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Dec 1, 2007 01:28 PM

Great Hot Dogs at Rutt's Hut? Fuhgedaboudit!

As every Jersey boy and girl knows, that lovely word 'Fuhgedaboudit!' may have multiple meanings ranging from righteous respect to righteous rancor. "Angelina Jolie? What a babe! Fuhgedaboudit!" Or "The New York Jets? The Super Bowl? Fuhgedaboudit!" Unfortunately for Rutt's Hut, in our opinion, if you're looking for great hot dogs, as they say in the more refined areas of Jersey, "Do kindly, and by all means, fuhgedaboudit!"

Prompted by a Food Channel special that rated Rutt's as one of the ten best doggeries in America, with great expectations, we drove 50 minutes to Clifton so we might enter the 'holy temple of hot dogs" as it's been called. 'So let me tell you somethin', pal. If this here place is a holy temple, then count me in as an atheist.'

We ordered our first pair of dogs done 'medium' as was suggested by a food critic. Blech! The pinkish, unappetizing looking sausages we received appeared to us as if they might be more at home in a jar of formaldehyde than in the pedestrian hot dog buns that reluctantly wrapped them. Fortunately, being damned near tasteless save for the cooking oil used to fry them, they tasted less bad than they looked. The much touted Rutt's Hut mustard relish was, to our palates, a dreadful concoction easily bettered by many right-out-of-the-jar store bought items. But onward we forged. We ordered our next pair of dogs 'well done', and though a significant improvement, I'd never recommend them to anyone. The Rutt's onion rings were okay, and definitely a cut above the usual frozen rings you'd expect in a diner. But had this been the 50's. I could have poured the grease remaining on my plate into my hair, and fashioned one helluva of a permanent pompadour.

Rutt's is not remotely in the same league as Pink's in LA or any of the better Chicago doggeries, or even Poochies in Skokie. So here's some advice: You want a great hot dog?' Go to Wegmans, get yourself some Niman Ranch 'Fearless' beef franks, grill them up and serve one centered lovingly in a Martin's Potato Hot Dog Roll toasted gently on only one side. Dress it with a stripe of plain old deli mustard, and prepare to purr when you take that first bite. And for onion rings? Wasn't that what Tony Soprano was eating when it all went black? Fuhgedaboudit!

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  1. An excellent review. Thank you.

    1. A "medium" and a "well done" huh?
      If you said an in-and-outer or a ripper or a cremator you'd have a bit of cred.

      3 Replies
      1. re: rockhopper

        Now, now rockhopper...Be kind :-}
        Not everyone knows the language of the Rutt Hut. The review was very amusing. up until the whole Wegman's thing..And as for the potato roll. I think that's where the cred factor comes into play. No serious hot dogger would consider eating one of those leaden rolls.

        1. re: Tay

          If you want a really good hot dog take a trip to Fort Lee and eat at Hiram's.

        2. re: rockhopper

          Seems like I may have skewered someone's sacred cow here, something I wouldn't ever do without sampling the cowflop on a bun this place serves. Didn't want to lengthen an already long piece with the explanation of the names (which I knew) when the goal was to post a large "Beware of this dog!" sign.

        3. Katz's Deli in Manhattan. Snaps when you bite into them, and they don't have to be deep fried to achieve that.

          1. Wegmans, eh....Niman ranch? What do they know about dogs?
            Hoffmans Snappy Grillers to the rescue! Or better yet, Zwielgels Hots--red or white, now that's a dog.

            A potato roll? Why not searve it on a seat cushion? Or a brick?

            If you care to drive, try Jimmy Johns Pipin Hot on 202 in PA just above the DE line. ----the best!

            11 Replies
            1. re: Peghead

              Have you had a Niman Ranch Fearless? Nitrite free, no antibiotics, with real beef flavor. Came in first place in four different blind taste tests. Try 'em.

              1. re: mmgpsych

                This much I understand, you are not a fan of Rutt's Hutt. Everyone has their preferences and this is not tops on your list. However, anyone who has not been to Rutt's yet I am sure will not be dissuaded by your review and will give it a try when the time becomes available and anyone who goes there now disagrees with your assessment. BTW, You cannot denigrate a venerable landmark institution like Rutt's Hutt and not expect to take a few hits. Rutt's is a dingy joint to say the least, but I believe your expectations were high and your experience deflated somewhat, by the appearance of the location. I know mine was the first time I went there and the appearance hasn't changed one bit for decades. If you could put that aspect aside, your opinion might be different.

                Hot Dogs, you either love them or you don't. I for one am a fan and I'm surprised (hotdoglover) has not entered this discussion yet. He is the undisputed authority on the subject of Tube Steaks in my humble opinion.

                I have not been to Chicago, so I cannot comment on the dogs there, but I have been to Pink's at the original location in Los Angeles and I have been to Rutt's Hutt many times, as it is my favorite hot dog. You are comparing apples to oranges when you say which is better. First, Pink's is a all beef and Rutt's is a beef and pork combination. Pink's is boiled and steamed in water, where as Rutt's is deep fried. Rutt's is all about the hot dog plain and simple. It's not about the toppings as evident by the additional cost for sauerkraut or chili. I for one absolutely love their house relish of cabbage and carrot. If you could suggest a better store bought condiment, please do, I am sure others in this discussion would be interested as well.

                When I went to Pink's a few years back, there were roughly 40 people ahead of me in line. It took one hour and forty-five minutes to reach the front and place my order, which took an additional 10 minutes to complete. To this day, my brother does not let me forget the experience, but as a food lover and being in the food business, my curiosity got the better of me and I needed to see how long the line would take and I wanted to realize why anyone would wait so long for a hot dog. Pink's hot dog is very good, and their Jalapeno dog was very good and different, but Pink's in my opinion is about the toppings and the combinations available. Bacon, okay but Pastrami, Corned Beef, Lettuce, Tomato and Guacamole on my hot dog? No thank you. The ordering process is chaotic at Pink's. When you place your order, one attendant handles everything....the dogs, the fries and the sodas. The employees literally bob and weave down the line like a prize fighter to avoid being hit. Very inefficient. I personally believe this practice is not changed to create the lines and the appearance of sensation.

                Rutt's on the other hand, serves their customers quicker and more efficiently with their less labor intensive process with stations and much more limited menu. My observation from an overall business perspective, I believe Rutt's is a better and more profitable place to own. I would not wait on the line at Pink's again if I believed it to be more than ten minutes to reach the front of the line and place my order.

                As for all the other toppings available, I'll leave them for when i order nachos.

                1. re: fourunder

                  That was an excellent, excellent posting. Thank you.
                  Every July 4th the local Public station shows a special on Hot Dogs.
                  Although it was filmed some years ago, they featured both Rutt's and, believe it or not, a hot dog truck that parks somewhere off one of the NJ highways. The 'chef'/ owner is a graduate of the CIA and has devoted himself to the art of the dog. If I can track down the location, I willl post it.

                  1. re: Tay

                    jfood had a disappointing, let's rephrase that, somewhat lousy pastrami sandwich in fairfield and when mrs jfood asked if the jfood could go to fairfield lighting on the way home, jfood said, "sure." Why. Super Duper is next door. Line was out the door yesterday and jfood was in heaven as he bit into the best dog in ffd county.

                    there is only one dog that beats super duper (and in memory only) and that was Don;s in Livingston NJ.

                  2. re: fourunder

                    Rutt's Hut. I've found that people either love em or hate em. There is no middle ground. I would like to get into this in greater detail, but I currently have no computer and am using one in the library and my session is up in 2 minutes! I'll get back in afew days. Sorry I'm coming across this topic now rather than earlier.

                    1. re: hotdoglover

                      The place you are referring to is Super Duper Weenie in Fairfield, Conn. They have since moved into a building. The owner/chef is Gary Zemola.

                      Rutt's Hut may be an aquired taste. As I've said, it seems people either love or hate their dogs. My family refusues to eat them. I, myself love them. The dog is a quality Thumann's frank that is made specifically for deep frying. It has 2 extra ingredients that cause the dogs to puff up and withstand the high temperatures of deep fat frying. As fourunder stated, it's like comparing apples and oranges when you talk about well seasoned beef dogs and milder (but with a wide range of flavors) beef and pork dogs. Then there is the method of cooking. Some people just don't like a deep fried hot dog. I prefer the Rutt's dog well done, or in Rutt's speak, a "weller". Good crispy exterior with soft tender meat on the inside. Mild, subtle tasting dog, that to me is delicious. And the relish is unique. I don't really like relish, but I love Rutt's.

                      Hirams uses the same dog as Rutt's, but at Rutt's the dogs are fried in beef tallow. It makes a difference.

                      I would suggest that everyone passing by Rutt's should stop in but I can't guarantee that you would like it. I've taken people there who promised never to return. Others now come back more than I do. My wife and kids hate Rutt's. My father and brother say it's the best hot dog they've had by far. Taste is subjective. I also love a good grilled beef dog with nothing but mustard. Chicago dogs are overrated although I enjoy them more now than I first did. With a good quality dog you don't need a lot of things thrown on top.

                      A few years ago I compared some Niman Ranch dogs, ($8.99 a lb) some Lobels dogs, ($14.99 a lb) and some Nathan's ($4.50 a lb). All good, but I preferred the Nathan's. Just a better blend of spices. Niman Ranch has a unique spice that you may or may not like. But it's worth trying everything. A lot of fun for me is finally trying a hot dog that I've heard and read about and finally getting to form my own opinion. Even when I've travelled a bit and didn't like the dog, my curiosity has been satisfied. The best dog is the one you like best.

                      1. re: hotdoglover

                        Well put hotdoglover. Thank you.

                        1. re: hotdoglover

                          So that's it. SuperDuper Weenies? I thought it was a truck parked somewhere in NJ not Conn. So much for what I know lol! Now I'll never find it!
                          Thanks for the info. :-}
                          Here's the site for anyone else that's interested.

                      2. re: fourunder

                        To fourunder: That's exactly the point. That Rut's *is* a 'venerable institution' and, as such was a huge disappointment both to me and to my wife. BTW, I *loved* the appearance of the place. Bad assumption. I grew up in Brooklyn in the 50's and used to bike up Ocean Parkway from Ave J to Coney Island for the *real* Nathan's dogs, and the french fries fried in the same oil they hadn't changed since before WWII. So, er, I love grunge of all kinds. I especially loved the sign in Rutt's that said 'Don't sit on the counter' considering that the counter was so tall only an NBA center might have made it up. And agree with me or not. Take hits or not. I calls them like I taste them. We're off to try Nicholas this Thursday. More later

                        1. re: mmgpsych

                          Having finally made the trip to Rutt's earlier this year, I have to completely concur with mmgpsych. BUT...people who grew up going to Rutt's have explained to me that they love the place for the nostalgia factor (we went after every jr. high dance/funeral/trip to Corrado's, etc.) and not so much for the taste of the dogs. Hell, one friend who is a VEGETARIAN went there this summer b/c his father was in the area and it was a trip down memory lane for the whole family. And yes, he had a ripper and raved about how good it was. (HUH?) Imo, the place is dumpy, I thought the hot dogs were terrible, the relish was interesting, and now I can say I've been there. The guy who took me had been raving about this trip for months while he was on the west coast, and seeing him enjoy it was fun, but I have no need to go back, and have no problem saying so. I understand what it means to some people, but I'm just not one of them.

                          1. re: mmgpsych


                            We disagree on these three issues for sure:

                            1. I like Rutt's hot dog, You do not
                            2. I like the Rutt's House Relish, You do not
                            3. Fuhgedaboudit Rutt's? I don't think so.

                            I do not know which program you reference you viewed on the Food Network, but I did see the Hot Dog Program (Tay) mentioned, and the entire operation and products Rutt's serves was clearly profiled. I can only surmise the program you viewed was just as informative, by the similar type profile segments they produce for other shows. If The FN did in fact show the kitchen, the oil fryer and the hot dog....maybe the onion rings and relish high of expectations could you have possibly had to be so disappointed? Do you feel you were deceived in some way the production of the program you saw and the final product you purchased and consumed? We are talking hot dogs here. I know all about disappointment when it comes to food and the bottom half of an order of Onion Rings from Rutt's is on my list, but to dismiss Rutt's for the sole reason you had a let down and tell people to Fuhgedaboudit is denying them an opportunity to experience Americana in it's purest and simplest form. The history and traditions of many families include Rutt's past experiences. As a food trekker, where can there be disappointment in finally experiencing one of the most famous Hot Dog places in the country. You have to at least appreciate the success and story of Rutt's and it's history.

                            The one fact I see in all your comments is you prefer all beef hot dogs, well seasoned in natural casings similar to the one you enjoyed at Nathan's growing up. I enjoy them just as you, but I also enjoy a beef and pork Thumann's hot dog too. I like them both. There are obviously some very poor quality hot dogs available in stands and stores for purchase. Thumann's hot dogs do not fall in that category and you are the first person I can recall to describe them as tasteless.

                            My tastes are no better than yours and I am not trying to convince you to change your opinion of Rutt's or their hot dog. My only true disagreement with your original comments were that Rutt's is not worthy of a visit to experience and form your own opinion......another bad assumption?

                            I hope you find Nicholas without disappointment.

                            Enjoy the Holidays with your family and friends.

                    2. First, I agree with your assessment of Rutt's Hut. The hot dogs are just ok, the mustard-type condiment is tasteless, and there is nothing about the place that really makes you want to come back for more. I heard all of these great and legendary tales of Rutt's Hut, and when I went--I felt like saying, "So what?"

                      With that being said, most people have very strong feelings about their hot dogs. I personally feel it's because hot dogs are very nostalgic for most of us. Let's face it, we don't eat hot dogs because they are a great form of nutrition--we eat them because they really bring you back to a simple time in your life.

                      I grew up eating dirty water dogs from street vendors throughout the metropolitian area, and so that is the way I like my dogs. My favorite is Petridis in Bayonne. I'd take a dog with kraut and a cold Yoo-hoo from there anyday! It brings back great memories for me.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: kimie

                        Petridis, Kimie will you marry me? Yes, I live 40 miles away but still travel there for the dirty water dogs & a YooHoo! I must agree that I traveled to Rutt's Hutt after all of the hoopla & was underimpressed. In fact, I headed down Rt 3 to the Pike, to Bayonne to go to Petridis afterwards. Another great, deep-fried dog is Amazing Hotdog in Verona, NJ. They use Best dogs on Martin's potato rolls (sorry guys, they're good). Well worth a visit.

                        1. re: jethro

                          Amazing is very good, although the bacon-wrapped dog wasn't as good as I had hoped for; go for the classic (good fries, too). Also nearby is Jimmy Buff's in East Hanover on Rt. 10, where the Italian dog is a hefty, delicious lunch and a half.