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John and Boy Get Spiked

September 28, 2010

A number of years ago, I worked in Providence. At some point someone told me about Thayer Avenue, a funky little stretch of street in the heart of Brown University territory. It was there that I first came across Spike’s Junkyard Dogs.

I think what struck me most about Spike’s in those early visits was how they managed to put together a hot dog without anyone ever actually touching my food. It was a masterful bit of dexterity involving tongs and knives and no human contact with the goods. Even if the dogs hadn’t been mighty tasty, Spike’s would have gotten high marks from me just based on that bit of skill.

Thus began a long-standing love affair with Spike’s. While it was much too close to my office back then to be any good for my gut, now that I live outside a reasonably drivable distance–yes, even for a good dog there’s only so far I’m willing to drive–it makes a nice “special occasion” dog joint. And it helps that they’re now in Boston, too.

Boy and I spent a couple of hours at Lego Kids Fest at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston recently. There were concession stands in the Center, but my religion, The First Universal Church of the Holy Cheapass, prevents me from dropping ten bucks on heat-lamped chicken tenders. Knowing that we were a short walk from the Spike’s on Boylston Street, and knowing that Boy wouldn’t say no, I declared that to be our lunch destination.

Spike’s is now almost too “chain”y for me to want to go in. I prefer my dog joints to be sort of ronin, outsiders, little places fighting to be themselves and still stand out. But, like I said, they had me at “Hello, what can I get you” back in the early 2K’s. The thing about Spike’s is that they serve a thick, beefy dog that’s got a great bit of spice in it. A good snap to the casing and an almost peppery aftertaste. Boy likes how “juicy” they are. (This has proven to be his go-to Word of Approval…juicy.)

And then there’s the rolls. I have to say that I think Spike’s is right on the cusp of being too bread-heavy. (And Boy agrees.)  What saves them is that the rolls are freshly baked, served still warm, crusty on the outside and oh so soft inside. It’s a little slice of French bread, really. And it’s good. They sell the rolls individually–not something you’re going to find a lot of standard HDJs doing.

The lineup, clockwise from bottom left: the Ball Park, That Dog The Kid Always Orders, and the Patriot. Plus fries.

Boy had his usual, the dog with ketchup. (Hereafter and going forward referred to as an “Original Sin Dog.”) He powered through 99% of it, along with a side of skin-on curly fries, before announcing his surrender to fullness. And in the fries we have another point of enduring love for Spike’s. The fries are great. I’d say more, but that pretty much sums it up: great fries.

If you look at it the right way, it looks like some to the left is forcing my child to eat a hot dog with ketchup on it. That at least lets me sleep better at night, rather than admitting that he does it willingly.

As for me, I went with variations on a theme: the Patriot Dog, with mustard, bacon and cheddar and the Ballpark Dog with mustard, cheddar and onions. The Spike’s mustard is a standard spicy brown, and it’s got a respectable kick to it. It played nicely with the onions, but overpowered the bacon bits–which, it must be said, could have had a stronger presence anyway. If you’re going to say there’s bacon on the hot dog, make sure there’s BACON on the hot dog.  As for the cheese, every Spike’s dog spends a minute or so under a broiler to give it the melty bubbliness aspect I love. And yes, I just invented the word “bubbliness.” Use it.

Hot dog photography 101: Don't light the shot from behind. But look at that gooey cheese!

As my love for little standalone dog places grows, my love of Spike’s diminishes just slightly. It seems less original. Less funky. But I’ll still go when I’m in the area. Fact is, Spike’s serves a quality hot dog and even after years of visits, I’m still pretty sure no one’s ever touched my food. That’s got to count for something.

Spike’s Junkyard Dogs
Locations throughout MA and RI.

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 29, 2010 7:16 am

    when I first moved to Boston I did the thing that everyone under the age of 30 does–moved to Allston. at the time I worked second shift at a hotel downtown and would come home just near midnight. for those of you who’ve visited Allston, you’re well aware that there’s only two places near Harvard & Comm Ave that sell hot food at that time of night–that horrible Redneck’s BBQ joint and Spike’s. so if it had been a busy night at the hotel, which it almost always was, I would be forced to curtail my dinner until I got back to Allston and make a trek to Spike’s. I would usually be their last customer of the night but the dog never let me down–the fries were always amazing, the dog robust and never overcooked, and the bun never stale. since moving away I haven’t visited Spike’s–there’s just too many places in New England to hit up–but it’s always been a fond memory of a dinner, paired with a few brews, to take the edge off of a rough night dealing with fussy travelers.

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