I was in Natick last week and had a few hours to kill, so I started wandering around the city center. I walked by a hardware store and saw a spray painted sign in the back of a truck that said “Hot Dogs 11am” with an arrow into the store. I stopped a gentleman who was going into the store and asked him if the dogs were any good. “If you like all-beef dogs they’re okay,” he said.
I told him I was a bit of a hot dog fan (yes, I was being modest about my passion) so I sought out good dogs wherever I went. “Oh, you must have been to Casey’s then,” he replied. Admitting I hadn’t ever, the man raved about the dogs and told me I needed to go. I was only a couple of blocks away so he gave me directions and off I went.
Like all great diners Casey’s has just enough room so that it’s cozy, but if someone larger than a three-year-old sat next to you then you’re going to need to keep your elbows tucked. The front door has a trick to it, and I’m sure I wasn’t the first to be stymied by it–imagine, the nerve of a door to slide, rather than open out!
The dogs served are Old Neighborhood, a brand I was familiar with after my excursion to Lynn’s minor league ballpark with my friends Rex and Tiffany. The mixed pork and beef dogs at Casey’s have an amazing snap after being steamed, and underneath them is the standby mix (called “all around”) of onions, relish and yellow mustard. The buns are steamed in a century-old copper container, and I was really surprised at how long they kept their warmth and moistness. You can see the copper steamer behind the proprietor in the picture below.
The dogs at Casey’s are, in my estimation, Old Fashioned–meaning there’s no frills beyond the standard mix and dog. Certainly they’re nothing like the cider-marinated dogs at Speed’s, or the bacon-porn dogs at Crif’s. Then again, I wouldn’t come to a historic diner and expect those. The pleasure of eating these dogs comes from nostalgia–it’s the same dog you may have ate here with your grandfather. I’ve got my own place like Casey’s, and know the pleasure of going there.
I hate to admit it that I didn’t learn the name of the owner, who gave me the history of the diner. He’s the fourth generation owner of the diner, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. His great-grandfather started the hot dog business as a horse-drawn cart operation back when Natick was a mill town, and people came from Boston to work in the area. Now the commutes have been reversed, but the diner is considered by Natick natives as a point of pride.
I have to apologize to the guys at Casey’s Diner because this post took so long. By the end of my time at the diner, I was talking to them about my blog and the proprietor even took out his iPhone to look it up–this must be the place where the 19th and 21st centuries meet!