Saturday, September 22, 2012 was the 9th Annual, New Jersey Hot Dog Tour, and The Hotdogman made the trip south to participate. I thought I would hit my 100th hot dog joint on the tour, but there were only 6 stops instead of 8, so I still have 2 more to go. I made a little “preview” video before I left.
I got into North Brunswick around 1 AM Saturday morning to crash on a friend’s couch, we had a beer and went to sleep. It was a short drive on Saturday morning to Union, New Jersey to the Galloping Hill- the first stop on the tour- where we would board the school buses that would take the crew around to five more, top quality hot dog joints. We were early, the parking lot was deserted when we arrived at 10 AM!
Before long, folks started arriving and the buses pulled into the parking lot. It was fun meeting so many people who are “kindred spirits” when it comes to that favorite encased meat: the hot dog.
I caught up with John Fox, the guy who started the whole New Jersey Hot Dog Tour. It was also his 29th birthday today!!! He welcomed me and filled me in on a little tour history.
“Coney Island Lou,” the only person on the tour other than Mr. Fox who has attended all 9 tours, proudly displayed the first mustard stain of the day. For those keeping score, this occurred at 11:26 AM!
I also found Mr. Erwin Benz, co-organizer of the tour and chief bus monitor. Erwin is a retired NYC cop, so he was good at directing everyone where they needed to go and keeping the mayhem to a minimum.
Before hopping on the bus, it was time to grab a dog at Galloping Hill. This place has been around for about 75 years. No one knows exactly how long it’s been in operation, but they are saying 75 years; that’s their story and they are sticking to it! The place started as a simple hot dog cart and grew into a huge, full service diner-like establishment. There is also a banquet and catering facility across the parking lot.
Galloping Hill serves Grote and Weigel franks. This hot dog manufacturing company was going out of business a few years ago until an angel investor swept in and bought the place. The specialty at Galloping Hill is a hot dog with hot and sweet relish, sauerkraut, and mustard.
I chowed down in classic Hotdogman fashion and got on the bus. Our “tour guide” Mike “Bear” Goldberger was a fantastic host. He was very knowledgable about the offerings at each stop on the tour and he was obviously a hot dog aficionado of the highest order.
Owner Rob Marciano serves up a Sabrett’s natural casing frank with his signature topping: Streubel. Streubel is a blend of sauerkraut, relish, and mustard that was sublime.
Before getting back on the bus, the group took advantage of the park environs at Marci’s to snap a photo of all the tour attendees.
Next up was Uncle Petey’s Weenies in Colonia. Uncle Petey’s is also a hot dog truck with the distinction of having the world’s yummiest fries. I hammed it up with Petey’s wife, Toni, who pronounced me “a good looking Goombah” before giving me a big bear hug!
The specialty of the house, or should I say truck, is a 1/3 pound, hand butchered, beef and pork frank. A local butcher makes them special for Petey according to his recipe. I topped mine off with mustard, home-made chili, and spicy sauteed onions. This was one honking good hot dog!
Next up was a trip to Elizabeth, New Jersey to a pair of hot dog joints literally three doors down from each other: Tommy’s and Jerry’s (I don’t think they were named after the cartoon- Jerry’s has been open about 20 years longer). Despite rumours to the contrary, the two hot dog businesses co-exist peacefully and the owners are friends.
First up was Tommy’s.
The house specialty is an Italian Hot Dog. For those not in the know, that’s a hot dog (or two or three) in a “bun” made out of pizza dough- reminiscent of a calzone shell, topped with fried onions and peppers, and topped with fresh cut, fried potatoes. This was the most unusual hot dog I have ever had and it can be a whole meal- for a day or two! It was AWESOME!
Believe it or not, I still had some room in my stomach afterwards, so I strolled over to Jerry’s for “dessert.”
Jerry’s is famous for their chili- what I would call a “Coney Island Sauce.” They serve it on a Best Frank, “the dog of the Realm,” as “Bear” called it. The sauce has a cinnamon and clove taste and is quite good. Along with the sauce, I got onions, mustard, and sauerkraut. At only two bucks, it has to be the best deal in all of New Jersey!
Last, but certainly not least, was Manny’s Texas Weiners in Vauxhall. This is a sit down diner with waitresses and everything. There are many items on the menu, but the Texas Weiners with Texas Weiner Sauce are the specialty of the house.
Before ordering, I had a discussion with my table-mates about meat chili on hot dogs. Meat chili is called so many different things throughout the countryside: Coney Island Sauce in New England and Michigan, Michigan Sauce in upstate New York and Quebec, hot weiner sauce in Rhode Island, Texas Weiner sauce in New Jersey, and simply sauce in New York; my BRAIN HURTS just trying to sort it all out! Regardless of what it’s called, it has two things in common wherever you go: it’s delicious (the many subtle variations cause all sorts of arguments about which sauce is best), and it is primarily a Greek phenomena. It seems Greek restaurateurs and hot dog shop owners have an affinity for meat sauce on hot dogs. All this discussion got me hungry, so I ordered one “all the way” with sauce, mustard and onions.
Once I finished my Manny’s dog, the tour was over. We all crawled back to the buses, said our good-byes, and headed on our respective ways. I’m glad I went. The camaraderie among this group of hot dog lovers was unique; we all share a passion for franks and it’s nice to have met everyone.
I already have the 10th Annual New Jersey Hot Dog Tour on my calendar!
I made a 20 minute little documentary of the entire tour experience. Enjoy the video!
I will also be posting short videos of each stop on the tour to highlight the wonderful hot dog men and women I met along the way. As always, stay tuned and tell them, “The Hotdogman sent me!”