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Merritt Canteen

4355 Main St., Bridgeport, CT - (203) 372-1416
Posted By Michael Stern on 8/23/2009 9:52:00 PM
A beloved Bridgeport dive since 1942, the Merritt Canteen serves a chili dog that will make your lips and tongue glow for hours after you eat it. The dog is a snappy natural-casing tube steak deep fried until crunch-crusted, nestled in a lightly-toasted bun. The chili isn't meaty; it is a thin sauce very much like the Kuhn's chili that dresses dogs at Danny's Drive-in down in Stratford: ferocious, and an ideal complement for the wiener below. If you are pyromaniacally inclined, the Canteen offers not only a chili dog (which the menu on the wall calls "extremely hot") but also "brutal dog," which is a quarter-pound, super-spiced red hot topped with chili.

Other than the chili dogs, there are fried onion dogs, bacon dogs, cole slaw dogs and cheese dogs as well as all sorts of hamburgers including a bacon-and-egg-burger, a veggie burger and a bison burger. Condiments are applied by the staff. While hot dogs and hamburgers are ordered from a quick-service window, a slightly slower-service window offers hero sandwiches (here known as grinders), and a whole fried seafood menu, including whole-belly clams, shrimp, and calamari. And breakfast is served all day.

Accommodations are spare, as you'd expect in a quick-eats joint on Main Street: laminate booths, a "claw machine" that offers chances to pick up plush toys, and an ATM for those in need of cash.

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Scorecard

4 - Overall: One of the Best - Worth a Trip
Overall: One of the Best - Worth a Trip
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Reviewers Photos [Upload Your Photos]

To me, the twist at the end of a natural-casing hot dog is one of the beautiful sights in the food world.
"To me, the twist at the end of a natural-casing hot dog is one of the beautiful sights in the food world."
Michael Stern





Left: a chili dog. Right: a bacon dog with sauerkraut
"Left: a chili dog. Right: a bacon dog with sauerkraut"
Michael Stern


The Hummel-brand
"The Hummel-brand "red hot" is a quarter-pound hot dog that dwarfs its bun ... and is plenty hot, even without chili. This one is dressed with mustard and relish."
Michael Stern


These cradles are arrayed at the condiment bar so the servers can dress your chosen dog the way you specify.
"These cradles are arrayed at the condiment bar so the servers can dress your chosen dog the way you specify."
Michael Stern


I suspect these primal signs on the wall of the Canteen date back to its early days.
"I suspect these primal signs on the wall of the Canteen date back to its early days."
Michael Stern


Booths are lined up along windows opposite the order counter. Tables are easy to wipe. When finished eating, customers generally tote their own trash to garbage cans set out around the room.
"Booths are lined up along windows opposite the order counter. Tables are easy to wipe. When finished eating, customers generally tote their own trash to garbage cans set out around the room."
Michael Stern


Customers are requested not to leave the order window as their dogs are being made. Although each one is outfitted and dressed to order, the line moves very fast.
"Customers are requested not to leave the order window as their dogs are being made. Although each one is outfitted and dressed to order, the line moves very fast."
Michael Stern


The Merritt Canteen has attracted a loyal clientele for more than sixty years.
"The Merritt Canteen has attracted a loyal clientele for more than sixty years."
Michael Stern


These crinkle-cuts start frozen, but they are fried long enough in clean oil to develop a very agreeable crunch.
"These crinkle-cuts start frozen, but they are fried long enough in clean oil to develop a very agreeable crunch."
Michael Stern


The walls of the Merritt Canteen are decorated with old menus and their very old prices as well as clippings dating back to opening day in the 1940s.
"The walls of the Merritt Canteen are decorated with old menus and their very old prices as well as clippings dating back to opening day in the 1940s."
Michael Stern



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