Stopping for Frankfurters on a Secret Mission MIDDLETOWN, N.Y. --- (Combined Dispatches)
-- Greetings to all my hot dog enthusiast friends and all the ships at sea.
Recently ensconced in the Western Catskills on a secret mission, a brief escape to Middletown, N.Y., brought me to Coney Island Restaurant, home of the much lauded chili dog. Actually, more the chili, not as much the dog.
Along with the memories of past junkets to this rather famous hot dog stop, I had two dogs all the way (chili, mustard and chopped raw onion). The waitress informed that the grilled hot dogs I was served were Tyson’s. ‘Gee, they’ve changed a couple times in the last few years,’ I thought to myself. It was Tobin’s 1st
Prize when first I crossed the Island’s threshold.
“Tyson’s?” I asked, “I didn’t know they made hot dogs.” She assured me that they did … both pork and beef. I’m assuming the pork dog also contained beef, or perhaps chicken or turkey. I’ll ask Q to look that up.
In any case, I ordered the pork, which I prefer when going either the chili, Coney, or Texas Weiner route, or, for that matter, any of the various and controversial permutations in-between.
The dog, probably a skinless, 10-to-a-lb., was OK, nothing special, but proved a suitable saddle for the iconic chili. You know, that cinnamon, cumin, or whatever it is that echoes of “Secret Recipe” in chili dog-serving venues throughout the Hudson Valley, Eastern Pennsylvania, and parts of N.J. Real good. So was the service.
This is still a nice place, despite its location near a bus station populated by folks that suggest how your brother-in-law might turn out if he doesn’t get a job….its hospitableness and Hot Dog Landmark status key reasons for a visit….and yes, the chili. It’d be really great if they served, let’s say, a Thumann’s, or a Hoffman’s, or a Sahlen. But then, so would World Peace.
Prior to that visit, a surprise had awaited at the Nathan’s franchise in the Galleria Mall in Middletown….a really good, perfectly prepared frankfurter….a Nathan’s frankfurter as good as any you’ll get at the original spot in Coney Island….the one in Brooklyn. No sound or smell of the surf, though.
I have long held that Nathan’s is the most lax fast food chain insofar as overseeing their franchisees. I’ve been to several that, well…..just weren’t up to snuff…that could have been cleaner, better managed, and more possessing of the pizzazz and soul that a true hot dog enthusiast is looking for in a purveyor of the wiener.
But, this was different.
The large, corner hot dog stand in the food court was spic ‘n’ span, the help bright eyed and enthusiastic (from my angle, I couldn’t see if they were bushy-tailed), and the dogs on the flat grill were apparently there for just the right amount of time. They were of the natural casing variety. As my friend Sam, a noted private eye, might have said, I didn’t need X-ray vision to see the snap.
I ordered a chili dog. It was quite good, possessing just the right, anticipated explosion of flavor and served good and hot, although the basic, medium dark brown chili, while tasty enough in a rather usual way, was curious in that it was loaded with what I assume was beef….almost as much in weight as a quarter of the dog….which was, I imagine, an 8-to-a-lb. While I don’t quite like that much ground meat in my chili, I guess the value-conscious consumer looking to fill up might not complain too heartily. Things are tough all around.
I had thoughts of making it to Pete’s in Newburgh, N.Y., one of my 5 favorite hot dog emporia in the whole wide world, but it was getting late. I was, after all, on a secret mission of the utmost importance, and I feared I’d arrive at Pete’s after closing. How would it look?
Besides, there was a bakery in Livingston Manor that called out to me earlier in the day as I slingshotted down 17 toward Middletown in the Bearcat.
The Catskills in summer, just a couple hours before it gets dark, have their very own temperature like no other in the land … a special, comfortable coolness that brings a haunting happiness to anyone who has traversed its back roads, and even its highways when they are not filled with vacationers going to and fro. It is a splendid loneliness, especially enjoyed in a roadster….the tall, ultra-green trees darkening a very special way to visually declare the enchantment. You are alone, but with everyone. It’s the only time I allow myself to be transcendental.
I pulled my handbrake up at the bakery. The blueberry streusel tart and cup of coffee from a specially made, fresh pot of coffee, even though they were closing in half an hour, just about made up for forgoing Pete’s. She also had a nice smile.
“What year Stutz is that, a ‘20 or ‘21?”
“Why, hey, a ’20 … not bad. Great streusel, too.”
“Yeah, ’20, figures, still right hand drive. We’ll have blueberry pie by the slice tomorrow.”
So that’s it for now, friends. Keep your eyes on this space for more hot dog news as the Fates allow it to happen.