What a beautiful day for a road trip – especially one focused on road food! Last Saturday we headed north, and west into New York State for the Troy Hot Dog meet up. Our first stop was Gus’s Hot Dogs in Watervliet. We met up with Shmaboo (Tim), who grew up in the area – lucky for us, as it turned out we were the only three roadfooders, and his knowledge of the area ensured we hit the best of the Albany dog stands!
Gus’s isn’t much more than a shack – a window where you order, and another window where you pick up. Like all good “joints” the pseudo-surliness of the staff adds to the atmosphere. We got four dogs – as Shmaboo mentioned in his write up on the meet and greet thread, many folks were eating pyramids of dogs. The dog with “everything” includes mustard, onions, and sauce, and isn’t much bigger than my middle finger. We got a Greek Hamburger, also – my mother grew in Erie, PA and told stories of the greek dogs and burgers she enjoyed. I don’t have a basis for comparison, but the grilled onions on the burger (vs. the raw onions on the dog) gave the burger a bit of an off-putting flavor, I didn’t eat more than a bite. The dogs were good – natural casings giving a good snap, and a decent chili-taste to the meat sauce. You can’t beat the price – four dogs, a burger, and soda came to about five bucks.
We hung out for a while hoping for more road-fooders to show up, then decided to hit the road and get a few more dogs. Our second stop was Hot Dog Charlie’s in Cohoes. It had more of a chain-restaurant look to it (and does have several branches in the area). We took a picture of a picture hanging in the restaurant – this was the original owner, and for a “six degrees of separation” moment, the kid on the right side of the picture went to high school with none other than our dining companion, Shmaboo!
The dogs were my favorite of the day – snappy, and the sauce had some visible simmered onions along with the meat. It had a nice chili taste, without overpowering the tiny dog – I easily could sit down and eat six of these at a go.
While we were at Gus’s, Shmaboo told us another regional specialty is the fish fry – a long piece of fried fish on a bun, with chili sauce. Since it was available at Hot Dog Charlie’s we got that, too. Both of us expected the same “chili” sauce as on the dogs, but it turned out to be more like what we call “hamburger relish” – a tomato based pickle relish. The fish was made to order, so it was crispy and fresh, and the chili sauce added a surprisingly good note to the sandwich. It’s a winner!
The last stop for the three of us was Famous Lunch in Troy – another “joint” that’s been around since 1932. It has a great atmosphere – a long line of stools at the counter, and along the wall a bunch of small booths. The grill is in the window, the better to entice you inside. I love that they keep their chili sauce in a big bean pot on the grill. This to me had the most chili-like of the sauces, very dark, and slightly loose. It was good, but overpowered the dog – we also discussed the possibility that they might use a different dog, also – the entire bite had a bit of a different flavor than the other two stops.
And the single dog showing in the window shot - he made it for the picture we were taking, and kindly gave us the dog gratis afterward! Here's a bit of perspective on the size, with the dressed dog on a plate next to a quarter.
All of the stops sold their own sauce – and Shmaboo had also brought along another sauce from his area of the state – we can’t wait to try it! The “Zippy” sauce sign was posted in Famous Lunch.
We said goodbye to Shmaboo at that point, and decided to spend the rest of the day exploring the area. We hit a local cemetery to find “Uncle Sam”’s grave – the story goes that he was provisions inspector, and during the War of 1812 stamped the goods “U.S” – and Uncle Sam was born. We didn’t find it, but got some great views of the area from the hills in the cemetery.
Shmaboo had suggested that we stop later in the day at the Snowman – a local ice cream place. We headed there after our cemetery tour – Tim got raspberry sherbet, and I had a root beer float. You have to love the sign!
On the way out of town we detoured to find “Nipper” – the RCA dog. Neither of us expected to find him so LARGE! The building he is on now is an Irish American club which was a distribution center years ago. Another great example of roadside America!
Our last stop in the eating journey was Kingston, NY – Dallas Hot Wieners. This was a totally different experience from the earlier dogs. It was a full sized, steamed, skinless dog. The sauce was much saucier – very little meat, and had a true chili bite to it that left a little afterburn. I would have enjoyed it more with a better, natural casing dog. The dog was so bland the chili sauce totally overpowered it.
It was a great opportunity to sample some local food – my favorites, in order – Hot Dog Charlie’s – an A+, Famous Lunch – an A-, Gus’s and finally Dallas Hot Wieners. Thanks to Shmaboo for sharing his knowledge of the area and giving us the Snowman tip!