First off, I really should not be allowed to watch shows like Man V. Food because whenever I see a Really Good Dog on TV, I immediately start working out the logistics of getting there–wherever “there” may be. Seriously, if some program showed me what was clearly the universe’s greatest hot dog and it was only being served inside an active volcano in the South Pacific that you had to parachute into, I’d be booking a flight and signing up for skydiving lessons. Call me impressionable. So when I saw the Deputy Dog at Woody’s in Hartford, CT on MVF, and knowing that me and my son’s annual pinball and hot dog trip was coming up, I made sure this spot was on our agenda. Because, friends, we are talking about a foot-long dog topped with pulled pork, cheddar cheese, and barbecue sauce. Cardiologists of the world, rejoice.
As it turned out, timing-wise Woody’s was best targeted on our return trip from Asbury Park to the Boston area. Going down, it would have been breakfast. Coming back, a well-deserved road stop. Provided we could find it. It’s listed as 915 Main St in Hartford. And you can’t miss 915 Main St because they do this:
That’s right…they park a red Mini out front. But seriously. There it is, right? Yet nothing on the storefront says Woody’s. I had Boy check the GPS. I had him verify the address. I had him call. “It says no one’s there right now,” he told me, and I had that sinking feeling that Woody’s had gone the way of so many fine HDJs before it. Not the case. This venerable joint has been banging out the treats since 1977, and they’re not slowing down. Here’s your traveler’s tip–the sign is hanging on Pratt St. You can still go into 915 Main and get there, but your indicator is elsewhere.
So the dogs… Woody’s offers a bunch of topped dogs for about $5.25 under the heading “Woody’s Posse.” I had no question about which I was there for, and I was in a very rare “I just need one dog” mode–which may have been more of a financial matter, coming as it did at the end of a trip. It was tough to resist the allure of a slaw and chili dog, or the Hot Chihuahua, loaded with things designed to burn you from the inside out, or the gluttonous glee of a dog with bacon and macaroni and cheese on it. But I stuck to my guns and bellied up for the Deputy Dog while Boy surprised me by ordering a Godfather (peppers, marinara and mozzarella)
The dogs–and I neglected to ask the brand–are griddled on the flat-top. The buns go up there, too, and get a nice dose of melted butter as they toast. Both dogs were amply covered with the glory of melty cheese. I commented to Boy, mid-dog, that I would go back just to order the pulled pork. It was tender and flavorful, with a nice kick in the sauce. I kept getting big strands of it in each mouthful, so it seems they don’t skimp.
Boy was busy powering through his Italianate treat, but stopped wolfing it down long enough to tell me the marinara was “nice.” I left him to it as he had a lot of gooey mozzarella to fight.
This is a pretty decent amount of dog for five bucks, and was easily the best treat of our trip. Boy was bummed at the lack of variety at Rawley’s on the way down, and I’ve probably had my last dog at Max’s down at the shore because there’s only so much unchanged fryolator grease one man can ingest. But if we find ourselves passing through Hartford again, we’ll be stopping at Woody’s. And this time we’ll know where to look.
915 Main St although the sign is on Pratt St
Mike and I were recently talking about blogging and children. Since we both have some at this point, we have realized that there’s not much time for long-form blogging. I mean, it’s 11pm and this is the only time I have to do this? I should’ve been asleep an hour ago! So I will be trying to shorten things up with these posts!
Today I went to a local lunch spot called Subsational near my job in the Midwood section of Brooklyn. It’s an area with a variety of cultures all mashing together including Russian, Turkish, Uzbek, Tajik, Georgian, and Orthodox Jewish (I’m sure I’m forgetting some others). It’s been great getting a chance to have some awesome kabobs, Turkish kasarli pide, and Uzbek samosas during my lunch breaks. Subsational is a glatt kosher restaurant where you find a lot of young orthodox Jewish guys hanging out getting a quick bite to eat. I recently saw that they added a few styled hot dogs to the menu and figured it would be good to go there around the 4th of July. I decided to order the Chilli Dog and the Fiesta Dog.
The dogs are all-beef (Kosher, remember?), sliced down the middle and put on a flat top to grill. The people behind the counter said that they use a brand of dogs called Solomon. They said they could not use Hebrew National, which I think is because the dogs are kosher but not glatt kosher. The fiesta dog is topped with chipotle slaw, honey mustard, salsa rojo, and tortilla crunch. It had an overall tangy taste, with different world colliding between the slaw and the salsa/tortilla elements. I liked it and found that these disparate tastes worked well together.
My next dog was the Chilli Dog, which is topped with short-rib chili. I’m not usually a chili dog guy, but I decided to give it a whirl. I’m glad I did. Yes, the way it looks in the photo is kind of a mess. The bun couldn’t hold up to the weight of the chili, and I had to eat it with a fork and knife. But…that was some damn good chili! It was not a cumin-heavy chili, but was almost like a sweeter BBQ-like chili, with kidney beans, black beans, and the occasional shredded short-rib. I washed it all down with a small order of sweet-potato fries which could feed two people, and then headed back to work. I love that in a neighborhood filled with a ton of culturally diverse food, you can still find a great hot dog!
Subsational 1928 Coney Island Avenue, Brooklyn NY
Firstly, let’s wish Mike a happy first Father’s Day! I don’t think dogs were a part of his day, but I think he did get around to smoking some meat. Nice one, Mike! As for me, I wasn’t planning on any dogs. My plan for my second Father’s Day involved donuts and BBQ, not necessarily at the same time. Ali started off a perfect day for me by picking up a ham egg & cheese sandwich, and my favorite lemon poppy donut from Dough. We eventually went out and walked over to Prospect Park, where a dozen food trucks were parked by the front entrance. One of them happened to be Crif Dogs. I wasn’t planning on getting a dog, but Father’s Day is a great reason to eat anything I want. And thus, I ate the Spicy Red Neck.
The Spicy Red Neck is a house dog (beef & pork, smoked & deep fried), wrapped in bacon, and topped with chili, jalapeños and cole slaw. A nice package overall: a chili tasting like brisket, hot peppers and creamy cole slaw. Disclaimer: I’m personally not a big fan of bacon-wrapped hot dogs, because I think they can overpower the taste of the dog itself. But I like this red neck and it was the perfect mid-afternoon Father’s Day snack. Thank Crif Truck! And thanks to my gals for making it a great day!
One of the things I’ve learned about having a 1 year-old is the existence of the time suck. One day you’re at a restaurant sampling different kinds of regional and international encased meats, and the next thing you know, it’s 2 or 3 months later. Just sucked right out of the hot dog bun of life. And you say to yourself “Ok, tonight’s the night when I write about this HDJ…if I don’t fall asleep at 9:00pm.” So here are some portions of my memory which are still intact. We took the little gal to the circus for the first time in New Brunswick NJ. After watching her amazed and puzzled face react to twirling hula hoops and gravity-defying acrobats, we headed with some friends over to Destination Dogs!
This is a place that opened up in the past few years and that I’ve heard about from friends, because New Brunswick is the home of my alma mater, Rutgers University. Once in a while, I have the chance to head back there and check out the town. Returning with my little lady was fun, and while I didn’t indulge in the cuisine that’s famous in New Brunswick, I was looking forward to hanging out in my old stomping grounds. It’s my understanding that Destination Dogs recently moved to its current location, a sizable space that was the former home of Doll’s Place, a long standing bar which itself moved out of its previous watering-hole space into something more current with nicer floors, large windows, and a sleek wooden bar. When you look around and check out the menu, you realize it’s a few steps above your typical hot dog joint. This is definitely on the artisanal end of the hot dog spectrum, both in ingredients and prices, ranging from $4.25-$10.50 per dog. There’s only tables and bar seating, with servers coming to your table to take your order. Don’t expect to get a dog with a strip of mustard. I’m a sucker for places like this, in a good way. These guys don’t just put on a bunch of toppings and give it a cute name (like that reference, Mike?), but also use different types of sausages and think about regional ingredients.
The main thing you notice are the use of airport codes. You realize they correspond to the different cities used as names for the dogs. Then you realize, if you’re hot dog or food nerds, that there is a concerted effort to use foods known for those particular areas: Cuban style for Miami; potatoes, onions & peppers for Newark; Chicharrones for Texas; patatas bravas for Spain! They even keep accurate names of dogs from other areas of the world, like the completo for Chile, and the Choripan from Argentina. I was drawn to two particular dogs that I’ve tried at other HDJ’s, and there’s just something about these combos that pull me in: the Vietnamese Bun Mi and the Greek Achilles Meal. If there are two sandwiches that are hard for me to pass up, it’s a banh mi and a gyro.
I’m doing a bit of a disservice to these guys and can’t really go into details on the taste, because it feels like I went there 100 years ago. But I remember really liking them, and thinking I’d like to sample more. The Bun Mi is comprised of grilled pork sausage (that well exceeded the length of the bun), shaved foie gras (maybe as a substitute for the pork pate), pickled vegetables, jalapeños, sriracha mayo (a nice twist instead of straight sriracha), and cilantro all on top of a beautifully buttered and toasted split top roll. The Achilles Meal consisted of lamb sausage, tzatziki sauce, tomato, shredded cabbage, and green onions again in a dark brown toasted split top bun. You can also check out great pics of all the encased meat selections from the menu on their website.
I’m pretty positive that Ali ordered the Kansas City Beefs (from Missouri), an all-beef dog with pulled bbq beef short ribs, cole slaw, and green onions on a split top. And my buddy John got The Hebrew Hammer, which they label as Israel but would probably more accurately be classic NY jewish deli. I picture an Israeli dog having falafel and hummus, but the Hebrew Hammer is an all-beef dog blanketed by a potato latke, spicy brown mustard and green onions.
New Brunswick is typically known for serving sandwiches containing fried everything to soak up the inebriation of a long night (my favorite contained a cheesesteak, gyro, french fries and hot sauce all in one). I can’t eat those anymore since I’m at an age where you have to start caring about what you eat. But for those of you who are interested in going a few notches up with casual food, this is the place to check out. And bring the kids!
Destination Dogs 101 Paterson Street, New Brunswick NJ
I fell in love with the Sonoran-style hot dog in 2010 on a trip to Tucson. I mean, what’s not to love? A bacon-wrapped hot dog loaded with beans, onion, jalapenos, mustard and mayo–it’s the indiscriminate eater’s dream, really. In my area, however, they’re a bit hard to come by. Last year I met our hot dog overlord, Mike, at Que Padre in Boston for an excellent version, but that’s a 25-plus mile drive for me. So imagine my joy at finding that I could cut that distance in half and get my Sonoran on.
But was it worth the drive? Well, if the headline hasn’t already clued you in, let’s take a look.
Roxanne’s Taqueria is a “Mexican street food” joint tucked away in a strip mall in Stoughton, MA. Along with what looked like quite-good tacos, tortas, quesadillas and burritos, they offer a rock-solid, textbook Sonoran dog. Now, I am going to admit that I worried at first. I asked for the dog and the kid behind the counter pulled a bit of a wtf face. I worried that maybe the Sonoran dogs only came out on special days. I didn’t feel any better about it when he asked the other guy if they had any Sonorans. My worries were slightly assuaged when he pulled a pair of sizable bacon-wrapped dogs out of a bin in the fridge. (Then my thought was, So how long have those been in there?) Maybe it was just the kid’s lack of social skills shining through, but I needn’t have worried. That love-encased Kayem all-beef dog hit the flat top to get the bacon going. Later in the process, when the bacon had crisped up nice and the dog was browning, it was split and turned face-down. I believe they also warm up the classic bolillo roll as well. Then come the avalanche of toppings: red pintos a-plenty, tomato, onion, a jalapeno sauce with nice texture and kick, mustard and an aioli.
This is a very hearty dog. The bacon is perfect, just to the crisp side of chewy, and it stands in for the snap on this (I believe) skinless dog. The toppings are fresh and overflowing. This is a grab-a-fork dog. The bolillo is soft and delicious and more or less up to the task of keeping the whole show together. But do be warned–with any Sonoran dog, there is so much going on in the toppings department, you’re going to end up wearing some of it. Or at least doing your makeup with it. I knocked down two of these luscious killers (at about $5.85 a throw) and came out of Roxanne’s quite dog-satisfied. When the blog crew hit Que Padre, we all agreed that they served up a very fine Sonoran. I would put Roxanne’s easily on par with them, and it stood up very well to memory of my Tucson introduction. This is a trip I’ll make again.
95 Sharon St
All right, so the term “hot dog” does not appear in the name 5Guys Burgers and Fries. Maybe it should. Because despite being known for juicy burgers and an overly generous hand in the french fry department, this chain can knock out a pretty decent dog.
Normally I shy away from large-chain hot dogs. To me, they lack a real hot dog joint vibe, which is part of the whole hot dogging experience. But it was Saturday night before a viewing of Spider-Man 2, the place was right there, and I was feeling doggy. Good thing.
5Guys serves a Hebrew National all-beef dog (a quarter-pounder, perhaps?), split and slapped on the griddle. The casing gets a good snap and the open side takes on a nice light browning. The dog goes into a standard soft hot dog roll, and then the magic happens. For starters, while you can have your dog as is, you can also choose either cheese or cheese and bacon. Please note that I say “choose” like there’s even an actual choice to be made when cheese and bacon are on the line. But then it gets better: every condiment listed for your average 5Guys burger is also available for your dog. That’s 15 mix-and-match things right there, waiting for you, you encased-meats Picasso, to paint your own little masterpiece. You say it, they put it on, no extra charge.
I opted for two bacon and cheese dogs with my usual 5Guys toppings: grilled onions and grilled jalapenos. The bacon comes in big, full strips and just a little chewy, the way I like it, and I would gladly pay to sit down with a bucket of their grilled onions and a fork. American cheese goes all melty in the mix. The bun on my first dog was up to the task of holding in the goods, but the second had a bottom-seam blowout–which was fine. Just turn that sucker sideways and chow down.
There’s something about the 5Guys dog that sets it apart from the usual iffy franchise hot dog. Maybe it’s just that freedom of toppings. At over $4 a whack for the bacon and cheese version, loading up the toppings is a way to feel like you’re getting your money’s worth. But even as a straight-up dog, it’s hard to go wrong with Hebrew Nationals and a flat-top. Definitely a dog worth checking out.
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?”
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 . . . .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 . . . .
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.
Sam and Ashley (Hank’s wife) always joke that Hank and I are sweet on each other. I think this picture proves them wrong.
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!