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The Prodigal Hot Dog Blogger Returns

March 7, 2014
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So I’m sure all of you guys have been like “where’s Mike and why isn’t he showing me any pictures of wieners?”

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The Great Michael Kupperman strikes again!

Oh yes, I’ll take it there.

So I’ve been busy.  Yes, busy.  What’s it to you?  I’ve actually taken a turn away from hot dogs over the summer (egads!) and have honed my skills at smoking BBQ.  Two years ago, when it was a nice day out, I’d pile the dog into the car and head out to god-knows-where in search of a great hot dog.  This past year found me grabbing a rack of ribs and some hickory chunks instead . . . .

Well, perhaps I’m being a little disingenuous. I have been going to some great dog joints this past year and I’ll highlight a few for you in what hopefully shouldn’t be an over-long post.  But first, allow me to introduce you to our newest contributor.  Luddies and gennemen, this blogger’s gonna be a father . . . .IMG_2779

And now that you know why I’ll be incommunicado for another six months, let’s get down to bidniz!

Archie’s on a Roll in Marlborough is one of the great hot dog wagons operating in Massachusetts, imho, and I’ve regrettably only been able to visit just the once.  It’s got everything you could hope for in a hot dog truck: a kind, knowledgeable owner who loves talking about dogs; excellent regional hot dogs; and a loyal clientele.

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Archie (or so I’m assuming, since I didn’t ask the owner’s name) told me a great story of growing up as a young man in Toronto and having the amazing coney-style hot dogs that have made their way up from Michigan (and maybe Indiana).  He calls it a chili dog but I think that’s just for the sake of his Massachusetts customers who typically aren’t familiar with coneys.  He specializes in these delectable treats, which have a sweet and savory meat sauce topping combined with yellow mustard and raw white onions.  Honestly, I was in heaven because I haven’t had a coney this good since leaving home in Indiana.  Absolute perfection in his execution where the sauce played a significant part but didn’t get in the way of the pork flavor of the hot dog.

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With the two coneys I opted for a slaw dog, which had a spicy cayenne kick topping them.  Think deviled egg and a hot dog making love in your mouth and that’s the amazing experience you get.  Absolutely worth a trip to Marlborough, even if you live in the Boston area like I do.

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The next hot dog stop was for the very zeitgeist-y (in the world of hot dogs, at least) Sonoran dog.  Lately the Boston-area has been deluged by restaurants offering their take on the southwestern specialty but there’s one joint that’s been excelling at it.

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John S. (who, with Alex, has been picking up my slack on the blog this past year) sent me an email in the Spring of last year saying he had heard of a place in East Boston that specialized in Sonoran dogs.  Being the hot dog gladiator that he is, when I suggested a group outing he drove from over an hour away and, with his trusty comapanion Boy, joined forces with me take on this amazing hot dog.

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The Sonoran dog at Que Padre was the first I’ve had and I’m nearly positive is the best I’ll taste in the Boston area.  The restaurant specializes in Bolivian and Mexican food in addition to the Sonoran dog and was the hole-in-the-wall kind of place that’s constantly hopping not only because they’re popular but because they’ve only got space enough for fifteen people seated cheek-to-jowl.

So the hot dog: while four guys were waiting for their dogs to be cooked, the staff kept constantly apologizing for how long it was taking–but that wasn’t more than 10 minutes or so.  I’m guessing that they’re met with people who don’t understand that it takes a bacon-wrapped hot dog, properly cooked so you don’t end up with a limp length of bacon fat hugging a lukewarm dog, longer than 30 seconds to come out of the kitchen.

The sweet bun that the crispy bacon-wrapped dog nestled in was topped with a plethora (Jefe, what is a plethora?) of pinto beans, diced onions and tomatoes, jalapeno sauce, mustard, mayo, and (yes,  believe it) ketchup.  Eat your hearts out, suckas.

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Later in the year my wife Samantha and I found ourselves out on a California adventure, taking in the sights and sounds of San Francisco and hiking in Yosemite.  While there I took the opportunity to visit what’s been billed as the original craft beer bar, Toronado, which is paired with the amazing Rosamunde Sausage Grill.

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Walking in to Rosamunde, it was like paying a visit to a scaled-down version of my favorite German sausage kitchen, Karl’s.  The case shows their daily offerings which are thrown on to the grill according to your heart’s desire.

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When I was ordering I quickly realized I was surrounded by craft beer fans who had migrated over from the bar next door, Toronado.  This is one of those great restaurants that not only benefits from having superior offerings but also from the symbiotic relationship it shares with the bar next door–you order your food and walk into Toronado, ready to soak up some alcohol with superior sausage.

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On the menu was duck sausage and I never pass on duck.  You’d be smart not to as well when visiting Rosamunde because this was the perfect blend of the fattiness that duck is so well known for with its robust game flavor.  When the cook asked me what toppings I wanted I deferred to his suggestion and–since he mentioned the duck was his favorite sausage as well–I got what may very well be the best sausage at Rosamunde.  A duck sausage topped with a sweet and incredibly spicy concoction of onions, carrots, and hot peppers.  Pair with a few pints of Pliny the Elder at Toronado and you’ve discovered my version of eternal bliss.

Now let’s take a moment to appreciate yours truly, Michael.  Yes, this was left for me (or one of the million other Michaels that live in the world) at my workplace.  I’d say it hits all the right notes.

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So, our next significant stop, and the last, in hot dog land took us to Vermont.  Honestly, it wasn’t hot dogs that took us to the great white north, but rather the delicious brew billed as Heady Topper.

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While visiting the Burlington area last month with our most excellent friends Hank and Ashley, we stumbled upon Handy’s Lunch, which had a huge banner in the window advertising Texas Hot Dogs.  Texas Hot Dogs in the snowy kingdom of Vermont?  Well, I had to try some . . . .

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Walking in, I noticed that the diner was filled but an absolute hush permeated the space.  For a moment I felt like Dusty Bottoms entering a Mexican cantina until I realized everyone was listening to the United States getting a red ass beat-down by Finland to take fourth place in Olympic hockey.

Regardless of what was going on in the hockey world, the patrons, the owner and the staff were quick to peel themselves away from the train wreck happening on the radio and talk dogs.  These guys were very proud of their sausages and rightly so.  Unlike a coney sauce, their Texas sauce was very dry, beefy and had a spiciness that snuck up on you at the end.  As you can see from the hot dog cross-section below, they split the dogs and cook them on the griddle top, making plenty of space for the Texas sauce to nestle in.  Along with the dog and sauce was a small amount of yellow mustard and red onion, just enough to make its presence known but not dominant.

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Sam and Ashley (Hank’s wife) always joke that Hank and I are sweet on each other.  I think this picture proves them wrong.

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And to end the post, a shot of Sam & I enduring the extremely cold wind blowing off Lake Champlain in Burlington.  This is the last time you’ll see us alone, after May you’ll get to meet our new contributor.  Happy New Year everyone, it’s great to be back!

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John Gets A Big Scary Hot Dog at Windy City

October 29, 2013
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First off, if you’re in the Boston area, or just south thereof, and you haven’t stopped by Windy City Eats’ new digs on Route 53 in Norwell (actually called Windy City Dogs & More), please do. Grady Carlson’s second location is considerably bigger than his first and while I do love the eating-in-a-hallway charm of the original because it just screams hot dog joint, it’s great that this excellent local spot has been successful enough to branch out. Plus, it’s nice to be able to sit down at a table and dig in. And, as I said way back when Milkbone and I headed down there, it’s worth it. There’s very good doggery here.

This post, however, is about what I dug into on a recent visit, and it is this:

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No, it’s not a french-fry sandwich. I promise there are hot dogs in there somewhere.

Behold the Big Scary Manwich. A few weeks back after a rough day at work, I stopped in to soothe my soul with my usual round of Navy Pier dogs (brown mustard, pastrami) and a classic Chicago dog. Up on the video menu board–which, yes, your eyes are not playing tricks, cycles through the items–I saw this thing listed. Two hot dogs. Chili. Cheese. Tamale. (Yeah, let that soak in. It’s a freaking tamale inside a hot dog.) French fries. On a French roll.

All that’s missing is a cardiac specialist on standby.

I saw it but I didn’t order. You can bet, though, that it never left my mind. Last weekend the family and I were at a football game one town over. I slyly suggested we should get lunch while we were out. That’s how we met and fell in love, the Big Scary Manwich and I.

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It’s not like you needed to get this up close and personal with my lunch, but aren’t you glad you did?

There’s so much to love in this magnificent error of judgement. I spent a couple of minutes picking off a few chili-and-cheese-sopped fries before digging in. When you get a shot of everything all at once, it’s hot doggish heaven. It’s one of those “I know it’s wrong but it feels so right” moments that happens with a good, over-the-top dog. The tamale is an interesting texture and taste in the mix.  It was definitely a first for me. Sometimes a bite of it made that mouthful a little dense, but its subtle flavors and the way it works so well with the chili overrides that. This quickly becomes a knife-and-fork dog because, try as it might, the roll just isn’t up to the Herculean task of trying to keep all that stuff in. And friends, there is a lot of stuff.

If you can come to terms with the unabashed gluttony that’s required to belly up to this bad boy, I definitely recommend it on your next stop at either Windy City location. But if the sight of this beefy behemoth frightens you, don’t worry–there are plenty more excellent dogs for less rapacious appetites waiting at Windy City.

Windy City Eats
Middle St., Weymouth MA
Windy City Dogs and More
Washington St., Norwell MA

Sad Day in Beantown

October 25, 2013
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I’m sorry to report (and, on top of it, sorry I’ve been away for so long) that Gregg Gale, the owner/operator of what used to be Speed’s and is now Boston Super Dog, passed away this morning.  Gregg had been running the truck for as long as I’ve been visiting it in Newmarket Square and not only did he serve a delicious dog but he was a very kind man whose love for his job was always evident.  In the past five years, I’ve probably visited the stand 10 times and the dog was always an astounding experience–and this was recognized by many others, such as the Wall Street Journal (which named it the best dog in America), Holly Eats (one of my favorite road food websites), and almost annually in the Boston Magazine as Boston’s Best Dog.  We’ll certainly miss Gregg and hope that someone will step up to carry on the tradition.Image

NJ Legends: Hot Dog Johnny’s

October 11, 2013

Even though it’s October, let’s take a trip back to the beautiful days we had back in August.  I drove with Ali and The Kid to western NJ, so I could drop them off at a family event.  I had been planning on hitting up some NJ HDJ’s, and was very excited to see that I was only 15 minutes away from the legendary Charlie’s Pool Room.  While doing a little research though, it turned out that Charlie’s had gotten a visit by health inspectors some time during the year, and basically shut down their kitchen, which I think was just their hot dog operation.  Not sure about their current state, but it sounded like the brothers who run the place had some renovations to take care of to bring it up to code.  No Charlie’s Pool Room for me that weekend.  However, I had a couple of other places in mind: Hot Dog Johnny’s and Johnny & Hanges.  The latter was too far away, but Hot Dog Johnny’s was just a 25 minute ride north to the town of Buttzville.  I set my navigator, rolled down the windows, and cruised triumphantly through miles of beautiful hilly NJ farmland.

The weather was perfect that day and brought out the hordes to Hot Dog Johnny’s.  Locals, foodies traveling from distant locales (like Brooklyn for example), families, and groups of bikers all came out for the same thing: the perfect roadside dog. The stand has got to be the Shangri-la of HDJ’s.  It sits on land with trees and hills on one side, and a lush grassy oasis overlooking the Pequest River.  The stand itself has several walkup counters, old painted messages on the walls, and an open but covered picnic table section with tons of colorful plants.  You can’t beat this place for atmosphere.  There is not much I can add to the blogosphere on Hot Dog Johnny’s.  You can find a lot of articles and posts about this place, and rightly so.  It’s a fun step back in time with a helluva view.

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The hot dogs here are cooked in peanut oil, then wrapped up and delivered in paper.  These are easy 3-4 biters (4 if you want to savor it).  When you order one with everything you get chopped onions, mustard, and a pickle spear.  They are also known for their frosty mugs of buttermilk.  I’m usually a sucker for anything that sounds unusual, but I opted for the mug of birch beer instead.  I’ve never had buttermilk, but the internet says it’s got a sour taste.  Plenty of people order it however, and it’s been a staple there for decades.  Also, living in NYC makes me totally appreciate the cost of practically anything when I put some miles between my destination and home.  I ordered 2 dogs, french fries, and a large birch beer for a total of about $6.  But these are not artisanal dogs.  These are dogs for the people, dogs you eat 2 or 3 at a time.  I briefly chatted with my picnic table companions and chowed.

The freshest buttermilk in town!

The freshest buttermilk in town!

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One with everything

One with everything

At this point I felt that 2 dogs were not enough.  I had to get one more with relish, which was more of a dry topping but keeping the sweet pickle taste.  Usually relish has a lot of liquid runoff but this did not have any.  I washed this one down with an orange drink and a Hershey’s chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich in a cup.

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The first Hot Dog Johnny's

The first Hot Dog Johnny’s

Hot Dog Johnny’s is a place that you need to go check out.  It’s a great example of a multi-generation, family-owned roadside stand.  It’s incredibly popular and everyone travels to go check it out.   It’s in a region of New Jersey that most people don’t know about, with beautiful farmland and rolling hills.  And while you’re taking a carefree ride around the area, you can stop here and spend $1.50 on a hot dog!

Hot Dog Johnny’s  333 Rt. 46  Belvedere (or Buttzville) NJ

Digging Deep into Colombian-Style Dogs at Los Perros Locos

September 5, 2013

There’s something amiss in the hot dog-blogosphere in 2013.  Not a lot has been been written by us or our meaty colleagues.  And I’m not really sure why that is, but maybe there are a number of reasons.  Perhaps everyone has high cholesterol and blood pressure, necessitating a change in diet.  Maybe the economy is getting better, and we have been moving away from comfort food.  Or maybe there just haven’t been any notable HDJ’s to write about.  In NYC, it seems as though the artisanal and hip HDJ’s may be another food trend that has come and gone.  There’s not much standing, except maybe Bark and Japadog.  But now there’s a place on the lower east side that is trying to channel the spirit of Colombian hot dogs.  Hopefully they will have what it takes to stick around in NYC’s volatile food scene.

Los Perros Locos opened up in NYC pretty recently in January 2013.  Seeing as how I now have a new 6-month old roommate, I don’t get out for much exploration, even though she is usually up for it.  Seeing as how I have some time off of work, the two of us decided to take a trip to see what Los Perros Locos was all about.  I can refer you to the website to get an idea of how this place came into being.  However, even without knowing anything about the place, you’d have to guess there was some connection to Miami or perhaps California.  The two of us went on a random weekday afternoon, so there were not too many people there.  However I can imagine the NYU and LES crowds mobbing the place at 2am.  We walked inside to a neon wonderland, complete with a built in skate ramp leading down to a counter where patrons eat layered and loaded dogs.  The small space (maybe 100 sq ft?) ended with 3 windows capped with the pink neon words comer-ordenar-beber (eat, order, drink).

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The team consults with each other about the menu

The team consults with each other about the menu

I had some knowledge of Colombian hot dogs, and have been thinking for a long time that I need to get out to Elizabeth, NJ to find something authentic.  (Also make sure to check out Hawk Krall’s post from a few years ago in Serious Eats about Colombian dogs in Queens NY)  I’ve heard that the Colombian dog has potato chips and pineapple as toppings.  It seems that the folks at Los Perros Locos took that idea and also expanded on it with a plethora of salsas and other toppings.  I ordered up two dogs, a grilled corn called Mazzzzzorca, and a Colombian soda.

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Mazzzzzorca!

Mazzzzzorca!

I called this post ‘Digging Deep’ because the dog itself is only part of the sandwich, and you have to get through the layers of toppings first.  I had a similar experience with the Chilean vienesa which was loaded with avocado, tomato, and mayo.  I should say that while I did enjoy these dogs, they are not meant to be eaten while a tiny human is strapped to your chest.

(No) Tipico

(No) Tipico

What delicious mysteries lie beneath?

What delicious mysteries lie beneath?

You can order each sandwich with a choice of all beef (skinless), veggie, or chorizo.  I opted for all beef and began to tackle the [No] Tipico, which I think may be the closest to the actual typical Colombian dog.  This dog is layered with crushed potato chips and 4 different kinds of salsas: pina (sweet pineapple), ajillo (roast garlic), rosada (pink sauce), and verde (creamy avocado), all on a beautifully grilled & buttered split top bun.

Mexi-Max!

Mexi-Max!

This next one is the Mexi-Max.  Here we see the all beef dog topped with sriracha pico de gallo, chipotle kraut, ChipZana sauce (chipotle & manzana (apple)), salsa verde, grated queso cotija, and crushed fritos.  I’m a big fan of people trying to create anything, and also a big fan of eating.  These dogs definitely have pros and cons.  I enjoyed the assault of flavors, and I love a challenge of eating a hefty dog.  However, some of the flavors on these dogs were so much stronger than the others that it covered up the other good stuff.  Plus you can’t take a bite without getting toppings all over your face, or all over the little one hooked on to you, which also meant that I had to eat the Mexi-Max with a fork and knife.  The dog itself is grilled but it also sort of gets buried underneath everything.  It also could have been a bit bigger.  I’m sounding more like I did not enjoy myself and that’s not the case.  Lately though, I really appreciate simplicity and distinct flavors.  When you have 6 or 7 colors on top of each other, you can’t really see the individual colors anymore.  Some of these toppings sound so interesting and it would be great to see what chipotle kraut or sriracha pico de gallo tastes like on a less busy dog.  But since I’m not Colombian, it’s probably easy for me to find something wrong with such a different and distinct regional style.  For me, the toppings that did stand out were the Fritos (awesome!) and the chipzana sauce, with the apple surprisingly shining through.

Preparing to climb the north face of the Mexi-Max

Preparing to climb the north face of the Mexi-Max

These guys opened up in January with a very adventurous and ambitious attitude.  The dogs I got seem to have the most toppings on their menu, and perhaps I should try some of the others with only 3 toppings.  Maybe the Mas Perfecto with apple chipotle slaw and quail eggs.  Or the Spicy Spicy Mango with spicy mango mojo, melted mozzarella, and crushed hot Doritos.  They also have a corn dog and three different kinds of salchipapas.  I should also add that the Mazzzzzorca was very tasty, also messy, and topped with chipzana sauce, grated cotija cheese, and a squeeze of lime.  The Soda Colombiana was also refreshing and tasted like cream soda with less sugar.  I think these guys will do well with the lower east side crowds with this fun and crazy menu, and with people who can afford to get messy.  The Kid is up for adventure, but I still have to look out for her!

Los Perros Locos   201 Allen Street  NYC

John Goes to Daddy’s, Cries for His Mommy

August 6, 2013
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On the one hand, I should have known better. Daddy’s Dogs in Hull, MA, is only open during high beach season and their web site proudly announces their hot dog eating contest….in 2006. On the other hand, it’s part of a well-known restaurant called Daddy’s Beach Club, so it was really a coin toss. In a perfect world, a hot dog stand that faces the big blue Atlantic from across the street would be as perfect as one might imagine.

Yeah…keep imagining.

I probably should have backed away at the first sight of a $4 foot-long dog and $3 regulars, but as a Dog Blogger I sometimes have to fly in the face of my own reason. So I bellied up to the slightly grimy counter and ordered one Daddy Dog (the big guy) and one chili dog. Beyond that, your options are cheese, of the runny nacho sort, and….okay, well, that’s it. Straight, chili, or chili and cheese.

Holy mother of Dog, why didn’t I run when I had the chance?

Where those ladies are? That's where you don't want to be.

Where those ladies are? That’s where you don’t want to be.

As you can see from the above photo, they proudly serve Nathan’s hot dogs here. I can vouch for the small dog being of said pedigree, but I’m not so sure about the big one. Although I could see that they do all their work on the flat top, if I had to guess I’d think they actually carve the foot-longs out of cherry or mahogany. It’s the only thing, outside of a hefty and negligent dose of overcooking, that could explain this color on a hot dog.

dadog2Let it be noted that I came here after a long, crappy day at work. I wanted to have a walk along the beach and then, seeing that Daddy’s was open, figured what the heck? How bad could it be? It’s a freakin’ hot dog at the beach.

Talk about a bad day.

I topped the big dog with mustard, since my only other choices were onions, relish, or kraut from this:

In the Old Country, they use tales of the outdoor Serv-Ya-Self station to scare children.

In the Old Country, they use tales of the outdoor Serv-Ya-Self station to scare children.

So, yeah. Just mustard. As for the chili dog, it didn’t take an encased meat expert to tell that it wasn’t a good sign when the counter gal had to poke at it with her ladle to loosen it up. It was sitting in a bin on the flattop, so one might figure, you know, warmth.

Yeah, no.

If this was a tag team, it'd be the Legion of Doom.

If this was a tag team, it’d be the Legion of Doom.

I dove into the big one first. Overcooked, indeed. The large, dry-griddled bun tried to help but a) it could have used some butter and b) it was busy holding a big, overcooked hot dog. Then, adding insult to injury, I took a nice bite of the chili dog and was treated to, yes, quite cold chili. Again, maybe I should have known when the chili actively fought being put on the hot dog. But no, I had to taste it to learn the error of my ways.  And I don’t mean this was a little less warm than one might like. It was, hey this chili is cold cold. Like, I should be ashamed to sell this chili cold.

I am sure that Daddy’s does a brisk business on hot summer days, selling to non-discerning, non-hot-dog-blogging folks whose only culinary criteria is the fact that it’s literally 50 yards from the beach. And maybe one of the little dogs, on such a day, with just a schmear of mustard would more or less hit the spot. I mean, it’s a Nathan’s dog, how bad can that be? (Under normal circumstances.) But this is not a spot for people who appreciate a good dog. What they do here would just make you cry. It makes me miss the old Joe & Nemo’s that was back down the beach a-ways. Those folks knew how to make a dog. Daddy’s doesn’t.

Daddy’s Dogs
Nantasket Ave, Hull, MA

John Speaks Frankly About the Franks at Frank’s

July 18, 2013
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Frank’s restaurant is something of an institution in Brockton, MA. Once the food side of a popular nightclub that’s now a strip joint, Frank’s has been churning out fried seafood, burgers and dogs for decades. You’d think that since I grew up in the area I might have set foot in there before. But I hadn’t. Now at last I have, and I sort of wish…I hadn’t. For me, Frank’s turned out to be a “one man’s treasure” proposition and while folks rave about the fried seafood–and a lot of people got seafood while I was there–it’s not a great find for a hot dog hunter.

Behold, Throg! It is the ancient rune of Yech, here on thy table!

Behold, Throg! It is the ancient rune of Yech, here on thy table!

So what was wrong? Well, the lack of cleanliness was obvious from the moment I walked in the door. Smushed french fries in several places on the floor, every free table badly in need of a wipe-down. After I ordered I sat down, opting for what I think was the cleanest booth–the one that had  just a decorative, ancient-runic swirl of some sort of leftover sauce at its center, which I took a picture of before getting a napkin and wiping it off.

The only dog listed on the menu board is “hot dog,” so when the counter guy asked what I wanted on my two, I played it safe with mustard and onions. The dogs and the rolls get done on the flat-top and while the rolls get a decent toasting, a little schmear of butter wouldn’t have hurt. The dogs were a standard, okay meat frank that didn’t pick up much snap from the griddle, but they were of a decent size, so points there. The onions had that pale, vinegary tang that says “We’ve been here a while!”, so loss of points there.

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My visit was late in the afternoon and I’d gotten hungry enough to eat just about anything. In fact, I had been looking for an entirely different (non-dog) place and couldn’t find it. So I landed at Frank’s by default. And that was my fault. I think it would have to be under these exact conditions, or one that involved a very late evening and a more-than-reasonable amount of adult beverages, that I’d opt for a dog from Frank’s again.  Maybe I’ll go back for the fish & chips sometime. I hear they’re good.

Frank’s
265 N. Pearl St., Brockton MA

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