Blackie’s Gas Station Hot Dogs
At Blackie’s Hot Dogs in Cheshire, CT you’re met with a one-two punch of Americana–a hot dog stand in a renovated gas station stand built in 1925. Like most things I set out to do, the original intention was soon overtaken by reality as the popularity of their hot dogs took over and claimed the business. It’s a pretty interesting (and well-written) history, probably the best one I’ve read about a stand I’ve visited–you can read the full story on their website.
Since I’m such a sucker for Americana I was a bit disappointed with myself for not having stopped by Blackie’s during my frequent trips through Connecticut on the way to see my in-laws. What sealed the deal was, in the span of one week, I saw it featured on the CT Hot Dog Tour DVD and then heard my neighbor rave about how much he loves the stand–so much so that he claimed he always brings back a couple of dozen dogs when driving through Cheshire on his way back home to Massachusetts. That, my friends, is the true face of devotion–and a sign from above that I really, really needed to visit this HDJ.
Like all great hot dog stands, this is a no-frills joint. The menu is the very definition of simplicity, providing you with only three choices: a dog, a burger, or a cheeseburger. I ordered up five–two for Sam and three for me–and patiently awaited nirvana’s bliss.
The dogs come naked, with a sheen of oil from a quick dip in the fryer and a finish on the grill. Don’t believe the sign you see in the stand–these dogs are from Hummel Bros., which seems to be the dog of choice for hot dog joints in Connecticut. The popularity of the Hummel brand extends even to Speed’s in Boston, which has a dog made only for them by Hummel. In fact, now that I’m thinking of it, I’m pretty sure that the reach of the Hummel empire has reached Maine by being the dog served at Yank’s Franks. The dogs at Blackie’s have a subtle flavor with an attendant layer of smokiness akin to a German frankfurter. The dogs have amazing snap from their natural casing, fortified by the trip to the fryer, but didn’t have any greasiness like I was expecting when I saw the sheen on the dogs.
Blackie’s doesn’t make it hard on decision-phobics because there’s only two choices of condiments: mustard and pepper relish. It felt like the kind of place where they might chase you out if you asked for ketchup–in fact, I saw a guy order three dogs to go and then duck around the corner of the building to where his kids were waiting. As he walked towards his wild-eyed kids I could have sworn that I saw a contraband bottle of ketchup tucked into the folds of his coat, ready to satiate their addiction to the sweet and syrupy goo.
The pepper relish is the pride of Blackie’s, so much a secret that the family used to make it once a year in a closely-guarded ritual that brings to mind a full moon, bubbling cauldrons, witches and their attendant familiars–though it tastes nothing like what I’d expect to be the product of eye of newt and toe of frog. The pepper has a definite heat that’s counteracted by the sweetness of the relish and is a perfect compliment to the brown mustard. Allow Sam to show you how a proper Blackie’s dog is made . . .
Voila, the perfect dog! It’s proof that in order to have a wildly successful stand you don’t need more than one type of dog–in fact, you don’t even need more than two condiments. I wish more stands (and restaurants in general) took note of that recipe for success because all too often I’ve been forced to sit and dither when faced with a dozen choices and most are mediocre at best.
And, as always, see below for the chow shot. I wonder, is there any other blog out there that disgusts people as much without having to make references to two girls, one cup? You don’t have to answer that . . . .