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Jul 19, 2009 04:14 AM

Munchmobile does hot dogs

I was fortunate enough to be chosen for the Star Ledger's Munchmobile Hot Dog Trip. I had a great time sampling hot dogs with the other munchers.

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  1. My comments on the 6 places that we visited on the hot dog outing.

    1) Wally's Hot Diggity Dog. 2 dogs there. Boiled Boars Head all beef natural casing, which is one of the 4 or 5 best all beef dogs I've sampled out of dozens. Not good here. Cold; although that might have been due to them being left out to be photographed. But they were bland as well, This dog (and I had a Boars Head at home 3 weeks ago) lost flavor from either being in the water too long or being old. 2nd dog: Boars Head beef/pork skinless. An average to slightly better than average dog in this style, it was prepared well on the grill and was hot. Would have been better with casing. Decent, if unspectacular dog. Good bun, canned chili. Not a place I would return to.

    2) Valentina's. I had to know the brand and convinced the owner to tell me. I promised him I wouldn't reveal it. I had guessed it although he initially said I was wrong. A quality dog, but it was skinless. I did like the flavor, but it was a little greasy and had a slightly sweet taste that distracted from the overall quality of the dog. The roll, which was a potato roll I think from a nearby bakery was too big and bready for this dog. I did not like the chili. This dog would have been better with a casing and a different bun.

    3) Geenie's Weenies. A big disappointment. The dog they use, Thumann's natural casing griller, 6 to a lb (not their special deep fryer served at Rutt's, Hiram's, Libby's, and a slew of others) is served a weird way here; griddled, then deep fried. I special ordered mine griddled only. First time I was there (2 weeks after they opened) I had it both ways, so I know what it's like the way they usually serve it. Better griddled. I actually buy the Thumann's griller they use to prepare at home, as it is my favorite beef/pork dog. I grill it and it's great. Here, on both occasions, it wasn't hot enough even after being handed to me right off the griddle. Service is bad here. I gave them the benefit of the doubt the first time since they had just opened, but the service was still bad, even with them knowing who we were. For whatever reason, they couldn't comprehend "mustard on the whole dog, chili on half". Both times they got my order wrong. Too bad because I really wanted to like this place. I like the dog they use and their prices are very reasonable. The chili was very good the first time, but they changed it, and for the worse. Bottom line, they take a great quality dog (at a great price) and prepare it all wrong, serve it less than hot, and screw up your order. I'd rather stay home and make this dog right.

    4) Curbside Cafe. 8 to a lb natural casing Hatfield's New York style dog. Not to be confused with Hatfield's regular beef dog (not good), and their beef/pork dog (really bad) and their beef/pork/turkey dog (even worse). This dog is made to compete with Best and Sabrett and only sold in our area, not PA where it's made, and where they like milder pork based dogs. A very good dog, beefy, spicy, and smokey with a good snap and good tight casing. Prepared perfectly in water, this dog was hot, fresh, and tasty. Good chili. In my opinion, the best dog and chili of the day.

    5) RT's Dawghouse. 8 to a lb Thumann's natural casing beef/pork deep fryer. Used at many places that serve a deep fried dog (Rutt's, Hiram's, Libby's, Johnny & Hanges, etc.) Many places don't leave the dog in the oil long enough. This place does. A good, but mild dog, this one is usually served with a chili or other condiment (Rutt's relish). A decent dog with a decent homemade chili. Ok place that I would return to if I'm in the area. Other places similar that are much closer. RT's Doghouse is good for what it is. Excellent fries.

    6) Mazzi Dogz. Same exact dog as Curbside Cafe. See above. Prepared the same way (dirty water style) but with a mixture of water, beer, and some other things. Vinny the owner doesn't remember telling me this on the phone a few weeks ago and thought one of his employee told me. The beer and other ingredients that the dogs were heated in didn't make a difference. These things are overrated and I would never waste a perfectly good beer. Tough choosing betwen here and Curbside Cafe as top dog. My dog was prepared well, was hot and tasted good. Chili was good too and similar to Curbside's. I think I would give the nod to Curbside ever so slightly regarding the dog and chili. One thing I didn't like about Mazzi Dogz. I ask a lot of questions and one was "how long do you leave the dogs in the liquid if it's slow and there aren't many customers?" I was told up to 4 hours! This is a recipe for disaster! Remember Petrides? Bland and flavorless due to too much time in the water. Vinny thinks that the tough casing will prevent the dogs from losing flavor. This is not so. I happen to be a scientist as well, so I know. We were lucky that our dogs were not sitting in the water too long. I also saw dogs in the refrigerator that were exposed to air and risk being dried out. Curbside Grill doesn't leave the dogs in the water too long (I asked), so I'm sure they will be consistently good. Which is why I would go here rather than Mazzi Dogs if I was in the mood for this particular Hatfield dog.

    Compared to all places I've been to, I would consider Wally's to be mediocre, Valentina's to be run of the mill. Decent, but skinless dog, wrong roll. Geenies as ruining a good dog with bad preparation and service (what is so hard about mustard on the whole dog, chili on half?), RT's Dawghouse as being solid if unspectactular, and Curbside Cafe and Mazzi's as serving very good, above average dogs, though I see the possibilty of getting a bad dog from Mazzi's. I would consider some places I've been to as being better than these two simply because I may like the brand and method of preparation a little better. Jerry's, Boulevard Drinks, Bubba's, Jimmy Buff's (footlong), Papaya King, Frankly Burgers all serve, in my opinion, a better beef dog.

    Though I didn't have an Italian Hot Dog, I did see and/or ask about them. I wouldn't recommend any of them because they either use the wrong type of dog or prepare it wrong.

    4 Replies
    1. re: hotdoglover

      Was disappointed that no one made the trip over the GSP bridge to check out Monmouth/Middlesex/Ocean, if only to check out Max's and The Windmill... ah, well, there's North Jersey, South Jersey and the rest of us

      1. re: aklein

        If by North Jersey, you mean Essex County and Morris County, then I will agree with you. I will defer to HDL. but rarely does the Star Ledger cover any food establishment in Bergen County....

        1. re: fourunder

          This particular trip was to hot dog joints less than 5 years old. This rules out Max's and the Windmill, which were covered at least 2 or 3 times each in the past. Would have loved to have visited Frankly Burgers in Monmouth County.

          1. re: hotdoglover

            gotcha, thanks for the clarification... only on cup #1, so I may have missed that detail

    2. Hey! Want a foreign expert to join you next time, that has eaten hot dogs from above the Arctic Circle in Norway & Finland to below the equator in Bolivia and Brazil? I was nursed on chile dogs in South River. Just let me know.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Passadumkeg

        I think this is about a car that runs on hot dogs...

      2. Hotdoglover, I live in Berkeley Heights. Where are a few good places not too far that I can get a good dog?