Tenth outing, 7/21
46) Charlies Pool Room, Alpha
Another marathon day of hot dog eating. We hit 10 places in all. First stop, Charlies Pool Room. Hands down the most unique hot dog place in New Jersey, which it won a Coney for. I voted for J's Beef because I was thinking of the most unique dog. J's is the only place in the state that serves an authentic Chicago Style Hot Dog with the ingredients shipped in from Chicago. But the category was for Unique Hot Dog Place, which Charlies Pool Room has to be. It has an old hardwood floor with one pool table, one table for eating, a tiny kitchen where the dogs are prepared in a frying pan, a pinball machine, a small room where there is a barber shop which is no longer being used, and a jail in the basement! Also no longer being used. Charlies is a one of a kind type of place that has to be seen to be believed. When I go somewhere for a dog, I go for the dog itself and place little emphasis on history, popularity, reputation, atmosphere, etc. I know that these all add to the experience, but for me it's all about the dogs. If there is ever a place that I would go to for the overall experience as much, or more than the dog itself, (which is pretty good, by the way) it would be here. I think everyone should experience it.
As for the dog served, it is a typical West Jersey/East Pennsylvania type dog. A mild beef/pork dog (Kunzler's skinless 10 to a lb) served with yellow mustard and dill pickle slices. I've had the Kunzler dog at a few places in West Jersey and it is ok. Doc's in Alpha (out of business now) served them on a roller grill. Sammy's in Lopatcong deep fried them. Charlies pan fries them. Out of the three, Charlies tastes the best. But what sets Charlies Pool Room apart other than the place itself is Grandma Fencz's secret Hungarian sauce. It consists of onions and tomatoes. I've never had it because I hate onions, but those who have love it. It's considered much better than the Sabrett onions or the other name brands sold in the supermarkets like Thumanns or Boars Head. Brothers John and Joe Fencz are the owners and only people working here. Their grandmother began making the sauce in 1925.
According to the S.W.A.T. Team, it makes for one great dog. Joe told me that without the sauce, the dog would be just an ordinary dog. I disagree. It's fresh and prepared well. I would consider it a cut above most deep fried dogs. And that's without the special sauce. Those who like red onion sauce will probably love Charlies version. The team did. My wife did. And so do the many people who travel from all over the state to come to Charlies Pool Room. Charlies received some votes for best deep fried dog. The owners are friendly, the place is unique, the dogs are good, and the price is under a buck. I highly recommend a visit to Charlies Pool Room. For a great review, check out http://www.HollyEats.com.
47) Hot Rod's, Glen Gardner
Rodney Heft has owned Hot Rod's for the last couple of years. I think it was a hot dog restaurant before he owned it. In my opinion, this was one of the 3 worst hot dogs I've had all summer, coming in between Tido's (the absolute worst) and The Old Heidelburg. Part of the reason is that the dog is a boiled Turkey hot dog. I don't like dogs containing turkey, chicken, or tofu. If you like turkey dogs, you might like this one. I didn't, and neither did most of the team. The one or 2 members who did, liked the dogs because of the chili. I took one bite and threw the rest in the garbage. The owner doesn't volunteer the fact that he serves a turkey dog.
The dogs are served boiled or steamed, but are available grilled or deep fried upon request. Rod the owner is quite the showman (showboat?) and takes pride in preparing and wrapping the dogs with lightning speed. He did, however, make a mistake with mine and wasn't too happy when I pointed it out. The dogs are served with mustard, pickles, and onions. I requested mine without onions. It came with them. I told Rod that I wanted them without onions, but with the mustard and pickles. Not 5 seconds later he threw another dog in my hand. This one was without onions, but also without the pickle, which I wanted. When I pointed this out, he became a little angry and made a face. I guess he realized later that his place was being reviewed and his attitude might be mentioned, so he came running out when we were about to leave and gave us all free t shirts. Which was a nice gesture. But didn't make up for the lousy dogs. I would stay away unless you actually like Turkey dogs. The ones used here are Kunzler brand that you can buy in any supermarket.
48) Sal's Dog House, Clark.
Sal's hot dog truck has been around for a little over 2 years. I've been there quite a few times since it's in the same town that I work in. I remember reading on a forum that the chili was awful. I had never been there, so I ran down to check it out, and it was indeed horrible. They have since changed the chili, and it is quite good. Very spicy, sort of like Father & Son. As for the dogs themselves, they are dirty water Sabrett's with a natural casing. Too small at 12 to a lb, and overpriced. But very fresh, hot, and tasty. I'd rather go elsewhere to get a bigger dog cheaper, but when I'm in the area and hungry, I stop in for a few. If you can get past the small size, these dogs are as good as there are for natural casing dirty water Sabrett's. And better than 4 of the 5 other places we hit today serving dirty water Sabrett's.
49) Petey's Weenies, St Georges Ave. (rt 35) Colonia
Petey's is a truck located on busy St. Georges Ave. He's only been in business for a year or 2. Small 12 to a lb natural casing Sabrett's. These dogs were bland and had little snap from being in the water too long. Surprisingly, one member had this dog in their top 3 for best dirty water dog. Easily one of the worst in this style. If you're in this area, Sal's and Munce's are minutes away and much better choices.
50) Stewart's Root Beer, St Georges Ave. (rt 27) Rahway
Minutes away from Petey's (Munce's and Sal's also) is Stewart's Root Beer. This stand has been here a long time, and for at least the last few years has been open year round. We dined on hot dogs, and of course, root beer. There was some grumbling among the team because there were no frosted mugs for the root beer. The dogs served here are the 6 to a lb natural casing Thumann's grillers. Years ago they were prepared on a griddle. If done right, there is no better beef and pork dog. Here, the dogs are deep fried. Some places do deep fry the griller, even though Thumann's makes a dog specifically for deep frying. The dog was ok, but would have been much better grilled. I don't know if the dog spent enough time in the oil beccause it came out fairly bland for a Thumann's. Most of the team didn't care much for the dog, calling it mediocre or bland. One member liked the cheese and bacon dog.
51) Munce's, St. Georges Ave. (rt 27 Rahway)
Munce's truck has been in the same location outside the Rahway Park for years. Different people working there and a new owner, but the same truck and the same dogs. Many people are glad that the grouchy guy who worked at Munce's for years is gone. The dog here is an 11 to a lb natural casing Sabrett. Average dog, nothing special. This was the opinion of myself as well as the team. The chili was sweet and mild. I liked it. Others were indifferent.
52) Dees Hut, Faitoute Ave. Roselle Park
Another truck. Dee Costanza took over in 1973 when her father retired. I've been here many times as it's the closest hot dog truck or cart to where I live. Dee serves a 10 to a lb natural casing Sabrett dirty water style. This is the perfect size for a Sabrett dirty water dog since the 8 to a lb Sabrett's are mushy. Dee is one of the few people serving the 10's rather than the saller 11, 12, or 13's. The dogs are also hot enough and always fresh. A good snap to the casing as well. This is my favorite place that serves a dirty water Sabrett. There were 2 others that were as good, but both are quite a distance from my home. I get mine with just mustard. The chili here is not good, so I avoid it.
I was surprised to find that the other members of the S.W.A.T. team, with the exception of one other guy, didn't like this dog. The 2 of us who do come here frequently. The others, except for Pete were only here on this day. If you're in Union County, there's no better dirty water Sabrett. In fact, I don't think there's any better in the rest of Jersey.
53) Tommy's Hot Dogs, Roosevelt Ave. Carteret
Tommy's is literally a shack. With a screen door and shingle roof. Sort of looks like the junkyard in Sanford & Son. Tommy Lane started out with a cart in Rahway years ago and eventually moved to his current location. He got the Coney for Most Heart. He puts a lot of heart and soul into his work, and has been serving his loyal customers for years. His wife and son also help run the place. We were there quite awhile as they ran out of hot dogs just before we showed up. We waited patiently for Tommy to return, talking with his wife and son. The team liked the truckstop-like setting and the dogs, which were 11 to a lb natural casing Sabrett's. I thought the dogs and chili were average. Most liked the chili. I don't recall what it tasted like, but my notes said average. Tommy does well in Carteret. I think it's the only hot dog joint in the area.
54) Mr. Dees, Sayreville
Mr. Dees is a small, clean hot dog restaurant that started out as a hot dog cart. The original cart is still there on the front lawn. The dogs are small, 12 to a lb, natural casing dirty water Sabrett's. You can also get your dog deep fried or griddled if you ask. I had mine boiled. In addition to being too small, the dog wasn't served hot enough. The chili was mushy with a very harsh flavor. I would avoid Mr. Dees and go to Bears, which is a mile or 2 away. Or Nagle's, which is also in the area, but unfortunately wasn't there the day we went out because of the rain.
55) Top Dog, Metuchen
Top Dog opened early in the year, and last I heard is already out of business. Too bad, because they served a unique and tasty dog. A nice little restaurant serving a natural casing 8 to a lb Hatfield Angus beef dog. It was prepared on a griddle and was a welcome change of pace to the dirty water Sabrett's that we were eating all day. Unfortunately, Nagles truck in Sayreville was closed, and he too served the Hatfield Angus dog dirty water style from his truck. This dog has a good spicing, with a unique smoky flavor. Made to compete with Sabrett and the all beef dogs served in East Jersey and New York, this is one fine dog, and in my opinion, the best of the day. Too bad Hatfield's other franks aren't as good.
The dog is served on a toasted bun. The chili is ordinary, but the coleslaw was excellent. Some of us put it on our dogs. Overall, this dog was well liked by the team. Too bad Top Dog is gone.