NJ Legends: Hot Dog Johnny’s
Even though it’s October, let’s take a trip back to the beautiful days we had back in August. I drove with Ali and The Kid to western NJ, so I could drop them off at a family event. I had been planning on hitting up some NJ HDJ’s, and was very excited to see that I was only 15 minutes away from the legendary Charlie’s Pool Room. While doing a little research though, it turned out that Charlie’s had gotten a visit by health inspectors some time during the year, and basically shut down their kitchen, which I think was just their hot dog operation. Not sure about their current state, but it sounded like the brothers who run the place had some renovations to take care of to bring it up to code. No Charlie’s Pool Room for me that weekend. However, I had a couple of other places in mind: Hot Dog Johnny’s and Johnny & Hanges. The latter was too far away, but Hot Dog Johnny’s was just a 25 minute ride north to the town of Buttzville. I set my navigator, rolled down the windows, and cruised triumphantly through miles of beautiful hilly NJ farmland.
The weather was perfect that day and brought out the hordes to Hot Dog Johnny’s. Locals, foodies traveling from distant locales (like Brooklyn for example), families, and groups of bikers all came out for the same thing: the perfect roadside dog. The stand has got to be the Shangri-la of HDJ’s. It sits on land with trees and hills on one side, and a lush grassy oasis overlooking the Pequest River. The stand itself has several walkup counters, old painted messages on the walls, and an open but covered picnic table section with tons of colorful plants. You can’t beat this place for atmosphere. There is not much I can add to the blogosphere on Hot Dog Johnny’s. You can find a lot of articles and posts about this place, and rightly so. It’s a fun step back in time with a helluva view.
The hot dogs here are cooked in peanut oil, then wrapped up and delivered in paper. These are easy 3-4 biters (4 if you want to savor it). When you order one with everything you get chopped onions, mustard, and a pickle spear. They are also known for their frosty mugs of buttermilk. I’m usually a sucker for anything that sounds unusual, but I opted for the mug of birch beer instead. I’ve never had buttermilk, but the internet says it’s got a sour taste. Plenty of people order it however, and it’s been a staple there for decades. Also, living in NYC makes me totally appreciate the cost of practically anything when I put some miles between my destination and home. I ordered 2 dogs, french fries, and a large birch beer for a total of about $6. But these are not artisanal dogs. These are dogs for the people, dogs you eat 2 or 3 at a time. I briefly chatted with my picnic table companions and chowed.
At this point I felt that 2 dogs were not enough. I had to get one more with relish, which was more of a dry topping but keeping the sweet pickle taste. Usually relish has a lot of liquid runoff but this did not have any. I washed this one down with an orange drink and a Hershey’s chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich in a cup.
Hot Dog Johnny’s is a place that you need to go check out. It’s a great example of a multi-generation, family-owned roadside stand. It’s incredibly popular and everyone travels to go check it out. It’s in a region of New Jersey that most people don’t know about, with beautiful farmland and rolling hills. And while you’re taking a carefree ride around the area, you can stop here and spend $1.50 on a hot dog!
Hot Dog Johnny’s 333 Rt. 46 Belvedere (or Buttzville) NJ