The itinerary is set for the 8th Annual New Jersey Hot Dog Tour. The people belonging to Hot Dog Nation requested an epic, so that's what you will be getting. If you just want a list of the stops and descriptions, feel free to skip most of this and scroll down.
Being that it's a long day, especially with 2 busloads of people plus time constraints, I try to keep it at 6 stops. This year will be 6 again unless we have some extra time left over which we may since the stops are very close together with the exception of Jimmy Buffs. Then maybe we can add another place. Perhaps next year we can visit Jimmy Buffs in Kenilworth or another place specializing in Italian Hot Dogs in order to make travel easier. Maybe we'll change the format altogether and hit a different area. To the north of us are places like Hiram's, Hot Dog Caboose, Karl Ehmer's (which serves an excellent dog from Kocher's butcher shop), and others. To the south are places like Frankly Burgers, Jersey Joes, Bubba's, Max's, Zuka's, Wunder Wiener, and Maui's. But the possibility of a change in venue will be decided in the future.
This year we will be sticking to familiar ground in North Jersey. The Galloping Hill Inn is our starting point and the only place that has been on every Tour. I seek to add at least one or 2 new places while rotating some of the better establishments we've been to in the past. I try not to have a place be included more than 2 years in a row in order to avoid repeats and allow other places (new to the Tour) and old favorites to have a chance again since there are new people who attend each Tour and may not have had a chance to visit these places. Jimmy Buffs is an exception because they are the originators of the Italian Hot Dog style and still serve the Syd's dog. Jimmy provides excellent service and gives us free drinks. Any place that is generous to our Tour either by giving away free stuff (we got tee shirts in the past as well as free hot dogs), or offering discounts betters their chance to be included. Providing of course that they serve a quality hot dog to begin with. There will be no compromise there. A place that in my opinion serves mediocre hot dogs will never be included even if they give attendees free cars. Well, maybe I'd consider it.
Two popular places will not be on the Tour this year. Rahway Grill was the overwhelming favorite hot dog the last 2 years. An exception would have been made for them to be included this year. They will not be because too many people have gone back and gotten dogs that were cold, stale, and wrinkled from being on the griddle too long. This has happenned to me at least 3 times. I brought it to the owner's attention and the last time he tried to blame it on the girl serving the dogs and made a show of scolding her. Since they only care about quality one day a year, they will not be included.
Perhaps the second favorite stop was the Garage in Millburn. Excellent hot dogs but even more expensive than Bubba's in Seaside. $5.00 for the Syd's dog, $6.00 for the Don's (1/4 pounder). More if you want chili or other toppings. The owner contacted me and wanted very much to be included. I told him his prices were too high and that attendees already had to pay enough for admission and to afford luxury buses. The reason for the high prices is the high rent in Millburn which is not my concern. Well, Jimmy Buff's and Frankly Burgers charge much less, so we could have done without the Garage. He promised us a big discount. Well, half or more than half of us did not get the discount. I only found out afterwards and I apologize to those who had to pay full price. I sent the owner an angry e-mail and he gave me some BS about a misunderstanding. I told him that the staff must be made aware of the discount and he promised me they would be. That's all I required. As good as the Garage was, they won't get a dime from us.
Now for the itinerary. The order listed is not necessarily in the order we will be visiting them. We have our usual starting point in the Galloping Hill Inn, Jimmy Buff's once again, an old favorite we haven't been to in a few years, and 3 places that will be new to the Tour.
1) Galloping Hill Inn Union. Our starting point. All that are driving to the Tour are welcome to park in their big lot. GHI serves a 6/1 pork/beef frank on a larger football shaped bun. Many consider the bun big and get a double. Let me remind everyone that it is important to pace yourself. You may skip a place if you know you don't like the dog (some don't eat pork), or how it's prepared. Since we will be returning here after the Tour, you may want to wait and have this dog last if you are concerned about having enough room in your stomach.
The frank here is made by Grote & Weigle, but is not their standard griddle frank. It is made to a different recipe. Most places claiming a special recipe are lying. See some of the discussions elsewhere on this subject. The recipe is the same that was made by the local butcher shop who supplied them years ago. The shop changed owners and GHI took the recipe and has the dogs made at Grote & Weigel. They have a collagen casing which makes for a more uniform size and are prepared on a griddle. This is an excellent quality German style beef/pork frank. One of my 5 or so favorite places to get a hot dog.
2) Jimmy Buff's East Hanover. The originators of the Newark style Italian Hot Dog. One or two beef franks stuffed inside pizza bread (Italian bread shaped like a pita) and topped with peppers, potatoes, and onions. You can get a single or double. Let me suggest a single since we will be hitting other stops. The bread here is exceptional and better than other places serving this type of sandwich. The dogs are from Best Provisions, the dog of choice for an Italian Hot Dog.
Buff's also serves the Syd's dog which is a 5/1 natural casing Best's. I prefer his to other places using the same dog. Most places just grill this dog. Syd's (and the Garage) boiled, then grilled it. Buff's sautees it in oil, then finishes it off on a charcoal grill. This is probably my choice if I had to pick one favorite hot dog. They also serve a smaller pushcart dog (Best's 8/1) that is fried, and a 4/1 beef/pork Schickhaus frank that is griddled, then charbroiled. Buff's also serves a fantastic bolognese style homemade chili that is the favorite of John Sagi of the Gourmetchilidog.com. It is one of my 3 favorites along with Pappy's and Father & Son. Prices are reasonable here and every Tuesday you get double Italian Hot Dogs half price.
3) Manny's Texas Weiners, Union. Manny's has been a popular stop in the past. It's been 3 or 4 years since we were there last and it's time to put it back in the rotation. Manny is a great host who mingles with us and has provided our group with free tee shirts. More importantly he serves a very good Texas Weiner which is one of the regional styles that New Jersey is known for. He uses a 6/1 Grote & Weigle griddle frank (standard recipe; different than GHI) prepared on a flat top and topped with mustard, chili, and onions. This type of Texas Weiner is grilled with a thicker chili than the Paterson/Clifton area places that deep fry their dogs and use a thinner sauce with a clove/nutmeg spicing. Manny's chili is almost black in color and a little spicier than most dogs in this style. They have a big dining room that we can all fit it. It actually looks more like a diner than a hot dog joint. Manny's, Buff's, and the GHI all serve more than hot dogs if anyone is looking for a change of pace.
3) Soup or Dogs, Iselin This is a hot dog truck located on Rt. 27. The owner, Betsy Penrose was a co worker of mine. She opened up a Soup Store in Rahway that was known for it's excellent quality. It was reviewed by Pete Genovese of the Star Ledger. Betsy bought a truck and is now serving hot dogs along with her soup. Never had the soup, but the dogs are great. They are the same as Dee's in Roselle Park, which was a popular stop in the past. Natural casing all beef Sabrett's 10/1 prepared in water dirty water style. I judge these on flavor, snap, freshness, and temperature. The dogs are served hot and are very fresh. Tasty with a great snap, these are as good a dirty water Sabrett as you will find. Her chili is very flavorful and beefy. Not overly spicy. I like it better than Dees in Roselle Park which is where I usually go when in the mood for a dirty water Sabrett.
5) Out of This World Hot Dogs, Elizabeth. A brand new place only open a few months. I've been there a lot and they serve very good hot dogs. It's a tiny place and my only concern was that they wouldn't be able to handle our large group. The owner assured me that she will be able to. There are many topping combinations here for those who like variety. Here is their site: http://otwhotdogs.com/
Check out the menu. I was assured that it takes very little time to put the toppings on the dogs. They will be heating them for us as soon as we leave the GHI which is less than 5 minutes away, so we will be served in a reasonable amount of time.
There are 2 different dogs served here. Thumann's beef/pork franks 6/1 that are deep fried. Most of the dogs served are these. The other brand, which makes Out of This World unique, is Vienna Beef from Chicago. There is only one other place in N.J. that I know of that serves this dog. And it's a cheesesteak place that doesn't know how to prepare it. Mine was gray from either being old or in the water too long. Out of This World gets it right. The Vienna beef dog is used for a Chicago style dog. You can also get it plain or with the other topping combinations offered, but you have to specify it. If you order a dog here you get the Thumann's unless you order the Chicago dog or you specify that you want the Vienna beef dog. This frank is a natural casing 8/1 all beef dog. THE Chicago dog. In Chicago over 80% of the hot dog joints use this brand. It is a high quality beef dog but milder than Nathan's, Sabrett, Hebrew National, Best's. The emphasis is on paprika with less on garlic. The other brands are more garlic oriented with less paprika. Vienna blends in well with the ingredients on a Chicago style dog; poppy seed bun, mustard, relish, onions, pickle, tomato, celery salt, and sports peppers. A Nathan's, Sabrett, etc. is too well seasoned and would throw everything out of balance. Many of you have never had a Vienna beef dog. Let me suggest you try one here. A different spicing than the beef dogs common here. Depending on your taste you may like it better or not. You can get it grilled (flat top griddle) or steamed. If you order a Chicago dog, be assured that it is authentic. Meaning Vienna Beef frank, all the right ingredients including poppy seed Rosen buns imported from Chicago. Pretty cool to see both Vienna and Thumann's umbrellas in the parking lot. I'm excited about this place. Their Texas Weiner chili is a very good example of the Passaic County thin chili sauce you get at the Hot Grill, Libby's, and Pappy's. A good contrast to the thicker Plainfield area Texas Weiner chili served at Manny's.
6) Jack's Frank & Fries, Union. Jack's is another new place that's only been open a few months. I first went in June. Let me be lazy here and cut and paste what I wrote on Roadfood after going the first time. I'm starting to get writer's cramp.
Jack's Frank & Fries is a new hot dog restaurant that's been open a little over a week. They haven't had a Grand Opening yet and are still in their "soft opening" stage. Located in a small strip mall on Rt. 22 West in Union behind the Sprint store, Jack's is a small clean restaurant with some stools and a counter for eating in.
I stopped in yesterday and sampled their hot dogs, hot dog chili, regular chili (with beans) and two types of cole slaw; creamy and vinegary. The chili and coleslaw are homemade. For me the hot dogs are what I come for first and foremost. Everything else is secondary, but certainly adds to or detracts from the experience.
The dogs are natural casing Sabrett all beef, 8/1. They are prepared 2 ways. Steamed or on a flat top griddle. The steamed dogs are actually steamed in a special compartment, not heated in hot water with the top covered which is what many consider steamed. I had my dogs grilled on the flat top. They were done just right and put on potato buns from Stroehmann's which made for a good frank to bun ratio. A Martin's roll would have been too big for this particular dog. I sampled 3 mustards which they are currently experimenting with. Admiration deli mustard, Gold's deli mustard, and Gold's dusseldorf. All 3 are great, but I prefer Admiration for a spicy beef dog.
The natural casing Sabrett's here are on the same level as the best places in New Jersey and New York that serve them. Namely Papaya King, Gray's, Katz's, Dover Grill, and Boulevard Drinks. I prefer the dogs here to the Papaya places and Boulevard Drinks because the frank is a better size. BVoulevard Drinks uses a tiny 12/1 frank. Papaya King claims a 10/1, though to my eye it appears smaller. I've heard that they use franks that are anywhere from 12 to 10 to a lb. At 8/1, Jack's is a good size. Katz's deli in NYC uses a 7/1. But they charge close to $4.00 for it. Jack's is much closer to me and more affordable, charging more than a dollar less than Katz's, but using the same recipe natural casing frank and preparing them in smaller quantitites. Jack's is now my favorite place to get a grilled Sabrett natural casing dog. From talking with the owner I am confident that they will maintain consistency. It's always a good sign when the owner is there serving you your hot dog.
I had one dog with mustard and one with mustard and chili. The chili here is very good. Thick as opposed to the thin Passaic/Clifton area Texas Weiner sauce, it had a hint of chocolate and is very similar to the chili served at Amazing Hot Dog. Highly recommended. The regular chili had beans and was much thicker. It too was good and had a good amount of heat. I preferred the hot dog chili.
The homemade coleslaws were tasty and fresh. The vinegar coleslaw was very crunchy (maybe too much so) and the creamy coleslaw had a little bit of mustard and is patterned after Primanti's in Pittsburgh. Eric, who owns Jack's with his wife Linda, is from Pittsburgh. I would definitely order the creamy coleslaw when I return.
Jack's offers traditional toppings along with a lot of untraditional ones such as sambal and cream cheese that I believe are a waste and do not belong on a quality frankfurter. To me they serve to mask rather than complement the actual frankfurter which should be what is focused on. Same criticism I had of Amazing Hot Dog except that Jack's dogs were served piping hot while Amazing often served theirs cool or even cold. But I do realize that many people like and seek out such toppings. I'll stick to mustard and maybe chili.
Jack's serves a great hot dog. It is prepared well, which too many places today get wrong. I will definitely be back and am strongly considering adding them to the 8th Annual New Jersey Hot Dog Tour.
One correction. It's the vinegar coleslaw that's patterned after Primanti's.
So that's the itinerary. If we have time, maybe we'll hit another place. Let me suggest that you pace yourself. Share, skip a place you may not like, cut out sides, etc. As always, it will be a great day.