When given a choice to drive or fly somewhere, I drive. First, it’s great because I don’t have to submit to the humiliating tactics of the TSA agents who are the most blatant fetishists of the 21st century; second I get to see parts of the country that otherwise look like great green, brown, or grey patches as you whiz above them at 30,000 feet; and third because it gives me an easy excuse to stop by new and interesting hot dog stands or revisit my old favorites. This past February while driving out to Northeast Indiana to visit family I got to do both–stop by my favorite stand in Scranton, PA and try out a new one in the Cleveland burbs.
I know most people only know Scranton from the television show The Office, but if you’re lucky enough to find yourself driving through town anywhere near lunch time you must stop at Coney Island Lunch. Because we had our new dog along for the ride we weren’t able to eat in, which is a shame because there’s so much baseball memorabilia lining the walls that I keep myself entertained reading it while chowing down on some phenomenal Greek sauce-laden weenies. For those of you who read the blog, you’ll remember I visited Coney Island Lunch in 2009 and I’m happy to say nothing about it has changed–Pete’s still winning local awards for the restaurant and kicking out a consistently delicious hot dog. I was honored to get a quick conversation in with the maestro and find out that he’s a reader of the blog; he didn’t believe me at first when, after he asked what I was doing in town, I told him I stopped by just for his hot dog. Honestly, his place stands out in my opinion as the quintessential Greek sauce dog. Heightening my appreciation is that they have some of the best shirts of any hot dog stand–even though it fits a little snugly I love wearing the one I own that’s emblazoned with their slogan: you can’t beat our wiener.
Wee-Bey will be figuring in to the blog a lot more, especially as Spring nears. Another thing I love about hot dog stands is that so many are outside, so that she’ll be able to join us for some fine dining. Here she was feigning sleep to try and lull us into a sense of confidence, just to the point where we weren’t looking and then she’d be able to grab some of our lunch.
I won’t go into too much detail about the dog since I’ve posted about it before but I just had to share another shot–I love the neon orange stain that the sauce has left in the wrapper, as well as the uniqueness of presentation. I don’t know of any other place that serves dogs on a sandwich bun but I’m sure our readers will be able to come up with a few.
Sam agrees with me that Pete serves up some of the best hot dogs we’ve had. She had both of her dogs packed away before I even started on my second!
Another favorite of Samantha’s is their fries, which she liberally coats with cheese and gravy. Thankfully Sam only spilled the gravy once, and that was directly into her mouth so it didn’t make that much of a mess.
On the way home I was more excited than a child anticipating Christmas Day. While getting everything together for the trip I realized Sam & I were driving through the Cleveland area during lunch time not once, but twice! While that might cause most people to shrug I found it to be one of the most wonderful coincidences because I knew that our fearless contributor from Ohio, Banksy, happens to live in the area. After some back-and-forth texting we settled on stopping in at Hot Dog Heaven. Delayed by a funeral, Banksy & family didn’t arrive until Sam and I had eaten but that was probably for the best because I made a supreme pig of myself by going all-out-American on this stand and ate three hot dogs, approximately two pounds of fries and a 64 oz. of cola.
Banksy’s written about the dogs already (he was reporting from the now-defunct location in Avon) but wanted me to try what he figured to be the best dogs in the area. Since he was arriving late, he advised me via text that the chili sauce isn’t what you normally expect because it’s got quite a bit of tang to it. How right he was–it was the most delicious blend between a coney and a vinegar-based BBQ sauce, which left me a little sad that I didn’t pick some up for the road. Apparently they’ve had plans to make the sauce available in cans, as Banksy told me, but they were struggling with the flavor translating when the preservatives were introduced so hadn’t followed through with it. Kudos to them for not releasing a inferior product because this sauce was near perfect. I had one chili dog (sauce and raw white onions) and another West Virginia style. The effect that the slaw of the W VA dog was to dull down the tart brilliance of the sauce, however, so I wished I had ordered instead two of the straight chili dogs.
For the third dog I went all-out and ordered a hot dog “Salad Style”–ketchup, stadium mustard, raw white onions, pickles, relish, tomatoes, lettuce, and jalapenos. Biting into the layered vinegar and jalapeno heat was the best way to put all those miles I’d driven behind me. I love all hot dogs but when I can get one that’s as fantastically odd as this, and it tastes as good as it did, I form a deep appreciation for the stand. The dog itself really stood out in this concoction, which had a wonderfully bright pork and garlic flavor.
The best part of all was after we ate and got to spend some time with Banksy & family. I think we even won his son Ben over, taking him away from the dark side of weenie wagging and into the light that is eating a hot dog on a bun. Next time I’m driving out to visit the folks I’ll try and plan more adventures with Banksy–who knows, maybe we’ll have an even greater effect on Ben and get him to try adding condiments to his dog!
UPDATE: How could I have left the picture below out from my trip’s highlights? While back in Fort Wayne I took the chance to visit my good friend Mike, owner of Old Crown and one of the best coffee roasters in the US. During the course of our conversation I noticed he had a thirty-foot long hot dog plastered up on his wall. Turns out he bought it on a lark from a stand that went out of business; their other restaurant was one that had an endless pizza buffet for $5, which led me to solving the mystery of why so many midwesterners are corpulent. Anyway, Mike told me he had a second hot dog billboard in the back, so I shuffled in the back to take some fun pictures with my friend James.