The Fifth Annual New Jersey Hot Dog Tour was another successful and enjoyable trip. Thank you to everyone who attended and made this such a special day. For me it is the day I look forward to more than any other in the year.
Special thanks to Benzee who did a great job organizing the Tour, making travel arrangements, (we had 2 buses this year) and handling all the details that go along with keeping a roster of attendees and collecting and keeping track of who paid and how many seats to reserve, and doing a 50-50. The winner got $100.00. There were a bunch of good door prizes as well. Thanks to Coney Island Lou for helping with the 50-50, designing the Tour tee shirts and making the name tags. It's nice to be able to have the names of everyone and who they came with. John Hughes came with 9 people! Thank you to ScreenBear who helped with the directions. I plan a route for the trip, but he was able to come up with a few shortcuts that saved us time. He also helped out in a big way. I contact all the places right before the Tour to remind them that we will be coming and to make sure that they have enough people on hand to accomodate our large group. A few days before, I couldn't locate the phone number for Dee's Truck. I drove to her house, but she wasn't home. ScreenBear went to her truck Friday to remind her. Good thing, because she thought we were coming the following week.
Thanks to our bus drivers who once again did a fantastic job driving through some narrow streets and parking in places that were difficult to park in.
A very special thank you to the people who own and run the places that we visited. I speak with them to give them an idea of how many are coming and when we will be arriving so that they can better prepare for us. When we leave one stop I call ahead to the next. Each place did an excellent job serving us. They made sure they had enough people on hand, had the dogs prepared fresh and quickly, and in some cases, had space reserved for us. Thanks to them, everything ran smoothly. We have been fortunate in that almost every place we've gone to in five years has done very well serving us. The one or 2 who didn't were made aware of it by me and some of you via this forum. Thanks also to the people who worked at the 6 establishments we visited. Everyone was cheerful and worked very hard to provide excellent service. All without exception deserve our business.
Not only was service great, but the hot dogs we sampled were as well. I always ask for a show of hands on the ride back for a favorite place. In the past, one or two places seemed to get the majority of votes. This year, at least on my bus, you couldn't determine which was a clear favorite. The same amount of hands went up for each place. The majority of people I spoke with said they were all good in their own way. Some did have clear cut favorites. Much of the fun for me is hearing attendees voice their opinions. Especially when they've eaten at a place for the first time. Every year there are new faces. I love hearing someone describe eating an Italian Hot Dog for the first time. And I love seeing the weird (at least to me) combinations that they put together. For example, one guy ordered an Italian Hot Dog but requested that a beef and pork dog be put in it rather than the common beef dog. Another person ordered a hot dog at the Windmill California style (lettuce, tomatoes, and mayonnaise).
We started at the Galloping Hill Inn in Union. This has been the starting point for each Tour and the only place that has been included every trip. Not just because of their location and large parking lot, but because they have excellent dogs as well. A grilled beef and pork dog specially made by Grote & Weigel. They were the favorite dog of some, especially many in the New York contingent. A true German style dog with a special, sturdy bun. I spoke with Jimmy Thomas who, along with his father George own the Galloping Hill Inn. Jimmy is usually there during the week but not on weekends. I asked him to consider stopping by to say hello and to meet us. He's never been there while we were having a Tour. He didn't come by yesterday but he did call and tell his employees to not charge us for anything. Our group ate for free! Thank you, Jimmy Thomas! In this economy there are not too many businesses that can afford to do this. A very generous thing to do. Any establishment appreciates exposure generated from a newspaper article, review, television appearance, or a Tour like ours. It's good publicity and helps bring in customers which is why these places are in business. Yet the Galloping Hill Inn made no extra money from us since everything was compted. Next time you visit the Galloping Hill Inn, make sure to show your appreciation.
Next was Dees Hut. First time on the Tour. Dee serves natural casing dirty water Sabrett's. There are many roadside trucks and carts that sell the same type of dog, but what sets Dees apart is the freshness of her dogs. That, and the fact that they are served at the perfect temperature. Nice and hot. Dees is my favorite place serving dirty water Sabretts and my favorite hot dog truck along with Tony's in Newark. Tony serves a Golden D dog. Dees dogs are a decent size (bigger than the tiny 11 and 12 to a lb dogs at many other trucks) and she has a good selection of homemade toppings. I don't eat onions, but her homemade spicy onions were a favorite. The dogs were hot, delicious, with a good snap. Many people mentioned to me that they loved her dogs. For some, they were the favorite of the day. Dee usually works alone, but yesterday she had her daughter-in-law help. They both did a fantastic job pumping out dogs quickly. A good stop in a nice area.
Our next stop was the Windmill in Westfield. The Windmill is a small chain with 8 locations; this one being the farthest north. They are planning to open in Hoboken and Toms River and eventually to expand to Delaware, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and New York. Most of their restaurants are located in Monmouth County. They always win "best of" awards, and for good reason. Darn fine hot dogs! Quarter pound beef and pork dog made by Sabrett. Prepared on a griddle. I went occasionally to the Windmill in the past, but have found myself going more often. These dogs are growing on me. They are cooked perfectly on the griddle. The dogs have the right amount of char, perfect temperatue, great snap, and nice texture. Not to mention delicious. It was one of my 2 favorite dogs of the day. A few people told me it was their favorite of the Tour with one guy proclaiming it the best dog he's ever eaten. Thank you to Aaron Levine for coming by to help organize things, making sure that there were enough dogs on the griddle, and helping to insure that we were served quickly. Aaron's family owns most of the Windmill restaurants The chili here is very good. It's more like a Mexican style chili than a common Texas Weiner type chili. Good luck to Aaron in his plans to expand the Windmill.
From the Windmill, it was on to Manny's Texas Weiners in Union. Manny's has been on the Tour at least 3 of the 5 years. Last year we went to their Linden location. Manny is a fun guy and a good host as were all of the owners who were present today. He made sure that there were enough waitresses (who looked as good as the hot dogs) and that we were well taken care of. Manny serves a traditional New Jersey Texas Weiner. A grilled Grote & Weigel Griddle frank topped with mustard, chili, and onions. A consistent, quality dog. The chili is dark, thick, tangy, and hot, although it was a little too hot for my taste. A few thought it was the best chili of the day.
Jimmy Buff's East Hanover restaurant was next. Perhaps the most popular stop last year, it was an easy decision to return again this year. In fact, many people demanded it. Once again, Jimmy was a great host. In addition to the Italian Hot Dogs, there is the Syd's dog, the pushcart dog, and the Frankenstein (quarter pound beef and pork Schickhaus). Everything is made to order, which usually means it takes longer. But Jimmy and his staff worked quickly, coordinating the ordering, cooking, and serving. Great teamwork! Jimmy Buff's invented the Italian Hot Dog in 1932. It's what made them famous. For many, yesterday was the first time they've eaten one. Not everyone likes Italian style, but everyone I spoke with who had one yesterday for the first time loved it. As did those who have them frequently. Jimmy's chili was very popular. It was the favorite of many, if not most of the attendees. It was my favorite along with Bubba's, which was our next stop. It is best described as bolognese, which is an Italian style of meat sauce. Beefy, tasty, and mildly spicy. I had the footlong, or Syd's dog. Looking to pace myself, I chose this over the Italian dog in order to save room for the next stop. All the dogs today were exceptional, but I especially enjoyed the footlong here as well as the Windmill's dog. Jimmy charbroils the footlong, but with a twist. It is heated in the oil first. This gives it a unique taste and texture. I love this dog with just mustard. But the chili is so good here that I put it on half my dog. Instead of putting it on the dog, Jimmy Buff's gives you a small cup so that you can apply it yourself. Once again, Jimmy Buff's got rave reviews for their hot dogs. Uncle Buck from New York had an Italian Hot Dog for the first time and couldn't stop talking about how good it was. Jimmy also provided free soda, beer, and water. Thank you!
Last, but not least was Bubba's. Located in Lyndhurst, they have only been in business since early 2007. They were reviewed in the New Jersey Hot Dog Thread. A small cozy place with a nice atmosphere. Bubba's also serves a few different types of dogs. They make an Italian Hot Dog that is authentic and very good. Potatoes are in chunks rather than sliced thin. They serve the Syd's dog. It is prepared on a charcoal grill and is every bit as good as Syd's was. I would have had it here, as it is my favorite out of their offerings, but I had already had one at Jimmy Buff's. In addition to the 2 dogs mentioned, Bubbas's offers a dirty water Sabrett and a ripper. The ripper is the Thumann's dog for deep frying that is used at Rutt's Hut, Hiram's, Libby's, and others in North Jersey. At Bubba's it is fried in peanut oil. Bubba's also serves a dog with cheese and jalapeno peppers that they get from a butcher shop. I had it in the past. Different, but too spicy for me. I remembered how good Bubba's chili was, so I ordered a ripper (milder pork/beef dog) which is a good base for a chili dog. Bubba's was the only place today serving the ripper (Thumann's deep fryer. They do a good job cooking it right. I enjoyed my chili dog. They put a lot on and it was delicious. This chili contains ground beef, pork, bacon, and beer. It's nice and thick with just the right amount of spice for a spicy chili. A lot of people loved the chili here. And the dogs. I believe Signman liked the charbroiled (Syd's) dog the best on the Tour. I don't usually eat fries on these Tours in order to save room for hot dogs. But since I had room left over, I had some fries. They were delicious. Hand cut and similar to Five Guys. They were easily the favorite fries of those who ordered them on the Tour. A number of people raised their hands for Bubba's when I asked for favorite place. As I said earlier, the votes for favorite place were more evenly distributed this year than any other. A lot of people I spoke with said they couldn't determine a favorite dog since they were all so good. I would have to agree. On any given day I could enjoy one of these dogs more than another because I might be in the mood for a particular dog or style. Sometimes I crave a German style beef and pork dog. Other times a snappy, spicy, dirty water dog. Or an Italian Hot Dog. Or a Texas Weiner. Or.......
Sharon is the owner of Bubba's, which is named after her son Bubba. Bubba works there as well as Sharon's daughter. They all did a very good job serving us. Sharon had extra people on hand to help us. She was a great hostess and her staff was pleasant and hard working. We really made out well today. Everyone provided great service and food.
Thanks again to everyone for making this a fun day. Let's do it again. And let's see some pictures and get some opinions.