RE: Jersey Hot Dog Tours and Mini Meets
We had a great time yesterday at Amazing Hot Dog. It's always nice to have pictures included. Thanks John Sagi. Too bad more people didn't show up. I know that you would have enjoyed it. Hopefully, we can have these mini meets every month or every other month. Sunday is good for me since I work Saturdays. Matt mentioned that he may be closing soon on Sundays and he would like to join us.
Speaking for myself personally, I like the different styles of hot dogs and the different ways of preparing them. At times I crave one type of dog. And sometimes I'm in the mood to have it prepared a certain way. Like deep fried, or grilled, or in the water. This is why it's impossible to say what the best dog is. There's different hot dogs for different moods. I also find that if I eat one type of dog (beef/pork) 2 or 3 times in a row, I look for another type (spicy all beef) next time. I had been craving a big deep fried beef dog from Amazing for quite awhile and was glad to be able to satisfy this craving yesterday. I had a dog with just mustard and a second (Caped Crusader) with mustard, the bacon strip it comes wrapped in, chili, and coleslaw. I omitted the jalepeno peppers that come with this dog.
Let me say that I strive to be honest in my opinions. It's hard sometimes to say something negative, especially if I know or am friends with the owner. And sometimes it's hard to say something positive when I am treated poorly, or even cursed at and told my business wasn't appreciated. Yes, this has happenned to me.
I mention this because Amazing Hot Dog, since they opened their first location in Verona a little over 2 years ago has been one of the premier hot dog restaurants in N.J. in my opinion. And the opinions of others. Those on the Star Ledger's panel. Many on Roadfood. NJ Monthly (whose editors picked AHD as the best hot dog joint in Jersey), AOL City Search, and others. I voted for them for best fried dog and best toppings when I was a member of the Star Ledger's S.W.A.T. Dog Team where we reviewed hot dogs all summer and judged them in 5 categories.
I respect the fact that the original owners took a chance and opened a new restaurant in North Jersey (the hot dog capital of the world) where there would be fierce competition. They had a vision of what they wanted to be and worked hard to reach their goal. AHD was different in many respects. They have the widest variety (and best) toppings you can find at a hot dog restaurant. I enjoy them which is high praise coming from a "traditionalist" who prefers a quality dog with just mustard most of the time. Other places serving a mild or bland dog need something to liven up their dogs. Amazing's dogs are excellent plain. But their homemade toppings are so good that I have to get at least one dog with either their fantastic chili and slaw, or their reuben dog.
Amazing in Verona was succesful, and despite a setback (they had a fire) they gained a steady base of customers and a good reputation. They decided to open a second location in Bound Brook. Prior to this, I had a few experiences where my dog wasn't hot enough for my taste. This is tough to do with a large quarter pound dog when you want to achieve the perfect temperature while not creating a "ripper" where the skin rips apart. I don't mind a ripper, but the guys wanted their dogs fried to the point where they were hot, but the juices stayed in. They guys corrected this problem and on subsequent visits, I almost burnt the roof of my mouth! I saw Matt laughing and wondered if he did this on purpose.
Late last year Amazing went through a tough transitional period. Eric, the other owner left to pursue other opportunities. They switched brands of hot dogs. Verona closed and Matt had to work 15 hours a day 7 days a week. When he couldn't be at the store one day, service sufferred. Unfortunately, sometimes it only takes one bad experience to turn someone off and lose them as a customer. They come on forums like this and post about their bad experience and then there is the possibility of losing other customers.
But I'm happy to say that the transition is over and Matt has Amazing Hot Dog up and running as good or better than it ever did. He's there most of the time and has a good core of trusted employees.
My lunch yesterday was one of the best hot dog experiences ever. Matt uses a big 1/4 lb natural casing Sabrett all beef dog that he deep fries. I've had this dog on 3 occasions including yesterday. Because of it's size and method of preparation, the resulting spicing of this dog is better than on the smaller dogs that are boiled or grilled. It is a little less garlicky and more balanced. My dogs were prepared perfectly; well done without requesting it (I would ask for this anyway) perfect snap, piping hot, excellent balance and flavor, and juicy. Perfection in a deep fried dog! Since this is the biggest dog made at the factory, they use a tougher casing. Heated in hot oil for a sufficient amount of time results in a tasty, juicy dog with a good snap and casing that keeps in the flavorful juices. Put on a fresh roll big enough for the dog and topped with a spicy brown mustard, I would give this dog a 10 out of 10. The flavor and level of spicyness makes this particular beef dog as good as any I've had. I love Best, but this one is just as good. You won't find a better beef dog than the Sabrett used here. In the same league as Best, Usinger's, and Boars Head. And prepared the way it was yesterday makes this dog as good a dog as I ever had. It was that good.
I eagerly awaited my second dog. Again prepared perfectly. Hot, tasty, juicy, and great snap. The chili is one of the 5 or so best that I've had. The cole slaw was excellent as well, sweet, creamy, and chopped small. I told Matt that in my opinion he shouldn't change a thing. The dog, the casing, and the preparation were outstanding.
We got to speak with Matt early, but soon after quite a little crowd wandered in, so they were busy. Which was good for Matt. I saw a kid of about 12 or 13 walk past me with a tray containing a drink and a beautiful, shiny, well done hot dog plain. He walked over to one of the dispensers and desecrated this masterpiece with ketchup. I started to yell at him to stop, but then remembered where I was. Kids!
It was fun hanging out with John Sagi, ScreenBear, and BadDog. And sampling John's chili, the first of which might be THE best chili I ever tasted. So today I had 2 great hot dogs with 2 of the finest chilis available. I'm glad that Matt has Amazing Hot Dog up and running well. I would only ask him not to change a thing. He was generous and fun to talk to before he was inundated with customers. Hopefully he will be joining us on future get togethers.
Afterwards we went to Middlesex Texas Weiners located a mile or 2 away on Union Ave. It's been 2 or 3 years for me. I remember this place as serving a very good Plainfield area (grilled dog with thicker chili as opposed to Paterson area with fried dog and thinner chili) Texas Weiner. A 6 to a lb grilled beef and pork dog. The places serving this type of dog use the Grote & Weigel Griddle frank. The woman working there told me that they use Schickhaus. Many of these places did use Schickhaus until they discontinued making the smaller dogs. I didn't know whether to believe her, but the dog did taste different than the G&W Griddle frank. So maybe Schickhaus does make a 6 to a lb. The dog was good, but as John said, wasn't as hot as we would have liked. And they were brought to us right after being taken off the griddle and dressed with mustard and chili; onions also for ScreenBear. I also noticed that the chili is much hotter (spicier) than in the past. I preferred their milder chili.
All in all a good dog, but paled in comparison to the outstanding dogs that we enjoyed at Amazing Hot Dog.