John & Boy: New England Hot Dog Company
It was a meat-filled weekend. More so than usual. On Friday I’d hit Windy City with Milkbone. Saturday morning I met up with my fellow bloggists at Boston Speed’s for, as it turned out, stunningly good pastrami. (Mike will tell you our tale of hot dog woe soon!) Sunday I offset it all with way too much ham. Then Monday rolled around. I was still craving meat.
Boy had spent Easter weekend in Vermont with his mom, so I was missing him more than usual. He was supposed to attend a karate class that night, but a touch of a cold had him begging off. I relented. With our night freed up, I told him he was about to embark on his first outing as my co-blogger. Our destination: New England Hot Dog Company on Bay Road in Taunton, MA.
Let me establish at the outset that I’m not a big fan of chains in general, and more so with hot dogs. Chains carry that feeling like they exist solely to fill a perceived niche in the market–Hey, know what people really love? Hot dogs! With small joints, diners, stands, carts, whatever, while the purveyor may recognize that people really love hot dogs, it feels more like you’re getting Hey, know what I love? Hot dogs! And now I’m gonna share!
Please note that it could just be me on this one.
Boy and I had been to the Company a couple of times before, but had never approached it with the critical eye of a blogger. Would it still pass muster? (Or mustard, even?)
As I said in my first post, Boy doesn’t do toppings. He hasn’t yet reached the age where he can legally be incarcerated for putting ketchup on a hot dog, so for now I give him leeway. So while I search dog joint menus for eclectic combos that most people wouldn’t put in their mouth on a bet, he bellies up for one dog with ketchup. It’s a workable arrangement so far. Saves me money.
There are a lot of options at the Company. Their regular dog, a “big beef” dog, foot long, Polish sausage, even… (I’m not sure I’m allowed to say this here)…turkey dogs. You can get your bun steamed or toasted, and your dog steamed or grilled. (If you don’t specify, you get a grilled dog on a toasted roll.) In this place “grilled” means cooked on a roller. I neglected to look and see if any of the dogs had that 7-11 been-waitin’-here-all-day sheen and shrivel to them. Given that the joint wasn’t exactly jumping at 6:30 pm, I should have. But when our dogs came they looked okay to me, and were still juicy on the inside. There are an impressive host of toppings for those who want to improvise, along with more than two dozen established combos–each, of course, bearing the name of a place in Massachusetts in order to keep the kitsch factor high. (Let’s throw in a small dose of irony for flavor here. The New England Hot Dog Company has five locations. One is in New England.)
The orders went in. Along with Boy’s usual, I went for (left to right in the photo) the North End (pizza sauce, mozzarella, paremesan and chunks of pepperoni) and the Nantucket (cole
slaw and mustard). I would later toy with the idea of a third, but these two filled me pretty nicely.
This is not a fast-food joint. It took a good five minutes for the three dogs to come up, but that’s a good sign. They’re back there cooking them right, getting the cheese all melty, toasting the buns… Let me tell you, friends, those were some good buns. New England style, still hanging onto the flavor of the butter they were toasted on–but not greasy with the stuff.
As for the dogs themselves: Boy approved. He told me his dog was “a little sweet, and a little tangy.” I figure he must have been tasting the ketchup, but he attributed it to the flavor of the dog. And there’s another important factor here. Boy is a sniffer. I don’t know where he gets it from, but the kid sniffs everything he eats. I only noticed it a couple of years ago. So he has a sniff test, and his dog passed that with flying colors, too. It smelled good.
I paid extra for the “big beef” dog. (There are three tiers of dog here, price-wise.) It had good strong spice to it, and a nice bite. Meaty. The rollers bring a good snap to the casing. It’s a very satisfying dog. As Boy said, at least three times to make sure his addled old man wouldn’t forget to put it in the writeup, “I’m not sure how they cook it, dad, but however they cook it, they do it right.”
The slaw on my Nantucket dog was nicely creamy with a pleasant vinegar bite. The yellow mustard underneath hardly came into play. In fact, it didn’t even have to show up, for all it brought to the table. My suggestion to the Company: a heavier hand on the mustard jar on this guy. Or a mustard with a little more attitude.
The North End was a nice pizza dog, reminiscent of the ones I used to get at Orange Julius in my misspent youth. The flavors were good, especially the quite-strong pepperoni.
A side order of crinkle-cut fries were pretty much your average taters. I hate to be a french fry snob, but I’m going to guess they come out of a big, frozen bag. But it’s our tradition to share a side, so there ya go.
Overall, I’ll let Boy pass final judgement on The New England Hot Dog Company: