John & Boy Grab Forks & Knives at Windmill
I will never be mistaken for a proper, well-bred gentleman, but when I recently encountered a chili and onion dog at Windmill in Long Branch, NJ, I had no choice but to reach for a fork and knife. There was just no other way.
Windmill is a small, locally owned chain that has been dishing up dogs and more along the shore for more than 50 years. Somehow, in the past four years that Boy and I have made our annual pinball-and-hot-dog pilgrimage to Asbury Park, we haven’t managed to hit it. Honestly, part of that is my own aversion to chain-store dogs. But during my yearly round of researching new places down there to grab a dog, I read a number of thumbs-up/many-stars reviews of Windmill. So I figured we’d try—although we almost didn’t.
I had mentioned the Windmill idea to Boy as a possibility, but on our second day, when we debated whether to even bother to leave the AP boardwalk, he said, “I’m not too interested in Windmill.” Later that afternoon, however, with our phones badly in need of charging, we decided the best idea was to hop in the car, plug in, and drive the six or seven miles up to check out Windmill. (Though I didn’t say so at the time, my mind was made up that we were going to Windmill, but I let him think he had a say…)
On the road out of Asbury, you actually run across two Windmills. One is a small, mostly takeout stand built, in the classic kitschy style of road joints, in the shape of a windmill. When we reached this one, our GPS was telling us that we had another two miles to go, but we pulled in anyway. It was just too small—we wanted to sit. Back into the car and up the road to the second one, a far less charming joint in a plaza building.
During my research, I found a video where one of the owners of Windmill talked about their selection of toppings and how, all told, there are something to the tune of 100,000 ways to get a dog. That takes their “free fixins bar” into account. You and I might just call it the standard-issue self-serve counter. Belly up there and you can load your dog with relish, mustard, onions, sauerkraut that’s simmering in a slow-cooker, and more. For the dogs themselves, you’re looking at a base of plain dog, chili dog, or chili and cheese dog. A Rueben dog was also on the menu when we stopped in. The dogs are a Sabretts beef-and-pork product, cooked on the flat-top, and I’m going to assume they were quarter-pound dogs. Whatever they were, they were impressively large. Seems like every dog we’ve gotten in Jersey is monstrous. To which I say: hooray and thank you, New Jersey.
I opted for a dog with chili and sautéed onions. Boy did the same but added cheese, then made the appropriately disappointed face when the counter man stepped aside to reveal the big metal pump-box with the prominently displayed Velveeta logo. We were both impressed by the size of the dog and the very generous dose of toppings. We skipped the fixins bar and sat down to figure out how to get at these monstrosities. I tried to get my fingers under and around the bun but the chili had already started to sog up not just the bun but the paper under it as well. Complete bun failure was imminent, and I was wearing a white tee-shirt. I asked boy to grab forks and knives.
We liked these dogs, Velveeta death wish and all. The franks are meaty and thick, with a great snap. In places, we felt the casing had taken on a little too much char from sitting on the flat-top, but that’s a personal preference. The house-made chili was a great balance of meat and sauce, though there was not much spice or heat to be found. (I like a little kick in the sauce!) The cooked onions were the perfect way to top it off, and they certainly didn’t skimp, bless ’em.
While we both enjoyed Windmill, Boy retains his loyalty to local rival Max’s. Me, I could go either way. At the very least, this quick trip put Windmill on the dog map for me as a place I definitely know I can go to get a good Shore-style dog.