Originally posted by DPuro329
I think this might cause some good "discusion" but what does everyone think the most overrated hot dog joint in NJ is?
In a 3 way tie...
Hot Dog Johnny's
Just my $.02
What does everyone else think?
Good topic. And of course there will be a wide range of opinions since there are different tastes. And different likes and dislikes since N.J. has many types of hot dogs and ways of preparing them.
I like the Windmill's dogs and have been enjoying them more than I have in the past. I was surprised how good my dog tasted on the recent Hot Dog Tour. Many though consider this dog bland. Especially those who favor a spicier all beef hot dog.
Rutt's Hutt, due to their mild flavor and deep frying elicits the full spectrum of opinions. Described as the best dog in the Universe or the worst. I like their dogs, especially topped with their unique relish. Most of the time I would prefer a beef and pork dog grilled rather than deep fried, though sometimes nothing hits the spot like a well done ripper. Sometimes I'm in the mood for a particular type of dog. But overall I would generally prefer a dog from the Galloping Hill Inn or Windmill to Rutt's, Hiram's or other places that fry a beef and pork dog. I can definitely understand Rutt's being described as overrated. So many people I know of have gone there for the first time with great expectations only to be disappointed. I would say that our friends from Chicago who are used to all beef dogs would probably consider Rutt's highly overrated. I do know 2 people from Chicago who love the dogs at Rutt's. I can't consider them overrated since I happen to enjoy them very much, especially when I get a craving for them. Sort of like the craving I get occasionally for White Castle hamburgers. Not my favorite burger, but sometimes I have to have them.
Hot Dog Johnny's, in my opinion is the most overrated hot dog. Although there are places that sell more hot dogs, Hot Dog Johnny's is known by more people than any hot dog joint in the state with the exception of Rutt's Hut. First time I went to Johnny's I was expecting a very good dog, though one opinion I read stated that their dogs were bland and overrated. So I wasn't that surprised to reach that conclusion myself. I thought they were horrible after going the first time. It was a few years later that I returned after hearing ad nauseum that they were good and thinking maybe I just had a bad experience or that Johnny's had an off day. When I went back, I found that they weren't horrible, just mediocre. I was expecting a lot due to their reputation which is why I called them horrible.
I have since been back a few times. Once with the Munchmobile and 2 or 3 times since I happenned to be in the area. Compared to even the milder West Jersey dogs, Hot Dog Johnny's is bland. That was the opinion of the entire 8 member S.W.A.T. Dog Team when we went. And we compared apples with apples as we went to a few places in the area serving the same style dogs. Johnny's was rated below the others. The skinless dogs come with mustard, ketchup, relish, onions, and a pickle slice. I've omitted the ketchup, relish, and onions.
Johnny's is not only the most popular hot dog joint in West Jersey, but the most popular eatery of any kind. The Star Ledger did an article about this a few years back. The reporter contacted me and wanted me to say something favorable about the place. I just couldn't. I was quoted as a dissenter.
People who like this place often say (and post) about the atmosphere. Or nostalgia since many grew up eating at Hot Dog Johnny's. While I agree that atmosphere, setting, nostalgia, etc. may add to or enhance the overall experience, to me it doesn't make the hot dogs taste any better. The first year of the Munchmobile, the panel compared Hot Dog Johnny's to Toby's Cup. Toby's is located in a dingy stretch of Route 22 while Johnny's is located in a beautiful rural section of Route 46 overlooking the Pequest River. The dogs at Toby's are much better than Hot Dog Johnny's, yet the entire panel picked Hot Dog Johnny's. The reason? Toby's couldn't compare to Johnny's in terms of atmosphere! Unbelievable. They were supposed to be judging hot dogs, not destinations for a Hallmark Card. I would have had more respect for this particular panel if they just said that HDJ's dogs tasted better than Toby's.
The woman who owns Johnny's can be downright nasty at times. This aside, I'm glad that the place is there and doing well because so many people love the place. I wish every hot dog joint success, but it saddens me that there are places that serve a much better hot dog, but for other reasons go under. Syd's is an example.
The whole thing reminds me of a restaurant serving quality Italian food that goes under after being opened less than a year while places like the Olive Garden thrive because of being well known and for other reasons not having to do with the quality of the food. This may be a bad analogy since the Olive Garden is a chain while Johnny's is a small family owned restaurant. For me, hot dogs or any food should be judged on the basis of taste and quality. While I appreciate nostalgia, atmosphere, quirkyness, etc., these things are or should be secondary to the actual food. Sorry for the rant.
Another highly overrated dog is JJ's Truck on Bloomfield Ave. in Newark. They serve a dirty water Sabrett frank. They are known for hot onions (which I've never tasted) and an overly spicy chili that is the hottest I've had in N.J. Much too hot for my taste. There are countless trucks, carts, and storefronts serving dirty water Sabrett's. Although similar, I look for certain things that set the better ones apart from the many that I consider average or run of the mill. Casing, (always preferable to skinless), temperature, (many aren't served hot enough), size, (anything smaller than 10 to a lb is too small, although these places will charge the same price as those offering a bigger dog), price, snap (some natural casing dogs have no snap due to being left in the water too long), and freshness. I've seen dogs that have turned gray or green from being old. Some places will add vinegar to the water to prevent old dogs from changing color.
Prior to '05 JJ's served a natural casing 11 to a lb Sabrett dog. It was barely hot enough, but sufficiently hot and fresh. The chili was very spicy. A decent dog, but overrated even then. People raved about this truck and many considered it the best in the state. There are many that are better. Tony's, a few blocks away is head and shoulders above JJ's.
Sometime prior to August of '05, JJ's switched from a natural casing 11 to a lb dog (still too small) to a tiny 12 to a lb dog that is skinless. I was there once on my own after the switch and once with the Munchmobile. Both times the dogs weren't hot enough and lost flavor from being in the water too long. What was an average, run of the mill dirty water dog in the past is now a way below average dog. Small, skinless, lukewarm, and tasteless. Why so popular? While Hot Dog Johnny's devotees gush over the setting and atmosphere, JJ's clientele makes much of the fact that JJ's is open until 3 or 4 AM. They cater to late night college students from nearby Rutgers who have been out drinking. At that time anything tastes good. I doubt that many of the customers noticed the switch to an even smaller, skinless dog. Bad enough that the dogs are small and skinless. You can get bigger dogs with casing at a number of places, but the dogs are barely warm and bland to boot from sitting in the water too long.
Because this has been my experience, I haven't been back in over 2 years. It is possible that the dogs have gotten better. I don't know and it wouldn't be worth it to go back. Tony' Truck is a few blocks away and is infinitely better. A tasty but milder Golden D brand frank is used, but at 10 to a lb is a much better size than JJ's. Tony's also has a good casing, good snap, served at the right temperature, and much fresher and tastier than JJ's. Even though Sabrett has a spicier flavor profile than the Golden D dog, Tony's franks are much tastier than JJ's because JJ's loses much of their flavor due to too much time in the water. A great example of a place with a reputation (undeserved in my opinion) cutting corners and resting on it's laurels. For a good Sabrett dirty water dog, I go to Dees Hut in Roselle Park. Natural caswing, 10 to a lb, hot, fresh, and tasty.
Other places that I consider overrated are those with a reputation for good dirty water dogs that serve tiny franks and charge too much for them. Big Daddy's in Little Falls is an example. A popular place serving tiny Sabretts and charging more than places like Dees that serve a bigger dog. Part of the popularity of Big Daddy's is due to their selection of hot sauces which in my opinion don't belong on a hot dog. They totally overwhelm the hot dog and mask the flavor. You might as well be eating a celery stick. You wouldn't know the difference.
Falls View is overrated. This small chain was considered one of the best places to get a Texas Weiner years ago. Now they serve a bland, skinless dog. The chili is tasteless as well.
Dickie Dees is an overrated Italian Hot Dog. Unlike Hot Dog Johnny's, JJ's, and Fall's View where the dogs don't taste good, Dickie Dees (and Big Daddy's) serve dogs that do taste good. Dickie Dees is overrated because of the tiny size of their dogs and overall sandwich. And their inferior peppers. And the fact (or more accurately, opinion) that the places known for Italian Hot Dogs all serve a better one. Jimmy Buff's, Tommy's, and Charlies (most of the time when the bread isn't stale). And lesser known places like Dino's, World's First, Paul's, and Joe's Pizzeria.
When I come up for air, maybe I'll post on underrated hot dogs.