The Snappy Dogs of Hopkinton, MA
It’s a bit of a story about why I found myself out in Hopkinton, MA on my one day off during the week. I work at a public library and was putting together a guide to social ratings & review websites like Yelp and TripAdvisor when something caught my eye on Urbanspoon–there was a new photo posted of a place called Snappy Dogs. Thinking this could mean nothing but a hot dog stand I’d never heard of, I clicked on the link and followed it to the Snappy Dog website. Already I was intrigued; it was a pretty good-looking site, and one of the owners sported a pretty awesome cowboy hat. So I read on–the condiment menu was amazing, with almost everything home made, and these two ladies (Lisa & Teresa) built the stand by hand so that they could live the dream of grilling hot dogs for public consumption. I took the additional step of linking to their facebook page and was rewarded with an instant yearning to visit that next day–it was there that I learned they do a special dog every Friday, steamed in an alcoholic beverage of their choice. Need I say more?
One day and an hour-long drive later, I pulled up to their stand along Route 85, just 0.2 miles from the start point of the Boston Marathon. How did I know this? Well, because in the hour plus I spent there in conversation with Lisa & Teresa they told me that. They also showed me a “26.4” sticker a customer of theirs had made for them (a play on all the 26.2 stickers that have come into vogue) and told me some other stories about race day that you’ll have to get straight from them (too hot for the Internet!).
Okay, by now you must have the idea that I enjoyed myself while visiting. And I did–immensely. Even if it wasn’t for their top-notch hot dogs, I would have come away happy just because of the genuine enthusiasm Teresa & Lisa have for hot dogs in particular and life in general. These are the kind of owners whose business could squeak by with an inferior product, relying solely on their personalities to bring back customers. But, sweet Jesus, those hot dogs! Their last specialty Friday Fun dog had really caught my eye and I was pretty interested in seeing how their idea of a weekly beer-steamed dog translated from conception to execution.
Ten years and what seems like a lifetime ago, my friend Quinn and I drove cross-country on I-80, making our way to Seattle to live for a few months on couches and the generosity of local hobos. During what must have been the 28th hour of straight driving, we saw a sign in the middle of the nowhere (Kansas maybe?) advertising a freak show farm with a 400 pound prairie dog. I haven’t thought much about it since, until I was reminded of it by the monstrous size of Teresa & Lisa’s Friday specialty, the Prairie Dog–an all-beef Pearl frank simmered in Guinness and covered with B&M baked beans, bacon bits, mustard, and smoked cheddar with bits of bleu cheese. You can order the specialty dog in two sizes–big (1/2 lb. I think?) or little (the typical 1/8 lb. dogs)–and I decided to go big. That also meant that the toppings went big, so I was served with a full meal for my first dog. It was the most sweet and savory dog I have ever had, with the slight sweetness of the Colella’s bun and baked beans complementing the heartiness of the beef hot dog, bacon, and smoked cheddar. Every once in a while I would also get a bite of bleu cheese, which would brighten up the flavors a little bit. It really showed off the ingenuity of the chefs and absolutely a perfect way to be introduced to a new stand. It was also an amazingly messy hot dog, but who cares when you’re eating outside and have god’s green earth to spill onto?
I had to take a rest in between dogs because I had a big breakfast just hours before (I hear what you’re thinking, and I don’t know what the hell I was thinking either) so Teresa, Lisa and I settled into some conversation. While Lisa was talking she stopped mid-sentence and said something like “oh no, there’s the nude man again!” And there he was, a man lounging on his second-story porch with no shame at all about his birthday suit. You can almost see him in the picture, just above the cab of that red truck. Hello nude man!
Rather than putting me off my appetite, the appearance of the nude man instilled in me a newborn drive to power through another hot dog in order to try the wide range of toppings Lisa & Teresa make. So how best to do that when you can only have one more dog? I solved my dilemma by putting a taste of the condiment on each bite of the dog. First I started off with Teresa’s uncle’s green tomato relish, a side-effect of an overabundance of green tomatoes in his garden. It was reminiscent of the pickled green tomato from Superdawg, with a very subtle spicing and wonderful vinegar flavor.
Next up is their Dr. Pepper BBQ sauce, which I’ve seen once before but have never tried. The Dr. Pepper gave a zesty flavor which made the BBQ sauce have a little more kick without all the heat. I wanted to smuggle some home and see what it did to a well-rubbed smoked pork butt (insert joke here).
Bite #3 was a rhubarb chutney, apparently a popular condiment at the stand and I can see why. The curry in the chutney had a lot of power to it but the strong tart sweetness of the rhubarb won through in the end.
Following a kick to the tastebuds was the zuchinni relish, another wonderfully balanced relish that didn’t stomp on the original flavor of the vegetable.
Now those of you who know me should be well aware that I will kick someone’s teeth out if I take them to a respectable hot dog stand and see them going for the bottle of ketchup. Know then that the chipotle ketchup at Snappy Dogs is my one exception to the rule, friends! Again, it’s the right mixture of heat and sweet that make this one a winner.
Last, but certainly not least, was their pickle relish. Now pickle relish isn’t something I’m overly fond of. I think New England hot dogs is one of the weakest condiment combinations out there, and usually hot dog vendors just phone it in when making the dog. Heck, I haven’t been to a stand outside of New England that even advertises this combo, so it’s obvious the rest of the country doesn’t think much of it either. But with a pickle relish like this one, I’d be proud to serve a New England dog.
After running through most, but not all of the condiments, I was faced with a bit of a challenge–what would work with what and how to put them together? I’m still trying to figure that out, because they all work so well on their own my mind isn’t creative enough to blend them together. I think I would have to go back and do some kitchen testing with Teresa & Lisa. So what do you say guys, do I have an invite?
Before leaving, Lisa sent me home with a gift of a whoopie pie, another of their home made and signature items. I was pretty stuffed after the two dogs, so I ended up sharing it with my wife who declared it to be the best whoopie pie she’s ever had. Sorry Teresa & Lisa, she tends to say that about everything (which is why I love her) but it really was the best whoopie pie I’ve ever had. The filling wasn’t too sticky or sweet, just the right amount of buttercream to satisfy and not stand in the way of the delicious chocolate buns.
In closing, I have to ask you this: who’s got two thumbs and is the laziest hot dog blogger out there? This guy! Many apologies to the wonderful women of Snappy Dogs–thanks for the great visit, I couldn’t have had a better time or better dogs, sorry it took so long to post this and I’m looking forward to the next time!