John & Boy’s Pinball & Hot Dog Excursion #2
Please note that if you have read any of my “John and Boy” posts in the past, this entry contains a shocking moment that may not be suitable for those of weak constitution or with a history of heart problems.
Boy and I had two things on our mind when we got in the car at ten to seven on a Saturday morning: pinball and hot dogs. No, wait, three things, because we were also going to hit the legendary Cyclone at Coney Island. So pinball, hot dogs and roller coasters. But on that first day it was pinball and hot dogs. We were off on our second annual jaunt to the Silverball Museum in Asbury Park, which meant two days of hot dog hunting as well.
I had scoped out some options, but proximity became a priority, especially after spending way too much time trying to get over the George Washington Bridge. I decided that our first stop would be the legendary Jersey Shore spot called Max’s.
I had never really driven the “Shore” part of the Jersey Shore in the past, so I was sort of caught up in the amazing ocean views and quiet, un-Jersey like aspects of it. Max’s almost took us by surprise when it popped up before us. It’s been here since 1928, getting its start as a stand and now turned into a pretty sizable sit-down joint. They serve grilled Schickhaus dogs, a nice beef-and-pork blend that takes on a nice snap. The casing splits beautifully in spots. Max’s has a pretty standard-issue set of offerings in the dog department.
Here, a slight bit of miscommunication happened. I’m not a one-dog kind of guy. I asked for a chili dog and a sauteed onion dog. The waitress became quite focused on my chili request. “You want something to drink?” No, thanks. “That chili’s hot.” Excellent! “No, it’s really hot.”
I chose not to mention at this juncture that I am one of the few demi-god-like dog eaters to face down South Coast Coneys’ Death Dog challenge, and just reiterated–no drink. So in her confusion–and this is why, along with only having so much cash on me at the time and not feeling like waiting for change, I grievously undertipped her–she brought me the chili dog with sauteed onions.
As it turns out, this was an acceptable mistake. The bun-spanning-and-then-some dog was delicious, still glistening with grill grease. The chili was of the full-on variety, with chunks of tomato and onion, and beans. That stripe of simple yellow mustard brought on the vinegary counterpoint, and the sauteed onions were so tasty I almost ordered another. I didn’t, largely because my attention was being taken up by the unusual circumstance happening just across the table from me.
Boy had said something. I had to make sure he’d said what I thought he said. And he had. He had ordered…a bacon dog.
(You may, at this point, choose to hear either Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” or Orloff’s “Carmina Burana” in your head. Whichever best helps you grasp this momentous occasion.)
My boy, my ketchup-only boy, had ordered a bacon dog. Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised. It’s his breakfast meat of choice, and at home during summer vacation he had perfected his own recipe for “barbequed bacon,” but for him to put this and only this on a hot dog? Shake the pillars of heaven. And as you can see, Max’s doesn’t mess around on the bacon dog. It’s three or four perfectly griddled stips of bacon, just to the chewy side of crispy, boy said, tossed on top of that monstrous dog. We both dug in.
Fueled by the power of legend, we got back in the car and continued down the Shore Road to Asbury Park. After several wrist-wracking hours of pinball, we took a dinner break. Right next to the Museum is a stand called Mayfair Grill. Boy decided to take a pass on the dog in favor of a burger, but I ponied up for a quick weenie by the sea.
While I don’t declare myself a dog expert, I’d have to guess, based on size and taste, that this was another Schickhaus dog, something of a Shore tradition, I am lead to understand. I kept it simple with a splatter of mustard. As dogs go, it’s just a good, honest dog. Naturally it tastes better when you’re sitting on the Asbury boards on a perfect August night, sea breeze in your face and the span of the Atlantic laid out before you.
Then we played pinball for another five hours.
With Day Two finding us at Coney Island for the first time ever, there was really only one choice.
At this stage of the hot dog game, there’s not a lot to be said about Nathan’s. I mean, it’s Nathan’s. But Nathan’s at Coney gets the same location-based amplification as the Mayfair Grill did, but then you also bump it through the “legend” filter. (A filter some might disagree with.) I’ll say this much for Nathan’s at Coney Island–they know what they’re facing and they get it done like a finely tuned machine. The majority of the free world had joined us on the boardwalk that day for lunch, but things were moving.
Nathan’s is a toppings-simple place. Boy reverted to his ketchupy ways. I ordered one with chili, and slopped the classic brown mustard on the other. I also ordered a big cup of their Orangeade, which was sort like pounding down a big chug-a-lug of diabetes-on-demand. We ate standing at a metal table, joined by a trio of Germans taking chomp shots for the trip-to-America photo album. With two rides on the legendary Cyclone, one on Soaring Eagles, and a pair of iconic dogs in our system, we took to the road home, looking forward to next year’s ride and the dogs ahead.