The itinerary is set for the 5th Annual New Jersey Hot Dog Tour. There will be more people attending this year, so we will have a second bus. I've spoken to the people who own/manage the restaurants we will be visiting in order to have them prepared to serve us reasonably fast. I will be calling them shortly before we arrive so that they will be ready for us. In addition, the stops are closer together than in the past. This will help us in regards to time. Four of the stops are within a couple of miles of each other. Rest assured that they were picked for their quality hot dogs first and foremost; location was a secondary consideration.
As usual,we've added some new stops as well as rotating some old favorites. Since we are limited as to how many places we can visit, some old favorites can't be included. That's why they are rotated. Maybe next year we will have Elizabeth/Linden establisahments that were popular such as Jerry's, Tommy's, and Father & Son. Or Newark area joints like Tony's Truck and Rutt's Hut. Because of trying to get the stops located fairly close to each other, maybe we will do a different area next year. Central Jersey, in and around Somerset County has Amazing Hot Dog, Middlesex Texas Weiners, and other fine places. There are a cluster of hot dog eateries in West Jersey we can concentrate on in the future. Having smaller trips is also an option. Your feedback is encouraged and appreciated. We want to make the Tour exciting and fresh while continuing to return to favorites. But future trips is a topic for another day.
This year, as in the previous 4 Tours, we will begin at the Galloping Hill Inn. The hot dog served here is a grilled beef and pork dog made by Grote & Weigel of Connecticut. It's served on a harder football shaped bun. One of the finest dogs in this style. And one of the very few instances where the dog is made to a special recipe. Many places claim this; rarely is it true. The dogs used to be made at a local butcher shop. The current owners took the recipe and had them made at G&W to keep up with demand and also because the butcher shop was to be sold. During the course of an afternoon, no one sells more dogs than the GHI. This fact doesn't guarantee quality (McDonald's sells more burgers than anyone) but the dogs here are exceptional and well liked among regular attendees of the Tour. Although I enjoy mine with just their fine Dusseldor mustard, people have told me that the hot relish here is exceptional.
Dee's Truck is located in the neighboring town of Roselle Park. It is one of my two favorite trucks in New Jersey, Tony's in Newark being my other. Tony's serves a Golden D dog that is milder than the Sabrett you get at Dee's. Dee's, like so many other trucks and carts serves a Sabrett dirty water dog. Most are similar with little differences. What sets Dee's apart are a few things. The dog is a 10 to a lb natural casing Sabrett. Many places serve a smaller dog and charge the same. 11 and 12 to a lb are too small. Some places that are more well known (JJ's and Donnies Dogs) use skinless franks. Dee's dogs are served very hot. Not the case with many trucks. Her dogs are consistently good and fresh. They are not kept in the water long, and unsold dogs are discarded. All dogs are $1.50 with or without toppings. She has the regular variety of toppings you see at most trucks plus her own homemade onion relish she serves rather than the Sabrett brand. Chili is also homemade. I can't comment on the toppings because the dogs are so good that I get them with mustard only. If you like natural casing dirty water Sabrett's, you won't find a better one than Dee's. She assured me that she can assemble a lot of dogs quickly. She recently did over 100 for a group that was leaving a nearby movie theatre.
The Windmill is a small chain with about 10 or so locations. Maybe less. Some are franchisies, some company owned. I don't know if "chain" is a good description or appropriate. The food is much better than what you would associate with a chain. In addition to hot dogs, you can get hamburgers, fries and other sandwiches. Located mostly in Monmouth County near the Jersey shore, the original Windmill is in Long Branch. Their hot dogs are quite popular and win many "best of" awards. It seems that they are always voted best hot dog by the Asbury Park Press. Their frank is a long quarter pound beef and pork dog made by Sabrett. It is prepared on a flat griddle. They have a charcoal grill for burgers and some people request their dogs be finished off on the grill. This dog is similar in style to the Galloping Hill Inn's dog. Also the dog served at their competitor down the street from their original location, Max's, which serves a Schickhaus dog the same size and preparation. I would consider the following dogs (not in any particular order) to be the finest grilled beef/pork dogs I've had in Jersey. GHI, Windmill, Karl Ehmer's, Max's, and Jimmy Buff's. Buff's griddles, then charcoal grills the 1/4 lb Schickhaus frank. All of these dogs are exceptional. Similar, but with subtle differences. All have their fans. I happen to prefer these dogs to the deep fried pork/beef dogs. The Windmill dog, like the others named are a milder (but tasty) beef and pork dog grilled long and well done with a good, smoky flavor. I like them this way. They also have a taut natural casing with a very good snap. I'm sure this dog will be well liked. The chili here is what I would call a regular, as opposed to a Texas Weiner style. Prefering just mustard most of the time, I only had the chili the last time I was at the Windmill because I remember it being voted 2nd best by the Munchmobile S.W.A.T. Team 2 years ago and I wanted to try it. Good, slightly spicy flavor. Much better chili than Max's.
Manny's is an old favorite. Looking more like a diner (with a diner's menu) than a hot dog joint, Manny's is known for their Texas Weiners. They serve the Plainfield area variety, which is grilled, rather than deep fried, and has a thicker chili than the Paterson/Clifton "Hot Texas Weiner". The dog used is the standard Grote & Weigel griddle frank. In reality, there is little difference between the dog served here and the many other places serving this type of Texas Weiner. All use the G&W dog prepared the same way. Even the chili is similar. Many of the guys (including Manny) began working at Texas Weiner l or Texas Weiner ll as grillmen before opening their own place. While similar, I like Manny's chili a little better than most (not as spicy as some and w/o big onion pieces) of the Texas Weiner joints. Manny's is also a nicer, cleaner place with better service. And they have Manny as a host. A classic New Jersey Texas Weiner.
Jimmy Buff's in East Hanover will be a much anticipated stop. Those of you who attended last year remember what a gracious host Jimmy was and how good the dogs are. Jimmy Buff's is THE Originator of the Newark Style Italian Hot Dog. Probably my favorite thing in the world to eat. The perfect meal: bread, meat, potatoes, and vegetables. While other places popped up specializing in this unique N.J. creation ( some quite good) no one does it better than Buff's. For those of you that don't care for Italian Hot Dogs, there are other choices. Sausage & peppers, burgers, sandwiches, and other dogs. Jimmy serves the Syd's dog with a twist. A 5 to a lb natural casing dog from Best that is fried first and then finished off on a charcoal grill. My favorite regular dog. You can also get a pushcart dog, which is an 8 to a lb Best dog fried, and a quarter pound Schickhaus dog. The Schickhaus is a 1/4 pound beef and pork dog (served at Max's and many Jersey Shore Boardwalk stands) that is griddled, then put on a grill. An excellent dog that I've enjoyed on only one occasion here as I can't get past the Italian Hot Dog or the footlong (Syd's dog). Jimmy also makes a unique and very good chili. One of the best I've had. It is mild and meaty. A bolognese style rather than Texas Weiner style. Jimmy Buff's can be seen on the Travel Channel's Hot Dog Paradise show.
Bubba's Dog House rounds out the itinerary. Located in Lyndhurst, they have been open about 2 years. Sharon the owner is a hot dog lover who peruses Roadfood and other sites to see what Jersey hot dog afficionados like. Bubba's, like Jimmy Buff's is one of the rare places that does more than one style of hot dog and does them well. She is a hands on owner who cares about her customers and providing excellent service. I've posted in detail about Bubba's on the New Jersey Hot Dog Thread. They serve a big Italian Hot Dog that is easily better than most I've had. Everything is fresh and tasty. The potatoes, despite being thicker (in chunks) than I prefer, are tasty and prepared well with the right amount of oils. Not too greasy or dried out. They also offer a Sabrett dirty water dog. I did not sample this one, but was told by ScreenBear and others that it is hot and well prepared.
Bubba's has a deep fryer they use to make Thumann's "rippers". This is the dog made for deep frying that is used at Rutt's Hut, Hiram's, Libby's and others. Unlike some places, it is left in the oil for a sufficient amount of time. In fact, customers are encouraged to specify how they want it done. I like mine well done. If you like Rutt's Hut, you will like this dog. Although they don't have Rutt's relish, they have their own homemade chili, which I remember being very good. It's slightly spicy with a few different ingredients such as bacon and beer. I wrote more about it on my post in the New Jersey Hot Dog Thread. Not a Texas Weiner type chili either, but one of the best I've had. In fact the chili at every place (with the exception of Galloping Hill Inn) is very good.
I would urger everyone to pace yourself. If you can't eat that many dogs, feel free to share or even skip somehere that may not be a favorite. I'm looking forward to the Tour. The anticipation for me is like it was on Christmas Eve when I was a small child.