John Goes to Tex’s.
The building in this photo has taunted me for years. It dares me to enter, knowing that appearances go a long way with me. This is Tex Barry’s Coney Island in Attleboro, MA. Tex Barry’s is (or was) a local hot dog legend, once a 14-joint chain now reduced to just two. Prior to finding this one in downtown Attleboro, the only other one I knew of was in downtown Brockton, MA, right next to the bus station. I never went in there because even the idea of me eating at a hot dog joint in Brockton at a bus station would’ve made my mother cry and fire up the St. Jude medal.
Now, years later, since I’ve given mom plenty of better excuses to cry, I felt I could try a Tex Barry’s dog–even in this squat little Quonset-hut-wannabe that seems like it was dropped randomly from the sky into a lonely spot between a jewelry store and a river, its little neon hot dog jutting with robust phallic gusto out into the street.
It’s pretty clear that the Tex Barry legend of yore is hanging by a soggy bun at this juncture, which is sad. I hate the idea of a joint that spent years–if not decades–as a place to be if you wanted a dog becoming that place folks used to go. Before this old vet of the hot dog wars was gone for good, I had to blogger up, get past the somewhat dilapidated look of the joint, and give it a try. After all, despite Tex’s dwindling ranks, something has kept the business going all these years.
The first thing that struck me was Tex Barry’s old-school, no-nonsense, eat-and-git-out interior. This is a place where you belly up the counter, order, eat and go. From the stools to the left-hand wall you could maybe squeeze two average guys standing shoulder to shoulder. And on an early August day at the tail end of a heat wave, the place really could have used an air conditioner. The box fan on a chair in the back just wasn’t cutting it.
This next photo shows us an element of the Tex Barry experience that, really, can be considered both good and bad. Good is that the Kayem meat franks are cooked on a gorgeous old gas-flame-fired flat griddle covered with aluminum
foil, and they’re kept warm and slow-cookin’ in three different zones. As you can see, the far left is the “ready for eating” area, the middle is “on deck,” and to the right is “maybe we can freeze these and serve them tomorrow.” Bad is that these dogs were there when I went in and no one else came while I was there. I’m not saying I think they’re serving up a heaping helping of salmonella at Tex’s; I just hope they actually go through this number of dogs at least twice a day. In fairness, please note that I suffered no ill effects from my visit, and in doing some online research, several folks have suggested Tex’s gets packed at lunchtime. I was there around 1 pm on a Tuesday.
As for the dogs… I can definitely see why some folks build their religion around these hot dogs. Owner Arthur Bombardier cooks up a Coney island sauce that’s sweet and meaty, a somewhat saucier take on its southern cousin, the Rhode Island Hot Weiner sauce. It sits in its little pot in the steam table, ready to be ladled onto a waiting dog.
Tex’s dogs go down quick and easy. I only ordered two, and would have plowed through four if I hadn’t just come from another HDJ. The steamed rolls are perfect, and the sauce is the kind of stuff you make sure you don’t let get away. You’ll be sopping up any excess with the bun. The hangtime on the griddle, questionable as it may seem, gives each dog a nice bit of browning for deeper flavor. The only way to take them is “all the way”–sauce, mustard and onions. (Again, like a lot of the members of the Coney/Greek sauce/Hot Weiner family.) A fountain root beer in a styrofoam cup was the ideal exclamation point on this no-frills goodness.
There will always be a place that serves Coney-style dogs, however they name them. But how long there will be a Tex Barry’s is anybody’s guess. If the internet is right, they’re doing okay down there in Attleboro, and there’s one more in Taunton, MA. They’ve even got a Facebook fan page. But just in case, I suggest you find your way to Attleboro and enjoy the simple pleasure of a few good old-fashioned Coneys at Tex’s.
31 County St., Attleboro MA