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Speed's Hot Dogs 4/16

I finally tried Speed's hot dog truck today, figuring the nice weather would guarantee that the cart would be there. It was there!

Overall it was....just decent. Not amazing, not totally disappointing, just fine. Sorry! I'm glad I finally had the GREATEST HOT DOG IN THE US OF A (tinyurl.com/3n8llk), but for me it is not worth a repeat visit. My three complaints: (1) way too sweet for my tastes; (2) too expensive for what it is (I know it's GIANT, but $7 is too much for me to spend on a hot dog--I'd rather drink my lunch for that much, hehe); (3) consistency was weird--not quite hot dog, not quite sausage, sort of like tamago? (egg/omelet sushi).

Frankly (har har) I like the dogs at Spike's Junkyard Dogs more, and those are much easier (and cheaper) for me to get, so I'll stick to them. I'm always up for a food-related adventure, though, and I do thank Chowhound for supplying lots and lots of very accurate info!

Speaking of: for anyone who is put off by the difficulty of getting to/finding Speed's, don't be. I was expecting a 40 days 40 nights in the desert scenario, but it was actually quite simple to get there (if not particularly scenic). From Copley I took the bus and walked; it was 30min. or so each way, and was exactly where Chowhound said it would be (thanks again guys!).

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Speed's Hotdog Wagon
54 Newmarket Square, Boston, MA 02118

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  1. Which bus did you take from Copley?

    3 Replies
    1. re: C. Hamster

      I took the #10, which runs between the Fairmont Copley Plaza and the "entrance" of Newmarket Square. On the way there I made the much less convenient trek of taking the #1 bus to the corner of Mass Ave. and Albany, then walking down Mass Ave. through snarled traffic and sketchy auto body shops to that same "entrance" to Newmarket.

      Everyone is being so nice! I was hoping someone would tear me down the middle like Speed's selfsame dog for my unrefined hotdog palate....OK kidding.

      1. re: mbtabus69

        I think everyone's being nice because although you're taking on a sacred cow, you're doing it respectfully and specifically.

        Although I personally disagree with all three of your points (I like the sweetness, although omitting the BBQ sauce would cut it down; I think that although $7 isn't cheap, it is very good value considering the size and quality; as almansa says below, the Pearl consistency isn't for everyone, but it's definitely for me), I totally understand them.

        Like a lot of posters (and, I imagine, lurkers) here, I actually wish there were more disagreement on the board. There's a really interesting active thread going on about this on the Site Talk board:

        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/508739

        Side note: I was at Speed's today too, for a late lunch. Were you, by any chance, the guy who snapped the camera phone shot of the "menu"?

        1. re: finlero

          Finlero, the dude you mentioned wasn't me; I was there around 12:30-1pm, sans cameraphone.

          I definitely agree with Bob Dobalina about the "Brigadoon" factor of Speed's (another thread on Speed's called it "Foodtruckadoon"). For me, knowing about and getting to a "hidden" place--or embracing its idiosyncrasies--has often caused me to loosen my otherwise (to my mind) take-no-prisoners standards a little. I feel this way more about bars than restaurants, and for the life of me I can't remember a specific food instance right now, but maybe input from others will jog my memory....

    2. You are a brave hound.

      Just kidding ... I'm glad you tried it, and I really respect the post with the "meh" review... I think it's an amazing dog but I really appreciate that you are willing to swim against the grain -- we can get into group-think sometimes.

      So thanks for posting that. Sincerely.

      1. I also tip my cap to your brave review.

        I get your view completely, especially the texture/consistency angle.

        I do believe the price is fair and the sweetness (imbued by the marinade of apple juice and brown sugar) is a perfect foil to the savory toppings - the 'special' sauce, mustard, onions, and chili.

        That said, Speed Dog's unusual consistency stems from its massive size, slow cooking, and sub-like roll, which is much different than the traditional New England style bun. It really is a different feel on the tongue than the 'snap' dog (natural casing), which is what you will find at Spikes, Sully's, etc.

        I happen to be a huge fan of the NC dog, Kayem's in particular (Kayem's Old Tyme snap dog meets my definition of perfect dog), so you're making sense to me.

        The beauty of it all is the hot dog variety that is available to the CH community.

        1. I'll add that Pearl Kountry Klub franks are not cheap, and not everybody likes them. I do. A lot. But at the Northeast Foodservice and Lodging show recently, I had the chance to taste all beef franks from Brandt Beef. They don't exist for the public yet, but they will soon. Man o' man, whatta dog! They're free of added nitrites/ates and are actually smoked in a smokehouse. Maybe could have used a tad more garlic, but I was okay with it. Best dog I've ever had, but when they finally get here, they will be expensive.

          1. After the WSJ article and the inevitable Chowhound gushing that followed I also headed out to Speed's to try his hot dog and was disappointed. I totally agree with everything you say mbtabus69 although I wouldn't stretch as far as saying Spike's are better (perhaps I'm forever tainted after winning an eating contest there of 6 dogs in 20 mins).

            For a $7 dog and the supposed best in the country it's really not all that. The Pearl sausage is good (it was Knockwurst when I went) but importantly it's not unique - you could make it yourself at your own BBQ and All Star Sandwich bar do the same dog I think for cheaper.

            I'll stick to the $1 Fenway's at Lower Depths and the totally overlooked hotdog at UBurger which hits every note perfectly.

            1. I agree with most of our points. I found Speed's a bit disappointing, mostly on the basis of it being too sweet for my taste, too big and just not a hot dog. I mean, it's very interesting and it's good for what it is, but it's like calling a brownie the country's best cookie. Similar, but it's really a whole different beast. I enjoyed the experience and might even go back, but it's hard for me to think of as a hot dog.

              (That said, I'm no fan of Spike's, but that's not what this thread is about, so I'll zip it.))

              2 Replies
              1. re: celeriac

                I think the barbecue sauce definitely makes the dog too sweet. However, how can you not call a 1/2 lb Pearl dog a hotdog? Just because it's not a Fenway Frank (just one example, which I think is terribly bland but appropriate eating at the Park), does not mean a Pearl is not a dog.

                1. re: Dax

                  I don't have any great love of bland ballpark franks either (though I agree, appropriate in certain contexts). My issue is with the size. If it's a half pound, it's not a hot dog in my book. Typically, hot dogs are like an eighth of a pound, I think. Once it's that big, it's a different thing to my mind. The ratio of casing to filling changes, and the whole experience is just vastly different.

              2. I really hate to say this, and have been holding my tongue for a while now...... But Speeds has not been the same since the new proprietors took over the reigns from Speed and his apprentice. Sure the hours are better and the lines are shorter, but it just hasn't been the same.

                I remember when it took about 20 minutes to get your hot dog from the time you ordered, even without a line. They were so lovingly prepared, perfectly charred, and grilled until they burst open.

                1. I like Speed's - its awesome - but I have to admit - I think if he were selling those out of a building in the Back Bay, we would not be raving QUITE as much - the tucked-away location and Brigadoon-like schedule definitely affect the taste buds in my opinion. That said, rock on, Speed, rock on!

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Bob Dobalina

                    Love the Brigadoon-like comment! Perfect. RE Speed's I think they make a great dog and worth $7. My first taste was certainly a revelation. That said, best in the USA is a tough call. My limited experiences in NJ and Chicago are worthy challenges to that title. Have to agree that when Speed was making them, the combination of steps made them outstanding and current cooks are a notch down.

                    1. re: gourmaniac

                      As it appears it would be impossible
                      (judging from the other 35 posts about these dogs)
                      to provide Too Much minutia for this discussion,
                      I'll add this historical & contextual note:
                      On a day some many years past
                      before Speed (hisself) had any helpers/successors
                      I spent a morning
                      helping the old man set up, lugging cases of soda & dogs
                      from trailer to cooler & just chatting.
                      Turned out that on that day that the dogs were indeed Pearl,
                      (at least most of them) and it seemed odd to me then, that,
                      for someone who was manifestly a
                      Frank Futter Uber Furrer, he would be cavalier as to his choice of
                      The Meat at the Center of his World...
                      But much like the man said, after many days of trecking & hardships, to the mountain tops of the Black Forest (sic) in search of the elusive & world famous Bavarian Cream PIe, to only be told they were out, Famously replied:
                      "OK, I'll take Apple"
                      Speed as well indicated, when asked about the dog switch from HN to,
                      Pearls, said :
                      "Sometimes there out."

                      Speed's as others have indicated
                      in the Brig-a-Truck-a-Doon refs.
                      Is more an experience than a product,
                      The industrial wasteland ambiance,
                      The truck itself,
                      (and the uncertainty of its existence on any day),
                      The History,
                      The odd (wonderful, but w/ many of them armed) mix of patrons,
                      The fact that your standing there,
                      On a goddamn tarmac,
                      In the hot sun,
                      In what sure looks like a potentially dangerous neighborhood,
                      Without even a crate to sit on,
                      All adds up to quite substantially
                      more than any sum of its individual parts ever could.

                      If they served these wonderful dogs at the I-Hop
                      They'd simply be an anomaly.

                      The Ab Goosht Dude

                      1. re: abgooshtdude

                        Screw the "experience." I'm there for food.

                        1. re: abgooshtdude

                          I love spoken-word!

                    2. sorry to hear you didn't like it. I'm heading down for one today. I love them and find it worth the trip from Wilmington even with the price of gas.

                      1. I had the single worst hot dog experience at Spike's last year after they opened in Davis Sq. Roll was almost burnt on top and raw on the bottom, and the hot dog tasted - too put it politely - "farmy". After one bite, I was so disgusted, I tossed it out.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: LStaff

                          I also had a horrific experience my one time at Spike's (Back Bay location). Gross, especially the roll. I can't speak to "best in the USA", the kind of hype that invariably leads to disappointment, but Speed's is still my favorite hot dog locally.

                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                            I have no problem with the dog itself at Spike's...probably because I can't taste anything except that demi-baguette they're trying to pass off as a bun.

                            I think I said this in another thread, but I have on occasion gone to the Hess station at Linden Street and Brighton Ave to get one of those mediocre at best $1 hot dogs they sell, because at least it tastes sort of like a hot dog, as opposed to those things they sell across the street at Spike's.

                            1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                              I'd rather have a 7/11 dog than a Spike's. Which is saying something.

                        2. You can always ask him to grill your dog longer so it's charred. It's like asking for anything at an eating place: you say what you want. I like mine blistered.

                          The sauces have always been sweet. They haven't changed. I grew up where chili on dogs was common and that chili was worse. Not as sweet but worse quality.

                          The value shouldn't really be a question because the hotdog is twice the size of a large dog and as much as four times the size of a regular hotdog. If you don't want such a large meal, then don't buy it.

                          BTW, Eagles' Deli has the same size Pearl dogs and their menu says they have a 1lb, though I've never asked for it or seen it.

                          I've never understood the comments about the actual hotdogs. There are only a handful of hotdog manufacturers. If you go to NYC, for example, almost everyone everywhere gets their dogs from 2 or 3 suppliers. You might prefer a kosher dog or a Vienna Beef dog, both somewhat spicier, but you're getting a hotdog, not a handmade beef product.

                          If you go to Chicago, there may be 10,000 hot dog places, all serving Vienna Beef. The Vienna Beef sign may be the most common in all Chicagoland. The dogs vary by toppings, sometimes by buns, by the care with which they're made, rarely by the method of cooking - and yet people defend this place versus that with real fervor.

                          13 Replies
                          1. re: lergnom

                            In fact, there are a wide range of hot dog brands and a fairly decent number of manufacturers.

                            In New England, the Kayem brand dominates with about 20% of the retail and foodservice market, but there are many, many more regional brands, including Hummel, McKenzie, Jordan, and Schonland, a Maine favorite.

                            Beyond the national players (Oscar Meyer, Ballpark, Hebrew National), there are regional giants (Sabrett, Vienna, Deutschmacher, Nathan's) and hyper-local favorites (Pearl in Boston, Klement's in Chicago, Usinger's in Milwaukee, Hoffy in LA, Miller's in Lodi CA.)

                            Here is one CH thread with more info:

                            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/318424

                            1. re: Bob MacAdoo

                              Thanks. I understand that - and you can get very good hot dogs at S&S - but the point is the product is always bought and isn't a homemade gourmet item, like the sausages one can buy at an Italian meat market. One might prefer a brand over another but unless you expand the category to include bratwurst, kielbasa, etc. then as long as the provider isn't at the low-end, one hot dog is mostly like another.

                              1. re: lergnom

                                Um, I would respectfully disagree. There are wide variations based on everything from the meats used, the spices (e.g., some are heavy on garlic, others are not), texture, smoking materials, casings, etc. In particular, dogs vary from region to region. For example, New England dogs are known for their mild flavors and softer textures where NYC dogs are heartier and spicier.

                                For me, the beauty of the hot dog is its lack of sameness within the region and while traveling. It is, of course, the most populist food of all and the symbol of Americana, which is yet another plus.

                                Getting back to topic, the Speed Dog is a unique pup for a number of reasons ranging from its massive size to the Shofar brand to the unqiue roll to the marinade to the twice-cooked preparation to the toppings. All of which is why we love it - or at least want to give it a shot!

                                1. re: Bob MacAdoo

                                  We're talking at cross-purposes. I know that hotdogs in other areas taste different, but Speed's is located here. The local taste is what it is.

                                  1. re: lergnom

                                    We're also talking on the same page because I suspect we both love the Speedy dog. Maybe I'll see you there next week when I make a pilgrimage!

                                  2. re: Bob MacAdoo

                                    Shofar brand? I thought he used Pearl?

                                    1. re: Dax

                                      It is Pearl. I had my first Speed's dog yesterday, and I really enjoyed it. I do wish it had more char on it, but I'll ask for that next time. i thought the dog itself was great and i liked the sweetness to the sauce.

                                      1. re: Dax

                                        Years ago he used Shofar. That's the dog he made his name with. Pearl is a good dog...but when he used the old Shofar brand it was a GREAT dog.

                                        As another poster pointed out...it's all about the experience anyway

                                    2. re: lergnom

                                      I know what your saying. Its like when i went to the hot dog safari last year.. Tons of different hot dog vendors and when you asked most people which they liked the best? The answer was almost always Kellys.. Why? Cause they toasted the rolls with butter and nobody else did.

                                      I have never been to speeds but i would suspect he could do the same treatement/prep to a number of various types/sizes/brands of dogs and get favorable results. If he was to offer say a Kayem normal size deli dog with the same treatment i think it could be just as enjoyable and maybe more enjoyable for people who dotn want to spend $7 or get such a large meal. But why bother? It would be just as much work for less money. If all you can get is the large $7 one your either going to get it or not go..

                                      I think some of the ice cream places use this mentality. They give you a huge ice cream as a small for a medium or large price.. If you want a "kiddie" its only slightly smaller/cheaper so you might as well get the "small".. In essence they are selling more ice cream and selling everyone a "large"

                                      1. re: hargau

                                        I also went to the Hot Dog Safari last year. I agree with you about the toasted and buttered hot dog roll at Kelly's Roast Beef. Their hot dog roll is fantastic but I don't like the Kayem hot dog they use. IMHO if Kelly's switched to a Pearl beef hot dog their hot dog would be much better. Don't get me wrong I used to buy Kayem hot dogs until I tried Pearl hot dogs. I like Pearl hot dogs better than Kayem. I haven't tried Speed's yet but it's on my list.

                                    3. re: Bob MacAdoo

                                      I've had Kayem's, Jordan's, Deutschmacher, Hebrew, and Sabrett's and none of them compare to Hoffman's. Hebrew's are the worst. Just plain bad.

                                      Hoffman's is a local Syracuse, NY sausage place that we had all the time growing up. Nice natural casing franks and white hots that snap when you grill them. Lots of different sausages available as well. I found a store in NH that sells their NC German Franks last year, and they are still as good as ever, not just a childhood memory type of thing.

                                      How do these brands compare to a Pearl? Are Pearl's natural casing? Another thing I don't understand. Why would you order a "good" hot dog with everything? A good hot dog needs nothing but mustard and maybe a few raw onions. Seems like the pizza with everything deal. Cover up a mediocre product with lots of toppings.

                                      -----
                                      Hofmann Sausage Co
                                      6196 Eastern Ave, Syracuse, NY

                                      1. re: steve999

                                        Everyone into meat has that kind of story. I used to take animals to a small meat packing plant - that's the reality of a farm - and they made hot dogs on a hand run machine that could rip your fingers off. They tasted fantastically beefy, but they didn't use much of a spice mix, just a real beef flavor.

                                        Of course, they also had scores of pig heads in the freezer. You know you can fit a pig head over your own. It's kind of Michael Meyers-like. Ah childhood: there should always be a place for hollowed out pig heads and cow parts twitching on a hook.

                                        Pearl are natural casing.

                                    4. re: lergnom

                                      Yeah, I tried telling him that the past 2X how I wanted it, but it still was not the same. Speed just had the process down to a science and there was no need to tell him how you wanted it. He simply made it the way he thought it should be made.

                                      All in all, still a very good dog.

                                    5. Well, I went today for the first time and it was fantastic. Just mustard and relish, though I was sorely tempted by the special sauce. It it a bit atypical in its size and sausage-ness, but I think most of the differences are in degree, not kind.

                                      Re: the Brigadoon factor, yeah I guess. You could also say that a Fenway Frank is 90% Fenway and 10% frank. It's not a great thing in itself (not that I won't eat three of 'em next time I'm at a game).

                                      Speaking of which, the weather was just great today. I almost felt like I was at a shack on the Cape -- until I hit Mass Ave again.

                                      In conclusion: Speed's is a great dog, maybe the best I've ever had, and I will be back.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: wrenhunter

                                        I was there about 11 today too..I have him put "everything" on. still a great dog.

                                        1. re: 9lives

                                          was there at 1:30.......one dog with everything.

                                          best.hotdog.ever

                                          I can understand why some might question the "hotdogness" of a speed's dog but I can't fathom anyone questioning its deliciousness.

                                          1. re: joth68

                                            By 1:30, I was downing 1/2 big cherrystones at haymarket..with a knapsack full of kielbasa, herring (good but not up to Bazaar) and some great house made horseradish from Baltic Mkt..:) You can't beat a bicycle to get around this city.

                                            I'm not an expert on hot dogs...rarely eat them..a handful off Speed's a year and a Nathans if pass a stand in an airport. So maybe this is a "super hot dog"..it's not a hamburger..:) Sure looks like a hotdog to me..although larger and tastier than most.

                                            WSJ and the sign on the side of the truck says "hot dog." Good enough for me.

                                      2. Tried a couple of speed's dogs in the last week. Life-changing, i was shocked that the rumors were true. No more supermarket packaged dogs for me . . .

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: phipsi102

                                          Interesting posts here concerning Speed's. I live in New Jersey and have not been to Speed's. I have had the Pearl frank and I have had a beef dog marinated similar to what Speed's does. First, let me say that it's important when comparing brands to know there are 2 major types of dogs. A spicier all beef dog and a milder beef/pork mix. Most dogs in the New England area are the milder beef and pork blend. Pearl is all beef and spicier. It's sort of like comparing apples and oranges. Most people prefer one type to another.

                                          I like the Pearl frank. It is unique, but milder than the beef dogs in and around Jersey. I prefer Best's natural casing dogs. As far as the marinade, a place in Newburgh, New York prepared dogs this way. They were marinated overnight and prepared on a charcoal grill. I had 2 dogs; one marinated, one not. I liked the plain dog better. Depends I guess on your taste. I don't like sweet flavors mixing with a beef hot dog. Sort of reminds me of a McGriddle sandwich at McDonald's. I like sausage, eggs, and pancake syrup, but just not mixed together. Though I suspect that I wouldn't be crazy about a dog from Speed's, I applaud his uniquness and I recognize that many consider his dogs the best.

                                        2. I have been introduced to Speed's through this website. I am wondering whether I should go for it or not.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: observor

                                            Go for it. I did not make it until last year despite a dozen years of wanting to or trying. (Seriously, where was CH in 1997 with the phone number of the electric company across the way ...) The worst thing that will happen is being out $7 and having gorged on a massive meal. The flip side is that you will enjoy a very special dog that is unique and an experience to match it.

                                            1. re: Bob MacAdoo

                                              The only reason it is an issue for me is I am in NH, so I gotta time it right and make a concerted effort.

                                          2. Made my first visit to Speed today, one with everything. Enjoyed it, but I do understand the debate on different types of dogs for everyone. I do think it is a delicious and well made hot dog, but I would have to be in the mood for it. Sometimes I am more in the mood for a "traditional dog" (thinner like a sabrett hot dog) with just mustard. Worth the short trip, especially if you are in the area.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: BeantownHound

                                              Well said, BeantounHound. While I don't know if I would like the Speed's dog, I would certainly try it.

                                              1. re: BeantownHound

                                                I also went to Speed's last week for the first time.

                                                I really liked the dog, making sure to get 'the works' for my first speed dog. I was mentally prepared for the sweetness of the sauce, and I enjoyed it. In the future I also might try a simpler version when I'm more in the mood for a less-dressed dog. My next Speed's dog might be mustard and onions only.

                                                The 'experience' factor was enjoyable too. Standing in a dusty parking lot surrounded by wholesaling outlets, loading docs, etc. Standing around eating the dog, chatting with truck drivers about the cost of fuel, being careful not to drip the sauce on my shoes or shirt.

                                                It was worth the seven bucks. And since it's not all that far from where I work, I'll CERTAINLY be back.

                                              2. I will be getting out of work early on Friday and this might be my first opportunity to make it to Speed's.
                                                1. Is he likely to be there around 1.30?
                                                2. My wife can't make it, and won't be able to make it for the forseeable future. Is a 20-30 minute old Speed's dog better than no Speed's dog?

                                                7 Replies
                                                1. re: jonship

                                                  He'll be there at 1:30.
                                                  I've saved half a dog for later and it was pretty good. Not the same of course, but I'd say go for it.

                                                  1. re: Joanie

                                                    Great. Thanks. My 3-day weekend is going to get off to a winning start.

                                                  2. re: jonship

                                                    Get a dog for your wife. Toward the end of April, I got three dogs to go from Speed's, and it took somewhere between 20-30 minutes to get to my destination. We all enjoyed the dogs, which held up quite well and were still pretty hot when we ate them. The rolls were on the rubbery side by then, though, since they had basically steamed in the foil for the whole time. Still really good, although you might want to eat yours on site for the full experience. I can't think of a way to keep the dog and toppings separate from the roll during that time. Everything would probably be a pretty messy jumble by then. Enjoy!

                                                    Forgot to say that I wish I had asked for the dog well-done. I think it would benefit from a little extra time on the grill.

                                                    1. re: bear

                                                      Oh I'll certainly be eating mine right off the grill!
                                                      Looking forward to it.

                                                      1. re: jonship

                                                        Stand with your feet slightly apart and lean slightly forward when you take a bite. Then notice the lovely pattern of sauce drips falling gingerly onto the rocky, dusty ground. Talk about ambience!

                                                        1. re: Ralphie_in_Boston

                                                          that's the same way to stand with a Gino's Philly Cheese Steak sammich!

                                                        2. re: jonship

                                                          Had 1 this today about 11:15...well done.

                                                          Plenty of people getting to go for officemates..and eating their's there.