RE: New Jersey Hot Dogs
Tue, 08/3/04 2:18 PM
Wow. So many good folks interested in Sabrett. Let's see:
Sabrett began after a failed business venture in Egypt. One of the founders decided in the 1930's to build drycleaning stores in Egypt, and quickly found out there was REASON the largest producer of fine cotton in the world didn't have many dry-cleaners. They didn't want any. With little of his cash left, he re-entered the United States, and went into the food business. Sabrett was a name picked basically out of the imagination. It was not a family name, no Yiddish translation---just an attractive and memorable tag-name for the Company. By the late 1940's, the plant, located on Coles/Henderson St near Colden Street in Jersey City, was producing hot dogs, hamburgers, and rolls. The baker for most of the life of the company was Caspar Buonocore, who fathered the current Jersey City Police Chief, Ron Buonocore. Ron's son starred in a short-lived MTV show a few years back.
The owners of Sabrett were relatives, Mack Katz and Julius Frankel. My Dad came back from World War II, having learned how to drive a truck an very little else, in Europe. He took a job through the Bakery Drivers Local 108, and worked for Sabrett for 41 years. My brothers and I did shifts on his route, which led from JC to Spanish Harlem to Hunt's Point, up to New Rochelle, back home. My dad started loading his truck at 2 am, and came home from work in the afternoon. It was back-breaking work. He always brought home a bundle of franks and a box of burgers. We never went hungry. When he broke his legs in an accident at work, the drivers visited us with bundles of meat and bread. I recall my dad bartering with other purveyors in those days---The United Pickle Company in the Bronx stacked up bottles of pickles and kraut in our garage. I can still remember the taste of those sour tomatoes and red peppers, the best in the Bronx.
Sabrett maintained very high standards of cleanliness and secrecy about the spice formulas. My dad knew the secret: Lots of garlic and paprika. The company made a product called 'hot sausage' which was basically a skinless knockwurst with some cayenne pepper. Delicious. They made knockwurst, all beef hot dogs, hamburgers without any filler, and sold tons of chop meat. My Dad used to sell chopmeat to the Brasserie in NYC, a fine restaurant, and many of the diners that lined the route uptown from the Holland Tunnel. If you ate a burger at the Brasserie from 1960-1980, chances are it was Sabrett meat. In those days, Sabrett made a casing and skinless all beef franks, pork/beef "Country Girl" franks, and burgers, meat, and buns. Onion sauce came later.
One of the bonuses in those days was getting the meat that didn't make into the grinder. Sabrett used to throw skirt steaks in with the chuck and round, back in the days when NO ONE wanted skirts. My Dad would always bring them home in time for 4th of July. Yum.
All good things come to an end. Julius Frankel passed away, and his son in law, Boyd, took over the business. A lawyer, he took the business in a different direction, attempting to use the name for national distribution. My Dad retired and moved to Houston, where my parents opened up a New York style Deli, shipping Sabrett dogs to Houston, along with National Deli pastrami and corned beef. They made it into the New York Times in 1986, when they tried to put pushcarts out on the streets in downtown Houston, and battled the city.
In the early 90's, if I recall, Sabrett was sold to Concourse Provisions, a competitor. They had never really hit it big on the supermarket shelf, as the previous owner hoped. It's a very spicy dog, with lots of flavor. Outside the East Coast and Chicago, I think a milder product held sway. Me, I only eat kosher now, but I have very, very fond memories of Sabrett casing franks, 8 to the pound, with mustard, red onion sauce, and kraut.
Need more details? Ask away.