Around the World with Destination Dogs
One of the things I’ve learned about having a 1 year-old is the existence of the time suck. One day you’re at a restaurant sampling different kinds of regional and international encased meats, and the next thing you know, it’s 2 or 3 months later. Just sucked right out of the hot dog bun of life. And you say to yourself “Ok, tonight’s the night when I write about this HDJ…if I don’t fall asleep at 9:00pm.” So here are some portions of my memory which are still intact. We took the little gal to the circus for the first time in New Brunswick NJ. After watching her amazed and puzzled face react to twirling hula hoops and gravity-defying acrobats, we headed with some friends over to Destination Dogs!
This is a place that opened up in the past few years and that I’ve heard about from friends, because New Brunswick is the home of my alma mater, Rutgers University. Once in a while, I have the chance to head back there and check out the town. Returning with my little lady was fun, and while I didn’t indulge in the cuisine that’s famous in New Brunswick, I was looking forward to hanging out in my old stomping grounds. It’s my understanding that Destination Dogs recently moved to its current location, a sizable space that was the former home of Doll’s Place, a long standing bar which itself moved out of its previous watering-hole space into something more current with nicer floors, large windows, and a sleek wooden bar. When you look around and check out the menu, you realize it’s a few steps above your typical hot dog joint. This is definitely on the artisanal end of the hot dog spectrum, both in ingredients and prices, ranging from $4.25-$10.50 per dog. There’s only tables and bar seating, with servers coming to your table to take your order. Don’t expect to get a dog with a strip of mustard. I’m a sucker for places like this, in a good way. These guys don’t just put on a bunch of toppings and give it a cute name (like that reference, Mike?), but also use different types of sausages and think about regional ingredients.
The main thing you notice are the use of airport codes. You realize they correspond to the different cities used as names for the dogs. Then you realize, if you’re hot dog or food nerds, that there is a concerted effort to use foods known for those particular areas: Cuban style for Miami; potatoes, onions & peppers for Newark; Chicharrones for Texas; patatas bravas for Spain! They even keep accurate names of dogs from other areas of the world, like the completo for Chile, and the Choripan from Argentina. I was drawn to two particular dogs that I’ve tried at other HDJ’s, and there’s just something about these combos that pull me in: the Vietnamese Bun Mi and the Greek Achilles Meal. If there are two sandwiches that are hard for me to pass up, it’s a banh mi and a gyro.
I’m doing a bit of a disservice to these guys and can’t really go into details on the taste, because it feels like I went there 100 years ago. But I remember really liking them, and thinking I’d like to sample more. The Bun Mi is comprised of grilled pork sausage (that well exceeded the length of the bun), shaved foie gras (maybe as a substitute for the pork pate), pickled vegetables, jalapeños, sriracha mayo (a nice twist instead of straight sriracha), and cilantro all on top of a beautifully buttered and toasted split top roll. The Achilles Meal consisted of lamb sausage, tzatziki sauce, tomato, shredded cabbage, and green onions again in a dark brown toasted split top bun. You can also check out great pics of all the encased meat selections from the menu on their website.
I’m pretty positive that Ali ordered the Kansas City Beefs (from Missouri), an all-beef dog with pulled bbq beef short ribs, cole slaw, and green onions on a split top. And my buddy John got The Hebrew Hammer, which they label as Israel but would probably more accurately be classic NY jewish deli. I picture an Israeli dog having falafel and hummus, but the Hebrew Hammer is an all-beef dog blanketed by a potato latke, spicy brown mustard and green onions.
New Brunswick is typically known for serving sandwiches containing fried everything to soak up the inebriation of a long night (my favorite contained a cheesesteak, gyro, french fries and hot sauce all in one). I can’t eat those anymore since I’m at an age where you have to start caring about what you eat. But for those of you who are interested in going a few notches up with casual food, this is the place to check out. And bring the kids!
Destination Dogs 101 Paterson Street, New Brunswick NJ