John Goes Long at Caswell’s
It was time.
Time to knock the rust off my hot dog bloggery, shake out the slumber of a long winter’s hot-dog hibernation. I hadn’t bought a decent hot dog in months. Had barely made any at home, save for one or two half-hearted goes where Russian dressing, cheese and 30 seconds under the broiler passed for quality doggery. Like a baseball player in spring training, I needed a run to get myself back up to speed. I knew I had to come at it hard and fast and not take it easy on myself. I swung for the fence. My first dog of the season:
Would come from a seafood place.
Which was nowhere near the water.
On a Friday.
During the dinner hour.
And it/they would have cheese and chili.
I take this stuff seriously, friends. You know those guys who run into the ocean on New Years Day? This is my version of that. With hot dogs.
Caswell’s has been squatting on Route 53 in Weymouth for years. A little internet research suggests that I should in fact try the seafood for which they’re named. Go figure. But whenever I’ve driven by it (and I pass it pretty much every day in my commute), all I see are those three words on the sign: “Long Hot Dogs.” And I’ve been remiss in not stopping. Today I took care of that.
It’s a no-frills joint. Walk up to the counter, taking a moment to admire the 70s rec-room plywood paneling, and place an order with one of the teen-ennui-encumbered staff. The offerings are simple: Long dog, sauerkraut dog, chili dog, super dog. It doesn’t take a veteran reader to know which way this is going. They just might be disappointed in where it ended up.
“What’s on a super dog?” I asked.
“Cheese and bacon. And whatever else you want.”
Clearly, Caswell’s and I had differing definitions of “super.” But I ordered one anyway, adding mustard. And a chili dog, straight.
I admit it–I ordered without being mindful of the cardinal rule: that chili and cheese can lift a hot dog to celestial heights, but more often than not just causes wicked gas. Along with sadness.
But here came my dogs, after a too-lengthy wait, and first impressions were not so bad.
The dogs were, indeed, long. Perhaps six inches, slender like a Hebrew National, nicely griddled to have a bit of snap and slightly wrinkly texture. (Not bad in my book.) The rolls were buttered and griddled as well. Peeking out from under my “super” dog–saints alive, was that actual American cheese I spied? And a thick slice of perhaps-overly-warmed bacon? Indeed! I searched my chili dog for, you know, chili–since it wasn’t on top. No, Caswell’s had gone the risky route and put the chili under the dog. As you know, good reader, any liquid below the dog can cause bun malfunction! Quick inspection showed beans (baked bean size, usually a strong indicator of canned chili) along with diced peppers and onions.
There was no real “wow” to the Caswell’s dogs. They’re just good, honest, no nonsense, pound-and-go dogs. The fact that this place is on my way home from work will certainly play in its favor. The snap from the griddle was nice. Everything else was…there. The real cheese and bacon were plusses if nothing special, and the canned chili was not the worst I’ve had. On the downside, I don’t think either was worth the $3.25 price tag. (The bare long dog itself is $2.50.)
But Caswell’s served a purpose. It’s the minor-league warmup at the start of the season. It’s batting practice and stretching. The winter’s thankfully over, dog trucks will start to bloom on city streets and shuttered HDJs will open for delicious business. It’s time.
380 Washington St., Weymouth MA