RE: New Jersey Hot Dogs
Wed, 02/7/07 1:34 PM
Article New York Times about Rutts Hutt one of my favorite dogs. Thought it would be of interest to you all.
HOT DIGGITY! DOG DIGGITY! -- RESTAURANTS; Two Rippers, P.C., With Relish Mother Made
By FRAN SCHUMER
Published: May 24, 1998
THE restaurant of my dreams is undoubtedly some three-star something in France; my husband's is Rutt's Hut.
Asked to describe his first encounter with the legendary hot dog stand, a friend whose tastes are usually more upscale confessed, ''I ate four hot dogs in 15 minutes.''
Rutt's Hut began life in 1928 as a hut, the inspired vision of Royal Rutt, and his wife, Anna. The one-room stand sold hot dogs and the famous mustard relish perfected, legend has it, by Mr. Hutt's mother back in Germany. The secret of Mr. Rutt's success, however, was not only the relish but also his method of cooking: instead of grilling or even boiling hot dogs, as is done at pushcarts all over Manhattan, Mr. Royal deep-fried them in fat that had reached an internal temperature of 310 degrees. The result is a hot dog that crackles, or, as my husband puts it, ''a New York hot dog on Viagra.''
Eventually, the stand metamorphosed into a Tudor-style building with a bar, a restaurant and a fast-food area that drew factory workers from all over Passaic County. But after 47 years, Mr. Royal, who by then was using a wheelchair (and who died about 15 years ago), sold the business to Nicholas Karagiorgis, who still owns the operation with his two brothers-in-law and a nephew. As stipulated by their agreement, however, the new owners had to apprentice in Rutt's kitchen. They apparently did their homework. Veterans of both the old and current regimes agree: the hot dogs still crackle, the mustard still smarts and the onion rings make their brown-paper-bag container almost translucent.
I first made the acquaintance of Rutt's in the early years of my marriage. I could always tell when my husband had come home after a late night at the office by the scent of fried onion rings wafting up to our bedroom. If he was in his car anywhere near Clifton and I wasn't, he almost invariably made a detour to Rutt's.
Recently, however, he agreed to let me accompany him on one of his nighttime visits. The following is a report from the field, a guide for first-time Rutt's visitors.
Even finding the place is tricky. Wedged in a no man's land between highways, Rutt's often eludes even repeat customers. In short, the easiest approach from anywhere is to take Route 21 to exit 10, cross back over the highway and turn left on River Road.
Once you arrive, finding your way is also daunting. Essentially, Rutt's consists of an older, larger, more formal dining room, where you can sit, and a smaller room toward the rear of the building, where you can't. If you're a lover of hot dogs -- and almost everyone who enters Rutt's is -- this is where the action is.
Inside, the room is undeniably Spartan. White tile walls, bright lights and freestanding counters give it all the warmth of a military refectory. Still, despite the bare-bones decor -- maybe even because of it -- the room has spirit. Here, with nothing more than a gravel parking lot to gaze upon, men (and occasionally a woman) radiate an unmistakable esprit de corps standing shoulder to shoulder and savoring one spicy hot dog after another. There is no better place to spend $1.50 on supper.
Before you do, however, it helps to know the jargon. A hot dog may be a hot dog elsewhere, but at Rutt's, it's a ripper (a hot dog whose skin has cracked), a weller (a well-cooked or well-done ripper), a medium (moderately well-cooked), an in-and-outer (rare) or a cremator (burned). For anyone who cares, Thumann's makes the Rutt's Hut hot dog with 60 percent beef, 35 percent pork and 5 percent cereal filling. The result is a hot dog in which you can actually taste the meat.
To go with it, sauerkraut is acceptable, but mustard and Rutt's mustard relish (both in canisters on the counter) are de rigueur. Cheese is available, as is Rutt's pleasantly spicy chili, but one regular told me, ''It's considered in poor taste to put these on your ripper.''
Boylan's Birch Beer is a popular choice among soft drinks. When ordering others, however, you need to know their odd nicknames. A Marvis is a Yoo-Hoo (Marvis was the name of the chocolate drink manufactured by a nearby factory, which Rutt's sold), and a Howdy (for reasons that no one seems to remember) is orange soda. P.C., of course, means paper cup and is synonymous with the other slang for takeout, which is traveling (as in ''two rippers and a Howdy traveling.'')
AMONG side dishes, the french fries are ordinary; the onion rings are transcendant. Mr. Karagiorgis and his colleagues use Spanish onions and their own batter, their contribution to the Rutt's mystique.
In recent years, he and his partners have also broadened the menu. It offers breakfast (eggs), non-hot-dog lunches (hamburgers, tuna, roast beef with gravy) and diner-style entrees like roast turkey, even duck. But although the Greek salad has fresh anchovies and the homemade rice pudding is creamy and lush, the reason to go is the ripper.
Just as my husband and I were leaving, a customer, having finished the two hot dogs on his plate, approached the counter with a request for ''one more hot dog, please.''
''You hear that a lot here,'' my husband said.
417 River Road, Clifton
ATMOSPHERE Men eating.
SERVICE Men -- and women -- working.
RECOMMENDED DISHES Hot dog with sauerkraut, mustard and mustard relish; onion rings; rice pudding.
PRICE RANGE Appetizers and side dishes: $1.30 to $5.25. Entrees, $1.50 to $7.50. Desserts, 85 cents to $1.65.
HOURS Sundays through Thursdays, 8 A.M. to 11 P.M.; Fridays and Saturdays to 1 A.M.
CREDIT CARDS Not accepted.
RESERVATIONS Not accepted.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS Everything on one level.
RATINGS Poor to Satisfactory, Good, Very Good, Excellent,
Ratings reflect the reviewer's reaction to food, ambiance and service, with price taken into consideration. Menu listings and prices are subject to change.