it until his son, Rick Castriani, and his son in law, Ron DiMiglio, decided to run the business in 1977. This will mark the Castrianni family's 55th year of operation and ownership, and to quote Rick, they are going out on top. Even with its closing imminent sometime in December, Callahan's continues to do a brisk business.

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Rick Castrianni, current owner/manager of Callahan's.

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Artie Castrianni, who purchased Callahan's in 1950 and ran the restaurant for 27 years. Artie passed away in December of 2000.

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Although there is more than just the one Callahan's location -- Rick's brother, Lenny, runs the Hasbrouck Heights and Little Ferry stores -- The original Fort Lee location has a unique charm, because its one of the last vestiges of the culture surrounding the Palisades Amusement Park that closed down in 1971 (the park was located one mile away, on the site where the Winston Towers now stand). The entire restaurant is filled with nostalgia and ephemera from that time period.

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Onto the food. Callahan's is known primarily for its HUGE hot dogs. The standard dog is 1/4lb, but this is dwarfed by their Super Dog, which is at least 12 inches in length and probably close to a half a pound in weight.

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Callahan's other signature hot dog is their Italian Dog, which is a New Jersey classic. It features fried potatoes and Italian frying peppers and fried onions.

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The Super Dog and the Italian Hot Dog, for comparison.

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All of Callahan's hot dogs are deep fried (as they should be for a Jersey dog) and are manufactured by Marathon enterprises in East Rutherford, aka Sabrett. Callahan's dogs however, are a 50/50 pork/beef hybrid, as opposed to the 100 percent beef Sabrett dogs.

Their burgers, or Callahoony's, are half pound in weight and are seriously good eating as well:

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And being a Jersey operation and of Italian heritage, one shouldn't give short shrift to their Italian Sausage either:

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Callahan's is due to close sometime in December, although the final date has not been set yet. It will be demolished and replaced by The Bank of New Jersey. Callahan's collection of ephemera is due to go into storage for the time being.

Here's our previous Callahan's (and Hiram's) thread:

Battle of the Fort Lee 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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Any idea WHY they are closing? Unless the bank made them an offer they couldn't refuse, seems to me you would keep a good thing going. Although I tend to prefer Hirams(**ducks!!**), Callahans is never lacking in customers. What about their other locations? The Rt 46 store is a goldmine. For obvious reasons, I'm curious, and remember when one door closes another door opens. We're getting close to final vote at the Verona zoning board meeting on November 10th. You guys will be among the first to know the verdict. I humbly bow down to the Callahan's legacy and am humbled by the greatness they have achieved. May my product be as well recieved, and my customers be as loyal.

President

Les Marmitons-NJ

Johnson and Wales

Class of '85

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This sucks so thoroughly. Callahan's is (was) one of the best reasons to live in Fort Lee. Hiram's doesn't come close, in my opinion.

...Another bank. Another damn bank! Hiram's will probably be bought by a nail salon anyway.

I am mildly f'ing perturbed.

Okay...so...where's my nearest (from Fort Lee) good hot dog now? Suggestions?

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Okay...so...where's my nearest (from Fort Lee) good hot dog now? Suggestions

Papaya King in Manhattan! :smile: ( I prefer grilled dogs anyway.)

If you insist on deep fried, there is Jolly Nick's on Madison Ave in Dumont that moved from Cresskill 5 years ago. Supposedly legendary among the locals. Just on the side of CVS.

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Okay...so...where's my nearest (from Fort Lee) good hot dog now? Suggestions

Papaya King in Manhattan! :smile: ( I prefer grilled dogs anyway.)

If you insist on deep fried, there is Jolly Nick's on Madison Ave in Dumont that moved from Cresskill 5 years ago. Supposedly legendary among the locals. Just on the side of CVS.

I used to live in Englewood and went to Hiram's during that time. Now I'm what you would probably call a 'local' who goes to Jolly Nick's quite a bit. The dogs are similar to one another, but I don't think that is what lutefisk is looking for- after all he could simply just go local and switch to Hiram's. And, taking the drive into account, he should probably just go with one of the other Callahan's just a few towns over.

Aside- If somebody local to Dumont is reading this, though, Jolly Nick's is definitely worth a shot for a deep-fried Thuman's. The toppings are ordered according to a color coded system- 'Red' (onions and hot sauce) seems to be the most popular and the one I have been getting lately. I also like the 'Green', which is sauteed bell peppers and onions.

ETA: I'm definitely going to hit the original Callahan's before they close. Those photos look great!

Edited by TongoRad (log)

aka Michael

Chi mangia bene, vive bene!

"...And bring us the finest food you've got, stuffed with the second finest."

"Excellent, sir. Lobster stuffed with tacos."

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  • 3 weeks later...
The original Fort Lee location has a unique charm, because its one of the last vestiges of the culture surrounding the Palisades Amusement Park that closed down in 1971 (the park was located one mile away, on the site where the Winston Towers now stand). The entire restaurant is filled with nostalgia and ephemera from that time period.

Thanks for unwittingly filling in some details I've long wondered about.

Growing up in the Midwest in the 1950s, virtually every comic book I read had a coupon to Palisades Amusement Park in back. It always seemed like it must be such a magical place.

WHen I moved to New York (ironically, in 1971), though I was busy with much else, I found it a bit odd that I never heard anything about Palisades Park. Eventually I made some local friends who were able to tell me that it had closed down, but I never really knew much else about it, or exactly where it was. Now I do.

I think a trip to Callahan's is in order.

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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There's a very good web site that's maintained by a local Palisades Amusement Park expert that has everything you need to know about the place:

http://www.palisadespark.com/

Apparently one of the best things there was the fresh cut french fries, which was served British style, with malt vinegar.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

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

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They did a separate article on it from the peice I did for the Jersey section? Interesting.

I'm happy they gave it more than the 350 words I am limited to for the Quick Bites, Callahan's is an institution worthy of a full writeup.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

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

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Is there anyway of getting the article online without subscribing?

You can do their "14-day free trial," which requires you to sign up & give them a credit card #. You won't get charged for 14 days & you can go back to their website & cancel before the time is up.

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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  • 3 months later...

Drove by there for the first time since closing while visiting this weekend (my folks live across the road at Horizon House). Sign did indicate other locations still operating. By the way- anyone know of decent (not expecting DiFara's, Lombardi's, etc. quality-only "decent") pizza in the Fort Lee area?

Mark A. Bauman

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