This story first ran on TAPinto Scotch Plains/Fanwood.
The 16th annual Hot Dog Nation Tour of New Jersey is planning to stop at six locations that serve some of the best hot dogs in the state Aug. 24.
More than 100 connoisseurs have signed up to ride on two motor coaches and sample hot dogs presented in various styles and cooked and topped in different ways.
“Many people consider New Jersey the hot dog capital of the world, and the Hot Dog Nation Tour celebrates it,” said John Fox, a nationally recognized hot dog expert and co-organizer of the tour. “What makes it popular are the hot dogs and the camaraderie.”
Fox explained that there are many different types of dogs. For instance, German style are made from beef and pork, while kosher style are all beef. The Texas Weiner style (topped with chili, mustard and chopped onions) and the Italian Hot Dog (topped with peppers, onions and fried potatoes) started in New Jersey. Different brands use different spices.
“People like the variety. Some prefer a place that deep fries the hot dogs. ‘Dirty water’ dogs are cooked in water. Others cook them on a grille,” said Fox, who often has a waiting list for the tour. “They will ask about the casing and what’s in it. They want to know who makes it and what kind of meat mixture. We’ve had people who came on a tour out of curiosity and keep coming back.”
Stops on the tour are told in advance, and they should be ready when the busses pull up because they will sell at least 100 hot dogs within about a half-hour’s time.
Before Facebook, Fox said, there was a website called Road Food. One day, Fox started a thread called “New Jersey Hot Dogs.” Several members of the group decided to get together and go out for a few hot dogs.
“The next thing you knew, there were 20 people. We carpooled initially. Everyone followed me,” Fox recalled. “It was so much fun that co-organizer, Erwin Benz, suggested that we rent a school bus next year and meet at Galloping Hill in Union, which is centrally located and has ample parking. Eventually, we upgraded to luxury motor coaches. I pick the itinerary, and Erwin handles the logistics.”
The tour typically attracts hot dog fans from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and at least 30 other states. They have also had people from Canada, Ireland and Germany.
“People will travel all over the world for hot dogs,” Fox, who Fox describes himself as someone who always liked hot dogs and now is “interested to the point of obsession.”
“Years ago, The Star-Ledger did a review 12 popular hot dog places in New Jersey. I had never heard of Galloping Hill, and when we were dating, my wife took me there. When we got married we lived close to Galloping Hill,” Fox said. “The article also named a place in my home town called Syd’s that I had never heard of. I visited all of them, and my interest snowballed from there.”
Fox went on internet forums and posted his experiences. Companies that made hot dogs sent him products to get his opinion. In 2003, The New York Times did a story on him. Since that time, he has been on the Travel Channel and consulted for the Martha Stewart TV show when she did a whole segment on hot dogs. He is a recognized “hot dog ambassador.”
“It really became fun when I learned the differences, what’s in it, how it’s prepared. All of it creates a different textures and flavors,” Fox explained. “An all-beef dog has a lot of garlic and paprika. A Schickhaus Frank served at The Fanwood Grille is a mild, mixed meat dog. That’s why its packaging says Griddle Franks.”
Stops on the 2019 Tour
“We try to mix in a couple of new places and rotate the old ones. This year we included places that grill the dogs, deep fry them and serve ‘dirty water’ dogs. There are mixed meat and kosher hot dog stops,” Fox said. “The tour always starts at Galloping Hill because it’s convenient, right off parkway and they have a big parking lot.”
1) Galloping Hill Inn, Union. “It’s the only stop that has been on every tour. The dog is a very good German style beef and pork frank made from a recipe from Gaiser's Pork Store and prepared on a griddle.”
2) Fanwood Grille, Fanwood. “The dogs are quarter-pound Schickhaus, same as Max's in Long Branch, and feature homemade toppings, including the fire and ice hot dog — hot onions (fire) and candied bacon (ice). Fanwood Grille also has award-winning soups, empanadas, cheesesteaks, burgers, lobster rolls and pulled pork.”
3) Hot Dog Hut, Colonia. “A new stop for the tour, Hot Dog Hut is a truck located in a spot that has had many trucks over the last 50 plus years. It serves the classic New York/New Jersey ‘dirty water dog.’ The Hut has been in this spot a few years and serves a tasty, hot, natural casing all beef Sabrett at a decent size. Among the homemade toppings, the chili is a standout.”
4) Manny's Texas Wieners, Union. “An old favorite. It's been awhile since Manny's has been on the Tour. They serve a classic Plainfield area Texas Weiner using the Grote & Weigel Texan brand beef-and-pork frank prepared on a griddle and topped with their thick, dry, spicy chili. Manny was a grill man at Texas Wiener ll (RIP) years ago until he opened his own place, which serves a variety of different foods.”
5) Pastrami and Pickles, Roselle Park. “Open less than two years, Pastrami and Pickles has already gained a reputation as one of the best Jewish delis in the area. They serve a kosher jumbo Hebrew National frank. Choice of boiled or grilled on the flattop. For $3 and change you get a great dog with a serving of the best cole slaw I ever tasted. The pastrami here is as good as the best I've had. And that includes Katz's, Irving's Deli and Eppes Essen. Another place I go to for more than hot dogs.”
6) Bayway Diner, Linden. “The Bayway Diner has the distinction of being the very first establishment on 'Diners, Drive Ins and Dives.' It had been closed for a few years and reopened with new owners. I haven't made it back since they reopened until a few months ago and kept hearing about how good their hot dogs — especially their chili dogs — are. I went and decided to include them.”
To learn more about Hot Dog Nation, visit its Facebook page.
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