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Baldwin St. Hot Dog Tasteoff

I finally gave these a try after hearing so much hype. I had recent returned from the States with some Hebrew Nationals and and thought a tasteoff was in order. I included Schneider's all beef hot hogs for comparison.

Three of us tasted. I was only the person who knew which was which. The other two tasters didn't even know what brands were being tasted. I steamed the hot dogs and served them plain.

The results are overwhelming and unanimous. Hebrew National was by far the winner, even though the hot dogs had sat in my freezer for 2 two weeks and the other two were fresh from the store. We all disliked the Baldwin St. hot dogs. Everyone agreed that they had a harsh, unpleasant taste. The Schneider's were limp and tasteless with a rubbery consistency. Still, the two blind tasters preferred them to the Baldwin St dogs if they had to choose.

So the big loser was Baldwin St. Well, that's why they call it hype.

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  1. Isn't it sad that we have to travel to the states to get decent tasting hot dogs? I still can't figure out why Nathan's won't distribute their dogs to Ontario, the same with Hebrew National. Last time I went to Buffalo I brought back Nathans bigger than the bun hotdogs, I grilled them and they were undoubtedly the best tasting dogs I have had in a while!!! Next time I venture to Buffalo I am going to bring back some more.

    25 Replies
    1. re: callitasicit

      I've written to Nathan's again, since their Alberta distributor is obviously off the table. I'm not really expecting a meaningful response, but what the heck. That I went to summer camp with Nathan Handwerker's grandson wasn't good enough to get me an answer the last time, much less a personal shipment :-)

      I understand the Hebrew National situation even less. Nortown distributed them here for years. They were even available at Loblaws. They supposedly disappeared because of the Mad Cow scare, but they have not been seen since. Baldwin later took control of that market niche.

      A principal of the company that distributes the new Minsky's brand from Montreal turned up on Chowhound a few weeks ago. This company is known for making high quality food products. I tasted Minsky's once - they looked good, but proved to be absolutely disgusting. This guy posted some really good messages on several CH boards. One of them promised a greatly improved Minsky's product sometime around May. Unfortunately, he never posted again.

      1. re: embee

        There is a demand for Nathans and Hebrew National here, pity they don't seem to see that!!

        1. re: embee

          Speaking of disgusting...i bought a Baldwin salami at Nortown - it was NASTY. Terribly salty. Very fine texture and a really unappetizing flavour. We literally threw it out.

          1. re: deelicious

            I as well have had to throw out one of their salamis, I recall my mother saying something about the 'the most hallucious piece of.....'.

            It's almost BBQ season, and IMHO a barbecued kosher style salami is the perfect kickoff to a great meal, and generally more enjoyable than anything that comes after. I've found that Chicago 58 doesn't make a salami like they used to (and I'm really not that old) and they're terribly inconsistent. Pearl's salami I liked (although much better cooked than raw), though I believe they are no longer making them since the the fire, so I figured this would be a good thread as any to fish for a salami recommendation, kashruth not an issue.

            1. re: jonnybee

              Are Pearl's hot dogs available in Toronto because I have heard those are good?

              1. re: callitasicit

                Perl's was totally gutted by a fire in late 2006. They are supposedly coming back, but there doesn't seem to be any progress at their facility (Bathurst south of Lawrence).

                They sold some decent fresh meat, which is still available at a temporary location nearby. They also had many prepared foods that were worth eating, if not exactly gourmet. But, in my opinion, their deli meats have been as poor as deli meats get - very highly processed stuff with little flavour.

                1. re: embee

                  There is a Pearls Kountry Klub all beef hot dog that is very good but available in the US. Not sure if you can find it in TO.

                  1. re: gourmaniac

                    Unrelated to Perl's in Toronto. I've never seen it.

              2. re: jonnybee

                Chicago 58 still makes an old fashioned type of salami that you can hang up to dry. Unfortunately, they eliminated most of the flavour from it a very long time ago.

                I can't understand why, as Toronto palates become more sophisticated, producers of Jewish foods (kosher and not) are making everything ever more bland.

                Perl's deli was just awful. Not missed at all.

                1. re: embee

                  I've still got one pack of Hebrew Nationals in the freezer from my last Buffalo run. Once they're out, I still find Baldwin's a decent second place.

                  Nonetheless, I find their absence from our shelves annoying and inexplicable.

                  Call me crazy but I also liked Baldwin St.'s salami. I do remember it being a bit salty but, overall, it wasn't as dry and hard as I often find salami to be. I don't eat salami all that often but I don't like when it's that tough stuff.

                  1. re: fleisch

                    Here's the story that I've heard. Recall that a couple of years ago, Canada banned US beef (and vice versa) because of disease. After the issue had been settled, the trade embargo was lifted but companies had to file paperwork to be reinstated. Hebrew National decided that it wasn't worth the bother because of the small market.

                    1. re: fleisch

                      We go to Buffalo every 6-8 weeks to stock up on lots of things we're used to but can't get here. Where do you get the Hebrew National hot dogs? I need them...baaaad!

                      1. re: bialy

                        The closest stores to the border that I know about are both in Niagara Falls NY. There's a Wegman's, opposite the big outlet mall near Military Rd. You should also find them at the Tops Supercenter on Niagara Falls Blvd in the Target plaza. You'll also find Nathan's in both of these stores.

                        1. re: embee

                          Yup. I was at the Tops on Niagara Falls Blvd and you couldn't miss them - a big fridge unit just to the right of the front door.

                          I didn't notice the Nathan's ones but those aren't kosher, are they?

                          1. re: fleisch

                            Thanks!!!! Now I know what I want for my birthday.

                            1. re: fleisch

                              Nathan's does make a line of kosher dogs, but you won't find them in Niagara Falls. If they are available at all in Western NY, they would most likely be found at a Wegman's in the Amherst area or at their showcase store in Rochester, but don't go without calling. The odds aren't good. The widely available Nathan's line is not kosher.

                              Note that you aren't likely to find Hebrew National at every Tops location. Unless things have changed, they are mainly in Jewish areas and at that supercenter (AKA as the "International Bazaar").

                      2. re: embee

                        I pretty much agree with you wrt Perl's. I remember camp cookouts and overnights where my only options were their hotdogs, baked beans, and canned orange juice. Yeah, those hot dogs were pretty vile. Though as a prepubescent, I thought it was pretty darn fun to eat three cans of beans and wreak havoc on my cabin, and I was not the only one up to these shenanigans.

                        I actually really liked their chopped liver, saccharin sweet, just like my grandmother's. I've found most other chopped livers just aren't that sweet (as I figure they probably should be), but their product was wildly inconsistent, especially around passover/high holidays.

                      3. re: jonnybee

                        Jonnybee, bbq'd salami? I like bbq, and I like salami... is it what it sounds like?

                        I recently bought a Chicago 58 salami for the first time, and I thought it would be much nicer warm or hot, so this sounds right up my alley.

                        1. re: Olivia

                          Yeah, you must try it.

                          Cut it thick and put a few slits around the edges. As it is already cooked, you really can't over/under do it. Though the level of blackness/char is a personal preference, it will take a while to turn them into hockey pucks, so don't fret while they're on the the Que.

                          Serve plain or with mustard and/or ketchup, you can even put a few slices on a bun and garnish.

                          Oh, one last thing. You can even fry up the salami for breakfast and eat it with eggs as you would with bacon or sausage. Note that it will stink up your house as any good breakfast meats does.

                          1. re: jonnybee

                            Thanks, can't wait to try it.

                            "Duh" moment over here: I'd heard of salami and eggs, but didn't realize that was the style of salami for that--good to know.

                            Thanks again, much appreciated!

                            1. re: Olivia

                              BBQ'd versht (salami) is one of life's simple pleasures. I like mine with a little mustard. Traditionally it would be plain old yellow mustard, but it's good with grainy mustards also.

                            2. re: jonnybee

                              We love fried kolbasa or village sausage for breakfast with eggs.

                              I'll sometimes dice it and put it with onions in scrambled eggs. I assume this application would work well with salami as well


                      4. re: embee

                        I'm still here (a little busy producing and moving out some 20,000 lbs of Gefilte Fish...)

                        Minsky's is still working very hard to make changes. I will be in Montreal after Passover to see how things are going.

                        I read that Baldwin St. is being purchased by Clearly Canadian, I will post another update when I know more about that situation.

                        If you are celebrating Passover this week, have a happy and healthy one.


                        1. re: centralepicure

                          Only 20,000 lbs? Oy. What happened to all the real fressers?

                          You still haven't dashed my hope that Minsky's will make a big juicy dog, with lots of garlic and spice, in collagen. Then, again, you haven't encouraged it either. We're targeting the foodie market here - not just the kosher market! Please do post where the taste tests are taking place.

                          As to Baldwin St, do you mean Clearly Canadian, the "alternative beverage" people? The folks who seem to jump on trends too early (bubble tea; vitamin water) and bail just before these became successful? The folks whose stock I bought at exactly the wrong time? What an odd corporate fit.

                          And a good Pesach to you too.

                      5. re: callitasicit

                        Actually, I don't miss them much. Grilled ham kielbassa is far better than any hot hog ever invented.

                      6. I've had Baldwins and found them to be really good. The best dog I've had in Canada.
                        I too import my own Nathans and nothing I've ever had is better.


                        1. It's so sad that nothing tastes like it used to. Chicago was great and so was shopsy's.
                          The problem is that all these companies were sold to the large corp. as all the original people passed away and took all their knowledge and experience with them.Even the bakeries.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: fatman0000

                            If only the explanation was that simple. I believe that Chicago is still family owned.

                          2. Costco used to carry some kind of kosher hot dog - Zion? Or what? - that they sold at the snack bar as well as from the meat cooler. It was really good but they stopped selling them when that meat embargo happened. I wish they'd bring those back - they were really good dogs.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Nyleve

                              It was something imported from Chicago. I can't remember the brand, but it might have been Sinai 48 (Best Kosher). Yes, it was better than anything local.

                              1. re: embee

                                Yes - I think it may have been Sinai.

                            2. Rubashkin Aaron's Best actually aren't bad. If you don't come from the northeastern US, they'd be pretty palatable. But they don't have much seasoning and need condiments (like a fast food burger) to make them into a meal. Nathan's and Hebrew National have strong, good, flavours on their own.

                              As in imported glatt kosher item, Rubashkin products aren't likely to turn up in stores that don't have a substantial kosher clientele. Their manufacturer, AgriProcessors Corporation in Iowa, doesn't have a a great reputation for many reasons, quality being just one.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Jorzak

                                I had the Aaron's beef franks a few months ago. As I said in my post, not bad, but not what I'm looking for.

                                If a kosher product tastes better than others, there's no reason it can't succeed in the mass market. Hebrew National isn't as good as it was many years ago, but it's still better than most others. It is now more or less a mainstream product in some of the US.

                                There are many reasons why an individual might choose to avoid their products. The discussion wouldn't belong on this board. They are, however, glatt kosher, certified by more organizations than I ever knew existed.

                                Shefa is trying to position their new Uncle Ken's brand as a "gourmet" product.

                              2. A new brand of kosher beef hot dogs turned up in Toronto, from Marvid, the Montreal based chicken processor. It turns out Marvid gets them from Meal Mart in New York City.

                                I remember Meal Mart as a small takeout food chain with a decent (though not wonderful) little store in my Brooklyn neighbourhood about 50 years ago. It turns out they've grown - a lot. Their website talks about hospital, airline, and correctional facility catering. Still, I had a little bit of hope, since my ideal hotdog taste profile is more-or-less a New York City model.

                                Fortunately, I didn't get my hopes up too high. We tried the knockwursts, which were just okay. Either Marvid is getting a customized, low flavour intensity, recipe or Meal Mart hasn't got the right stuff. In short, an edible dog that you might enjoy if you like Baldwin, or Rubashkin, or J. Kwinter, or BIG. But it won't satisfy a craving for Nathan's or Hebrew National.

                                1. Is there such a beast as a good tasting low sodium hotdog or is that by necessity an oxymoron?

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: mrbozo

                                    I'd say that both low sodium and low fat are oxymorons when applied to a hotdog. YMMV.

                                    1. re: embee

                                      I expected as much but hoped against hope. Seems my sausage days are pretty well done then. Ah well, there's always poultry and fish I suppose (and tofu for that matter).

                                      1. re: mrbozo

                                        A hotdog is what it is. It's not meant to be "Diet" food.


                                        1. re: Davwud

                                          Meat need not be a salt-lick in order to be tasty.

                                          "But his SO looked back from behind him, and she became a hotdog."

                                          Anyone had a savoury halal 'dog?

                                  2. Another new hot dog has hit the shelves at Loblaws, the PC Old Fashioned Smoked Frankfurter. These are long thin dogs about 8 inches, with mild flavour and smoke. They have skin, probably collagen, and contain beef and pork. They are better than anything else on Loblaws hot dog display, beating out Kwinters and Schneiders. They split open easily when simmered, and yield a mild taste with not much paprika or garlic. Still, a good choice from a store that usually offers less.

                                    1. If New York has such great hot dogs, why do their street meat vendors sell such terrible stuff? I've only had a couple of hot dogs on the streets of New York but they've both been terrible...I'd take Toronto street meet over those any time. Please tell me those aren't the Nathans/Hebrew Nationals people are talking about.

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: Strongbad789

                                        They used to be Sabrett's, held in hot water for long periods. I haven't been in the U.S. for a long time, but you can tell by the Sabrett's logo on the umbrella. Kraut and mustard were all you got on them, and the very wet kraut turned the bun to paste. I never liked them, but like you I enjoy a grilled dog or sausage in Toronto.

                                        1. re: jayt90

                                          A grilled Pole with kraut and yellow mustard hits the spot nicely.

                                        2. re: Strongbad789

                                          I never liked the street vendor stuff either. It used to be mainly Sabrett's, who make dogs under their own label and for other companies. They apparently do sell some dogs that are well spiced. Other brands are also sold on the street, including HN and various other kosher dogs.

                                          The street vendor dogs tended to have extremely tough skins and, as jayt90 noted, they sat in warm water for hours. I also prefer mine grilled. The buns have always been crap.

                                          Even my strong brand preferences (Nathan's and HN) aren't what they once were, but they still taste good to me. Hell, there was a time - long, long ago - when Shopsy's, Chicago 58, and Soloway's made well spiced dogs in Toronto.

                                          I don't find the Toronto street beef dogs very tasty.The only real exception was a cart that used to be at Yorkville and Hazelton more than 25 years ago. I generally avoid eating pork, but I did taste test some Toronto cart sausages over the years. I found them to smell much better than they actually tasted.

                                          1. re: embee

                                            Here is a taste off of a number of U.S. hot dogs by Jason Perlow and some expert tasters. Hebrew National and Nathans are at or near the top. There is an interesting podcast of the tasting as well.


                                            1. re: embee

                                              Some Toronto street dogs I'm not a big fan of, but I do like the 'Polish' dog. It actually seems to have some flavour.

                                          2. I compared three frankfurters from Loblaws, grilled over charcoal.

                                            Top two in the photo (upper right)are Loblaws' PC Old Fashioned, pork and beef, mild tasting, with a real snap and crunch to the skin; my favourite here.The package doesn't say what the skin is, but is thicker than the others, and ruptures over a hot grill, (not a bad thing.)

                                            Next two (middle) are Kwinters all beef, with collagen skin. They have a garlicky beef flavour, but the texture is greasy.

                                            Final two (left side) are Pillers Knockwurst, all pork, collagen skin. Flavour much like the old fashioned franks, but not nearly as interesting with their thin manufactured skin, and less fat to carry the flavour.

                                            These are the best I could find in local supermarkets. If anyone can do a similar selection, now is the best time time report what's out there.

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: jayt90

                                              Tell me more about the Kwinter dogs you tested. Jack Kwinter used to make a natural casing dog ("Coney Island Naturals"), but Loblaws never picked up that variety. Also, like all of the Kwinter dogs, it had a very muted flavour (which Jack insisted was the only thing that would sell in Toronto).

                                              The Kwinter dogs I've bought at Loblaws over the years all shared the characteristics of the original formula: decent quality ingredients, no crappy additives, low flavour intensity, and emphatically skinless. I haven't had one in a long time and you describe something in a casing that is garlicky and greasy. That sounds very different.

                                              I checked both my local Loblaws (the awful one on Leslie St) and a much better Loblaws at Gerrard and Vic Park. Both had only one Kwinter variety, with the same label they've used for years. It looked skinless inside the package. I didn't buy it. How do I identify what you tried?

                                              1. re: embee

                                                I still have the package, and it appears to be skinless.
                                                The taste was greasy, and mealy, while being mild as you suggest. It was greasy compared to the other two, which were pork and beef combos. It did not stand out, but the casing on PC old fashioned made it a stand out.

                                                Isn't it time someone made a bold flavoured frank, or hot dog, with natural casing? I would like to know of any beef franks, from old bulls, with lots of garlic, in any of the small sausage stores.

                                                1. re: jayt90

                                                  I'm still hoping from some good news from centralepicure about Minsky's, but I'm not holding my breath. They can't do natural casings, which were deemed to be not kosher at some point during the past few decades, so it's collagen only, but recipes are another thing altogether.

                                                  I'm not foolish enough to hope too hard, though, since the one Minsky product I tasted to date was so bad that I spat it out. Your brief experience with Moishe's las year was a bummer. If they couldn't sell the stuff, then perhaps Jack Kwinter was right all along.

                                                  1. re: embee

                                                    The only news I've got for now is that I won't have the inside scoop on Minsky's news. They are still working on their stuff, but not with me anymore. For now, I am going to suggest everyone gives up Hot Dogs and goes for Smoked Fish :)

                                                    1. re: centralepicure

                                                      You make good smoked fish. Ever considered going into deli?

                                            2. For hot dogs, I buy the ones from Fresh From the Farm. They're nitrate free wieners. The casings are a bit thick, but they're delicious and *healthier* than most others

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: air621

                                                If you have the package handy, can you check to see whether they contain nitrites?
                                                I looked at the the website,
                                                and the wieners are beef, and indeed have no nitrates. But they would not attain traditional flavour, colour, and protection from food poisoning, without a nitrite treatment in the cure.

                                                1. re: air621

                                                  Thanks for the tip. Sounds like they may just be what I've been looking for.