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The Blue Collar Foodies' 'Best in Show'

The Blue Collar Foodie discusses the many Hot Dog spots in the North Jersey Area.

Almost every state or region is associated with some type of specialty dish that they can call their own.  These foods spawn dozens if not hundreds of restaurants that boast the best blank in town, which causes crazed fans to damn near kill each other. Philadelphians quarrel over cheese steaks; Marylanders dig their claws into each other over crabs, Texans try to slaughter each other over their steaks, New Yorkers hem and haw about their Pizza Pies, and of course New Jerseyans berate each other over their beloved Hot Dogs.          

As the warm weather approaches and the brown drab tree limbs left behind by the coldness of the winter begin to fill in with an inviting shade of green, my mind begins to wander. I think of Baseball and my beloved Mets, I attempt to decide where I want to go hiking this year, and of course most of all I salivate at the thought of all the great foods associated with nice weather. For me the impending climate shift means a multitude of BBQs with friends and family complete with Hamburgers, Ribs, Chicken, various salads, and New Jersey’s favorite red headed step-child, the Hot Dog. In order to prepare for the upcoming assault of smoked and grilled protein I decided throw a couple of briquettes on the fire that is the debate of who sells the BEST DOG IN TOWN.

I for one cannot be impartial when discussing this topic.  I am a Rutt's Hut fanatic and no amount of debate can change this. Rutt's Hut, is located at 417 River Road, in Clifton NJ.  I cannot truly remember the first time I took a bite of my first Ripper -- this is what they call their deep fried hot dogs -- but ever since that day I have been hooked, like zombies to brains. Rutt’s Hut is by no means the fanciest or prettiest restaurant in town, I think it's held up by the years of deep fried oil that coats the walls, but that is just part of the charm. Like all things in life, fond memories can sway ones opinions and with Rutt’s I believe this may be the case for me. My grandfather brought me to Rutt’s Hutt on special occasions; money was tight in those days, and we would order a pair of rippers together. To this day when I bite into the crispy skin of one of their dogs covered in their famous mustard relish, a must try, I can remember those simpler times.  

As with most Jersey-born Hot Dog fanatics, we all had back up joints. Sometimes driving all the way to Clifton was not an option, other times instead of a plain dog you wanted a Texas Wiener, a hot dog with Chilli Sauce, Mustard, and Onions.  For me and my family when the latter craving struck, there was only one place to venture to,  which used to be located in Paterson and which now can be found in Fair Lawn, at 23-20 Maple Avenue. Johnny and Hanges Texas Hot Dogs are still good but the original recipe, which was lost when the new owners bought the name in 1999, was the stuff that dreams are made of.  Nothing to this day -- and I have searched -- has compared to the amazing Texas Hot Dog of Ye’ Olde Johnny and Hanges. With that said, nostalgia and a close but no cigar attempt to reproduce this amazing Texas Sauce, has kept me going to Johnny and Hanges since they reopened. 

The best Texas Dog on the market today in Zoe’s -- my lovely wife who until she moved to North Jersey did not even know what a Texas Hot Dog was thanks to her South Jersey roots -- opinion resides in Paramus, NJ at the Fireplace Restaurant, located at 718 Route 17 North. Now as I stated earlier, fond memories may skew certain opinions and since not only was this Zoe’s first experience with a Texas Wiener (That's what she said), but we also worked our way through college serving these fine dogs to thousands of Bergen County residents. I must admit though the Texas Hot Dog that the Fireplace serves is among the finest in the area.  The combination of the thick homemade sauce, spicy mustard and fresh onions all on top of a quality grilled hot dog does leave you wanting just one more for the road.  Every now again we like to take a walk down memory lane at the Fireplace after a long day of shopping at one of the 25 malls located in Paramus.

While on the topic of Texas Wieners, I would be remiss to not mention, The Hot Grill, located at 669 Lexington Avenue in Clifton, NJ. The Hot Grill and Rutt’s Hut are like the New York Yankees and the New York Mets, cross town rivals through and through. There are a few things that are bound to start an argument with your friends, discussing religion, politics, or in this area the great Hot Grill Versus Rutt’s Hut feud. I for one believe that they offer two slightly different variations of the classic New Jersey Hot Dog, but others seem to think that liking both establishments is nothing short of heresy. The choice is simple, if I want a Texas Wiener I go to Hot Grill, seeing as Rutt’s does not serve a true Texas, but if I want a plain old hot dog, as I mentioned before, the Hut is the only place for me. With that said, the Hot Grill serves up a great Texas Wiener and you can get these wonderful treats until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday or 1 a.m. every other night of the week. Believe me nothing is better than ending a good summer night by celebrating the early morning hours with a few Texas Hot Dogs at the iconic Hot Grill.

Since I grew up in Elmwood Park, I would be thrown out of the guild if I did not bring up Elmwood Park’s famous River View East. Now, I for one am not a huge fan of their Texas Wieners. I am going to get punched for that sentence by at least three people so I hope you all enjoy my honesty, but they are not bad either. Each place I discussed has brought something unique to the table: Rutt’s deep fries, The Fire Place’s chunky sauce, the Grill’s late hours, Johnny and Hanges' rich history. But River View does not really excel in any category. With that said, River View East does not fail at anything either.  It is the difference between the student that gets all A’s in Math but C's in English and the student that gets straight B’s. River View is the straight B student that you can be proud of Elmwood.     

Something to keep in mind when dining at any of these establishments is that they all have their own languages and subtle nuances that make them memorable. Don't just walk in grab a dog to go and walk out if you have never been before. Have a seat or in some places take a spot at the counter and enjoy the history these eateries ooze.  From the barker at the counter, who will contort your order into some secret code that only the true regulars and the cooks can understand, to the pictures on the walls, these restaurants tell the stories of each and every city they are located in the only way they know how, through tradition. And remember a true foodie can appreciate the finest of foods as well as the arses and elbows of the food world, so go have a hot dog and welcome summer in a true New Jersey fashion!     

These are merely a few of my favorite hot dog purveyors in Northern New Jersey.  Before you delete me as your Facebook friend for not mentioning your stomping ground, post a comment about your favorite place. Upon discussing this article with a few of my friends, I already caught a rash of crap for not including a few places such Jimmy Buff's, located at  60 Washington Street in West Orange, and Libby's, located at 98 McBride Avenue in Paterson, NJ.  Although I have never been to either of these popular Hot Dog spots I have been told great things and they have been added to my list of places to venture to.   

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Hank April 30, 2012 at 12:17 AM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X23T8Sfw8Ek Hot Grill tonight!
John Thompson April 30, 2012 at 03:01 AM
Yeah, Goffle Grill!
miriam pickett April 30, 2012 at 12:34 PM
Hank - Did you know Tom Saba's truck in 3rd Ward Park in Passaic?
Rex miatke April 30, 2012 at 01:00 PM
If in Midland park check out the hot dog caboose right off Godwin. They serve up a rather good dog.
Hank April 30, 2012 at 01:31 PM
the only one I knew was the guy who had the whole side of his truck plastered with lists of toppings. Right when you came off the exit for Wallington. I always went with the red onion sauce. I believe Fat Fikes was a red onion sauce also.
TheBlueCollarFoodie April 30, 2012 at 01:32 PM
I have heard good things about the Hearth as well, I will have to hit it up. Thanks
TheBlueCollarFoodie April 30, 2012 at 01:34 PM
Billy, I was waiting for this comment. I have been told about Hiram's for years I have just never personally gone there. I neglect that area of Northern New Jersey a lot, I tend to see it as merely a gateway to New York. I might have to give ol' Hiram's a whirl this summer. Thanks for the comment
TheBlueCollarFoodie April 30, 2012 at 01:42 PM
When did Callahan's go under?
TheBlueCollarFoodie April 30, 2012 at 01:43 PM
These are two that I have never heard of John, Thanks for the comment and I think I might have to take a ride down 17 next time I get the Craving.
TheBlueCollarFoodie April 30, 2012 at 01:46 PM
I think this is one of the reasons why Rutt's will be a legend in the Hot Dog world for years to come. My Grandfather brought his kids and grand kids alike and now I will eventually bring my kids. The memories will be passed on through generations and rippers will hopefully remain.
TheBlueCollarFoodie April 30, 2012 at 01:48 PM
I have not tried Teddy's, as for Goffle Grill I have only had it once and I was not super impressed. I might have to go again and get a second opinion.
TheBlueCollarFoodie April 30, 2012 at 01:48 PM
I love these old commercials.
TheBlueCollarFoodie April 30, 2012 at 01:49 PM
I never heard of Fat Mike's but I think I would have liked it there after doing some research on the Googles.
TheBlueCollarFoodie April 30, 2012 at 01:50 PM
Thanks Rex, I have never tried that one either.
Hank April 30, 2012 at 01:51 PM
This is how you know you are a hot dog guy. You go to a strange town that has no hot dog joints and you think............. "I could make a killing here......"
TheBlueCollarFoodie April 30, 2012 at 01:53 PM
Great conversation guys, hit me up on Facebook so I can keep you updated on all things Foodie!!! FOODIES UNITE! http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003608346468
TheBlueCollarFoodie April 30, 2012 at 01:55 PM
I have thought that about Diners and Hot Dog Joints throughout the U.S. while on vacation.
Art Elmers April 30, 2012 at 02:09 PM
Callahans was across the street from Hirams. A great rivalry that ended when Callahans was replaced by a bank (like we needed one more bank in Fort Lee). As a child, in the 60's, my father would take me to McCobbs on Hamburg Turnpike in Wayne (near the Pompton Falls). They had a popcorn machine that would pop the corn in front of you after you deposited a dime. The machine as well as McCobbs is still there.
TheBlueCollarFoodie April 30, 2012 at 02:18 PM
Thanks for the comment Art, considering I work in Wayne I am going to have to hit up McCobbs sometime soon.
Wayne's World April 30, 2012 at 02:23 PM
I like Hiram's but it's really the exact same food as Rutt's Hutt, and pretty much the same atmosphere. If you want great hot dogs to grill at home, believe it or not Corrado's makes some of the best ones around, both beef and beef/pork mix. Just had one yesterday. Farm View Pork Store in Pompton Lakes, Swiss Pork Store in Fair Lawn, Karl Ehmer's in Hillsdale and Kocher's in Ridgefield are second to none with German and Eastern European style dogs, sausages, etc. Kocher's owns Continental Meats, which supplies most of the good ethnic delicatessens in the state.
TheBlueCollarFoodie April 30, 2012 at 02:26 PM
Wayne's World, I am a huge fan of the artisan dogs that can be found at any and all Pork Stores. The Swiss Pork Store in Fair Lawn fills my grill with all kinds of treats throughout the summer.
William Mays April 30, 2012 at 07:14 PM
Around 2005-2006. It was replaced by the Mafia Bank of New Jersey (Bank of New Jersey).
Art Elmers April 30, 2012 at 07:46 PM
Please Stop, all this talk is making me very, very hungry.
Hank April 30, 2012 at 10:27 PM
well, I'd like to point out some out of the area joints that we probably went to. Buttzville, NJ yes Buttsville....Hot Dog Johnny's Texas weiners and feature mugs of buttermilk... I have no idea why they think that goes together..i took a sip of buttermilk and discreetly dumped it. Dogs are good though Toby's Cup ....its a hot dog joint made to look like a cup on rt 22 in Philipsburgh The place is still there but I no longer see it open.Decent beer store across the street though. There's Pappy's in Totowa but I've never been there Orange Lantern, Haskell,NJ ....Texas Wieners nothing to write home about but terrific Greek Salad Now my least favorite hot dog (which I still buy anyhow) is Yocco's in Allentown,Pa. The stupidest dog...they put the mustard,onions and sauce on the bun FIRST!!!.. then the dog...you gotta be kidding!!! Then they wrap it in wax paper really tight so the roll is squashed around the dog. I am getting upset just talking about it.....but.... Yocco's features deep fried Mrs. T's Pierogi's which is salty but addicting.
Jack Locke May 11, 2012 at 11:25 AM
J&G Texas Weiners on rt 28 in dunellen is one of the best hot dog joints around. I regularly go out of my way and pass three other texas weiner restaurants to get hot dogs from here.
TheBlueCollarFoodie May 23, 2012 at 04:39 PM
New Facebook page for The Blue Collar Foodie https://www.facebook.com/TheBlueCollarFoodie
Bill Boes June 14, 2012 at 06:55 PM
It appears that everyone has overlooked two VERY fine hot dog joints in the area. These would both be located in North Haledon, the campus grill & the North Haledon grill. I would say their offerings rival ANY of the others mentioned.
TheBlueCollarFoodie June 14, 2012 at 06:58 PM
Where are these Bill. I know of Belmont Grill on Belmont Ave. I work in Wayne, so I would be glad to hit these places up for lunch this summer.
Big Ben June 14, 2012 at 07:29 PM
There's only one place to get great hot dogs - Twan's in Jersey City on Montgomery Street under the turnpike. Can never go down there without stopping for a couple.
TheBlueCollarFoodie December 20, 2012 at 04:48 PM
Thanks for the heads up, I will hit Twan's up shortly. Sorry it took so long to get back to you.

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