The Three Amigos Go South
I’ve been a very bad New Englander who chronicles my hot dog experiences; this blog has almost entirely ignored Rhode Island, our state’s tiny neighbor to the south with the exception of Alex’s trip during the Newport Fest last year. Trying to make up for the error of my ways, I called up my buddy Hank (who has posted about Hot Doug’s, pigs in the poke, and plates of garbage) and proposed a venture down south. Now Hank’s got some real cred as a foodie, as I believe he has made every recipe and variation in Mark Bittman’s cookbooks, but we couldn’t rest on our laurels alone. No sir, we needed an authority on food in its entirety, so we called in the big guns–Hank’s brother Brian, a local chef who has been to just about every restaurant and food manufacturer in New England.
Brian did some recon before we headed south; of course, what I mean by recon is him heading down to the same places we were slated to go and eating there just a day or two before our trip. Gotta love that guy, he’s totally dedicated and should probably be a food tour guide for New England. Oh, I can just see it now: the busloads of already-plump elderly people, spilling out in to the streets with the meal from an hour ago still on their breath and shirt fronts, waiting to try and stuff a few more minutes of fun into their desperately dreary lives.
Holy crap, where did I go there? Sorry guys. Enough of that, let me introduce you to our first stop, the amazing Graham’s, home of the most beat up sign I’ve ever seen north of the Mason-Dixon. What drew us to this hallowed ground (an institution that’s been around as long as Bob Dylan’s career) was word from Brian that they served a chorizo and baked bean hot dog. Thank God for the Portuguese, that’s all I can say.
You step in to Graham’s and you’re met with about ten tables and some of the most time-tested hot dog cooking instruments–the flat top grill. This one didn’t have any sides to it so I was surprised that there wasn’t a pile of hot dogs lying on the floor behind it; who knows, maybe there was and I just didn’t have the right perspective on it.
Whoever built this place had the assembly works in mind, because when you step in the HDJ you’re immediately faced with the counter and a wide array of bubbling pots. condiments, and the steam cellar for the buns. It took less than a split second for the three of us to simultaneously order up some chorizo and baked bean hot dogs.
Well, at this point I’d be telling you about how great those baked bean and chorizo hot dogs were, if only we had the opportunity to taste them; they had already run out. Unfortunately when you’re a hot dog blogger you’ve got to deal with a little bit of disappointment now and then, and I’m not talking about being served a sub-par hot dog. For example, I’ve hiked Mt. Monadnock at least twice a year and haven’t been able to get down the mountain quick enough to get in an amazing footlong with pepper relish at the Dog House from its lovely (and a little cantankerous) elderly proprietress since 2008. At least twice I’ve pulled in to the lot as she’s wiping up the counter but I just can’t get her to give in and throw one on the grill for me. C’est la vie when you’re a hot dog blogger.
We quickly buried our sorrow, however, because we’re the kind of men who only let our wives catch us crying–they’re usually the reason why we’re crying in the first place anyway–and switched gears to try Graham’s baked bean and chili hot dog.
So we got our dogs doused with some mustard and raw onions, topped off with a couple of spoonfuls of chili sauce and some baked beans.
This is Brian. He’s blurry (like most of the other photos you’ll see following–guess I got too excited) but he’s also one of the happiest guys you’ll see, especially when he knows he’ll be feasting on delicious tube meat!
I’ll take a moment and fess up–I had mentioned we were going to Rhode Island but Graham’s is in Fall River, MA, which is just on the border. The dog that Graham’s is known for, the baked bean and chorizo dog, is unlike the New York System style that you find in Rhode Island but it is representative of the town of Fall River, which has a very robust Brazilian community. This dog, however, was a New York System with baked beans on it–a crazy amalgam of the fishing town’s age-old desire for saucy, sweet beans and the very dry and spicy New York System chili.
After tasting the dog I was a little afraid that we had reached greatness too soon. The sweetness of the beans were layered with a bit of smokiness but then the chili made its presence felt through a slow burn that was just right. I’d never had anything like it before and made quick work of the two dogs I ordered.
Hank’s came a little oversauced and ended up with a bun malfunction even before it left the prepping area, so he got a dainty tray for his dog with a fork (which came in handy to scoop up all of the beans that jumped ship while he was eating).
After bidding Graham’s a fond farewell and swearing a blood oath that we’d be back to get a chorizo and bean dog we drove to Providence, ready shove a few more hot wieners in our mouth. Yes, I am saying that because of the sign below for Olneyville. A word of the wise: in Rhode Island you see “hot wieners” being advertised on at least two types of businesses, so you’ve got to make sure you’re going to the right place.
We had brought a few road sodas and planned on grabbing these dogs to take outside where we could enjoy a frosty brew; the table with about ten swat team officers caused us to rethink out plans, so we ended up with some coffee milks and a few New York System wieners.
As we were waiting to get our dogs, however, CNN decided to ask that most important question: why don’t black people trust the police? At that point the officers kicked over their chairs and charged out of the building, presumably to find CNN headquarters and teach them a thing or two about prejudice.
Now here’s a guy that I don’t trust: Guy Fieri. It’s like when you see someone who drives a Rolls Royce, a really immaculate car with the chrome glistening and the wheels gleaming. The illusion is totally dispelled when he steps out of the car and you realize he’s wearing sandals with black socks pulled up to his knees, a thin brilliant white line of leg showing before they’re covered by a dingy pair of shorts being held up by a natty braided belt. He’s got taste, but not in all the areas where it counts.
Okay, I got that out of my system. Anyway, about the dogs: these were almost as different from the Fall River dogs as you could get. The chili was pretty black and absolutely dry; as Brian succinctly described it, almost like the scrapings you get at the top of the sauce pan. There was a little bit of spice to the chili but the sharpness of the onions overwhelmed it. A quick dip in some cold water probably could have done the onions a bit of good to drain out the pungency but I’ve run across this at quite a few stands. The dog was pretty amazing, a snappy casing with some less-than-finely ground chunks of pork within.
Thank God the cops ruined our road soda party because the coffee milks stole the show. I’d never had one before but I’ve been jonesing for them ever since. You can buy coffee milk syrups that you mix with milk but I’ve found I can get my fix with leftovers from the morning’s coffee, simple syrup, and a lot of milk.
This last pic was due to Brian’s insisting that I get a proper shot of the snub-nosed end of his dog. When they’re making the dogs at Onleyville they’ll have a long rope of these dogs, not tied off like usual, that they cut into links when prepping. Sometimes you get lucky and find an extra bit of length to your wiener, I guess.