Pittsburgh: Essie’s Original Hot Dog Shop

Pittsburgh is known for many things. Pittsburgh is a sports town, an old steel town, a Wiz Khalifa stomping ground, and a black and yellow breeding ground. It’s a bridge town, an incline town, where Gene Kelly used to clown, and a fatty food mecca world renowned… Poetry and rhyming aside, some friendly local folks wanted to take me out for a dog, and of course I was down. I was lucky enough to go to “The Dirty O”, or more officially, The Original Hot Dog Shop, on a cold day after Thanksgiving when, like the Grinch, my stomach grew three sizes that day. I certainly couldn’t frown.

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Yep, this place is old school. The name does not lie. The first thing I noticed is that the actual restaurant is pretty run-down and old. Nothing has changed since the 80’s, but it’s a good thing. They sell weird old beers that nobody has seen in a few fortnights, and the guy selling you those beers hasn’t been able to see in a few decades. It’s like when you put on that really old, stained, torn up sweatshirt you love. You love that it’s nasty. It’s comfortable and it feels amazing. The dogs, though, are not old, stained, and torn up. They are flat out stellar.

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These weenies are such good sports. I made fun of them for hours, and they just played along. It’s amazing how thick their skin is. OHHH, Pun City! Honestly though, this is some thick skin. If you know NY Weenies, you know what skin brings: the snap. The Dirty O’s dogs possess a fat snap unlike any that New York has never seen. My favorite kind of snap resembles the moment when you pop a loosely filled water balloon. It’s a quick release followed by an avalanche of flavor. The kind of snap I experienced on this day in Pittsburgh was like puncturing a football with a butter knife. It took a lot of effort, but it was still a lot of fun, and the flavor exploded out of there like cuckoo from a cuckoo clock. The taste of the weenie was incredible, rich and smoky, and the buns lightly toasted nicely. The best part about the Original, though, is the selection of toppings they have. I didn’t see anything you couldn’t order. So, I ordered dog 1: chili, mustard, and slaw. This is the quintessential Virginia classic. I was raised on this combo. Dog 2: yellow mustard, obviously. The other dog pictured was not for me (a loyal NY Weenian would know this, as it has been said that you can’t put ketchup on a dog unless you’re under 12 years old), but the pictures looks better with 3 dogs. Maybe I should eat 3 every review?

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I loved this place and I highly recommend it to anyone travelling to Pittsburgh. Essie must have been a great woman if the owner, Syd, decided to name this wonderful place after her. Here’s to you, Essie.

4 weenies

P.S. If you’re reading this and you are Syd and Essie’s child, please let me know. I’d like to meet you. You must be an incredible human being if you have any of the same DNA that those two had. The chosen one. Neo. Anakin. The baby from “Look Who’s Talkin'”. Whatever. Need you in my life.

Cheers

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Nathan’s Cart: Plaza Hotel

If you can’t cook a good weenie in a cart, you can’t cook a good weenie. Put that cart outside of the Plaza Hotel and you’re putting yourself in the upper echelon of weenie carts. Put a Nathan’s name on it and if you fail, there will be serious consequences. I’m talking about the kind of consequences Nalgene would have faced if I was able to break one of their stupid BPA free plastic bottles. Believe me I tried. The point I’m trying to make is if you put a Nathan’s cart outside of a regal, ornate, some would even say elegant, place like the Plaza, on the southwest corner of Central Park, on the world’s greatest island, Manhattan… it better be pretty damn good.

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Now, weenie fans, take a look at the picture above. At the north and south poles of the sausages pictured, please focus in on the very tip. Just the tip. You may notice that there is a small knobby ending on the sausages. This is an indication of an excellent, real skin hot dog. This is what Nathan’s does, and this is why they’re great. When skin like this exists, the snap exists, and the juiciness follows. Since I just came from the dentist, I decided to get two hot dogs. That’s a rule that I follow, by the way: after the dentist, have two hot dogs. Per the original rules, I went one with pure mustard, and one with whatever I choose. In this case, it was chili and cheese. God bless that combo. The original mustard only dog only offered spicy brown mustard, unfortunately. This often happens in New York, however, so I’m used to it.

I have only two complaints about the Nathan’s cart dogs. The bun wasn’t toasted at all, and the weenie itself was not very hot. I think if the guy didn’t feel rushed with a huge line, he might have cooked it longer, so I want to give him the benefit of the doubt. Other than that, and perhaps not worrying about how sloppy the chili cheese dog was, something was very correct about these weenies. When I consumed them, it felt like I was doing the right thing. It was almost as if I had done some sort of community service or even given a charitable contribution. If I felt like that every time I ate a hot dog I’d weight 314 pounds, but I’d be pretty happy.

3.5 weenies

By the way, the rule for going to the dentist is that you get to eat two hot dogs after (only one if you have a cavity). If you ever have surgery, or, I’m so sorry if this is you… a colonoscopy… please call me. I’ll tell you what you need to do and how many hot dogs you’re allowed to eat. Bradly Cooper was in a movie of the same title… limitless.

Cheers

Emmett’s

The Cubs won the World Series a little while ago and it inspired me. No, I wasn’t inspired by the come from behind victory, the history of the ball club, or the life-long fans of Chicago. I was rooting for Cleveland. When they lost, I was sad, and in need of a hot dog. The Cubs victory made me think of Chicago, which made me think of a windy mid-western city, Derrick Rose/Dwayne Wade, violence in the hood, and most importantly, it made me think of the Chicago-style hot dog. This weenie is an absolute classic in the hot dog world and I feel like I’ve ignored it. Thank you, Chicago Cubs, for indirectly inspiring me to write about a hot dog with a pickle on top of it.

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First – let us be sure that the readers fully understand the makings of a Chicago style dog. Toppings must include: tomatoes, pickle/pickles/relish, onions, yellow mustard, and a little pepper on top. I’ll let the presentation of the pickles vary in the definition, but I’ll be damned if I see a Chicago dog without a little pepper on top. That’s like an Old Fashioned without an orange peel, a sundae without a fake cherry, or even worse, Flava Flav without a clock. The Chicago dog has never been atop my list of regional dog styles simply because there’s too much going on. I don’t need a garden on top of my weenie. It may take a village to raise a child, but it certainly does not take a garden to enjoy a weenie. I will always respect, however, that the Chicago dog always has strictly yellow mustard. None of that spicy brown garbage get’s the Chicago seal of approval, and that makes this hot dog blogger a happy man.

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Enter Emmett’s, a Chicago themed bar and restaurant in Soho serving up deep dish pizza and other assorted vittles. This place is a very cool, popular spot where it seems many native Chicago-ans hang out. Pictured in the headline photo is their description of the featured Chicago dog. The most notable part of this weenie is the poppy seed bun. My next “never have I ever” will most certainly be the fact that I’ve never had a poppy seed bun before. It was OK. The folks at Emmett’s put a lot of effort into this dog and it payed off. The frank itself was definitely of quality, and although adorned with a garden, I could still taste some smoke in it. In a bite, one could experience a minor snap, followed by a warm, smoky weenie, quickly followed by an avalanche of garden vegetables and yellow mustard. This is very tasty, however, as I mentioned before, overbearing. I appreciate the authenticity Emmett’s offered by using a whole pickle and whole tomatoes, and I’ll say that this is the best Chicago dog I’ve ever had. However, it is still a Chicago dog, and they aren’t my favorite.

3.25 weenies

Cheers

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Steak ‘n Shake Signature

People love surprises. There’s a reason that they plan surprise parties, enjoy scary movies, watch sports, gamble, and listen to Donald Trump. In all situations, it’s impossible to predict what comes next. In my case, it was impossible to predict what happened on this brisk fall evening at Steak ‘n Shake. Sorry, Steak ‘n Shake SignatureMy experience unfolded in three simple steps.

Step 1: “Weenie Malfunction”

Remember how disappointed you were when you found out that you had to pay taxes? Match that with the disappointment I felt when I went to a very famous establishment in NYC for a weenie and the line was out the door. Terrible. It was time for plan B.

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Step 2: “Go to the bench”

I had to salvage this situation somehow. I pulled out my phone, went to Google Maps, and typed in “hot dog” near location. Up pops Steak ‘n Shake. Steak ‘n Shake was a fast food establishment I went to one time in Cleveland. So, I wasn’t expecting much. In fact, I was expecting very little. So, I decided to go bash it. I haven’t bashed in a while, it could be fun. I became a grunting caveman full of emotion. Bashing, anger, destruction, NYWeenies… must… destroy… Steak ‘n Shake.

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Step 3: “Saint Peter works at Steak ‘n Shake”

Then, like bright light in a coffin of darkness, or like Tinkerbell to Peter Pan… no more anger. Show me those pearly gates!!! This most definitely was a Signature Steak ‘n Shake hot dog. I got the classic footlong and it was phenomenal. It comes in this fancy see through sleeve that when unsheathed, reveals glory. The bun is perfectly toasted. The mustard, remarkably, is yellow. As most readers will know, yellow mustard is liquid gold, and without argument the best mustard ever known to mankind. Finally, the sausage is grilled essentially perfectly. The outer edges exhibit some delicate char. Real, nice, delicate, write-home-to-your-family-about, char. Such char on such a dog, equipped with such a well toasted bun, with such a perfectly placed stripe of yellow mustard? This such equation leads such a weenie to be the king of NYC… right?!

Step 4: “An act of violence”

Nope, they cut my weenie in half. Damn it. I can’t crown a king when they perform vicious acts of violence to multiple weenies every day. That’d be like voting for Pol Pot as Surgeon General. So close, Steak ‘n Shake. Please know that I absolutely loved your hot dog, but I cannot crown you king.

4.49 weenies

It’s a weird number, I know. Whatever, who cares about my ratings anyway? At least I didn’t cut it in half.

Cheers

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Hot Dogs of the Hamptons

One week ago today, summer came to a close. I know it seems late, but the calendar doesn’t lie, except in February, and summer doesn’t contain February as a month in its season, so I know it’s being honest. Anyway, this summer was another memorable one for me, much of it spent in an odd fantasy land out on Long Island. Because of this fantasy world I was living in, I got distracted, and I failed you as a hot dog blogger. I was selfish. I let the fun get to my head. There’s no time for fun when there’s work to be done. I let the little devil on my shoulder tell me what to do, when the angel was consistently telling me to review more hot dogs. So, I apologize, and starting now, there will be many more weenie blogs, as there are many more weenies to eat. It is my destiny that I must return to. What the world needs is more hot dog truth. As written in John 8.32, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth shall let you eat.”

Hamptons Weenie 1: Old Stone Market

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It’s a brioche bun, well-toasted, cuddling with a grilled Sabrett frank that took a bath in spicy brown mustard. It was prepared by the nicest woman you’ll ever meet, at the weirdest, most useful roadside store in Amagansett that you’ll ever see. There are even chickens roaming the parking lot. Back to the dog – its pretty solid, good snap, but too bready. Other things that are bready: croutons, Meatloaf (the singer), and French people. That’s not a good crew to associate with.

3.25 weenies

Hamptons Weenie 2: The Oceanside Inn

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Above is pictured an impromptu weenie that was far more satisfying than expected. If you ever need a weenie after a long day at the Sloppy Tuna, bounce on down the beach to this weird little Euro-tourist spot and enjoy this filleted frank. Huge weenie, tiny bun. Other things with huge weenies and tiny buns: … use your own imagination.

2.75 weenies

Hamptons Weenie 3: Goldberg’s

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Here we have a two weenie combo platter served up by your breakfast specialists at Goldberg’s. This is a meal fit for a king – Leo DiCaprio himself was spotted in line at Goldberg’s just finna have a bagel one day. This meal was fit for me, indeed. The buns were warm and toasted, but not too much, and the sausages were thick, juicy, and smoky. These were also filleted, which must be a long island thing, which also tampers with one of my favorite parts of eating a hot dog: the snap. Redeeming the lack of snap was the presence of yellow mustard. That precious nectar can save anything. So, Goldberg’s, you were good, but not great. However, “good but not great” does in fact give you the title of “Best Weenie in the Hamptons.” Congratulations, Goldberg’s, see you next summer.

3.5 weenies

Cheers

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Boat Basin Cafe

Up on the Upper West Side there’s this odd little sinkhole close to the water where twenty-somethings like to drink. If you live on the UWS and have any semblance of fun in the daytime when its nice out, you’ve been here. If you don’t live on the UWS but have a friend who lives on the UWS and you have any semblance of fun in the daytime when its nice out, you’ve been here. Furthermore, if you don’t have any friends at all, no connection to the UWS, prefer Beyonce over Rihanna, but have some semblance of fun when its nice out, you’ve still probably been here. Its called the Boat Basin. They serve buckets of Corona, Narragansetts, and most importantly: hot dogs. Y’all know I’m down to descend to spots of lower elevation for a good weenie.

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Bring on the mudslide of chili. Above sits the second “chili-est” dog I’ve ever eaten. The first was a lovely weenie eaten atop the marble bar top of Old Town Bar. Science doesn’t allow for much for chili than that. George A. Hormel himself would be overwhelmed with the amount of chili on this hot dog. I, however, am a tremendous proponent of chili dogs, so my mouth salivated the second this thing was in sight. In fact, I saw a guy next to me order two of them before I knew the restaurant even served hot dogs. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to order two because this was my 4th meal of the day at my 4th restaurant, so I let off on the gluttony gas pedal a bit.

Now, to elaborate on the dog itself. The bun was a bun, that’s about it. The sausage had a smoky flavor, which I think in part was due to the chili. There was very little snap but I could tell the weenie was of good quality, so I was pleased. I ordered mustard on it, but I couldn’t taste it because I was focusing so much on the best part of this weenie: the chili. It had two types of beans!!! Pintos and kindeys floating around in the same primordial soup is something I dreamed about as a child and drew pictures of in art class. It wasn’t too runny, or too spicy, but it was spicy enough. Once cheese was added to the top it was heaven. I wish there was a bowl on the side so that I could dip any part of the hot dog that was uncovered into it. Stellar.

3.75 weenies

P.S. The pickle was dope, too.

Cheers

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Citi Field

I’m back. Yes, I took a break from writing. Yes, I was busy, and yes, I am both a goon and a loon for failing to compose poetic soliloquies about hot dogs the last few weeks. However, I answer NO to the question, “Did you stop eating hot dogs?”. Of course not! If one writes about hot dogs, one has a passion for hot dogs, and ipso facto, one devours hot dogs as if it were one’s job. I am the one, friends. I am the one who eats the hot dog. So, without further ado, I present a review of Citi Field’s wondrous weenies. Upon conclusion, I will post a picture of every hot dog consumed on my “break.”

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Overall, Citi Field is super nice. I highly recommend it as a baseball park. However, it doe seem more expensive than others. Even Yankee Stadium is cheaper. That being said, the weenies are Nathan’s brand, and they have a topping section that is superb. Jalapenos are an option, and I did not leave them hanging. Accompanying the Jalapenos were center fielder sauerkraut and first baseman sauteed peppers. What blew my mind about this was that all of these toppings were self serve, and I didn’t think that was gross at all. They run an efficient topping supply chain and I was pretty pumped about it. As expected, there was no yellow mustard, but the spicy brown variety offered was not terrible. The bun was lightly toasted and the hot dog was pretty high quality, but as you’d expect with a ball park hot dog, it was not grilled to perfection. I finished the jalapeno mustard dog and while “watching” the game, could not stop comparing it to the Yankee Stadium dog I reviewed. So, naturally, I went for another.

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Forgive me, friends. I forgot to mention the short stop of the topping lineup: relish. God Bless relish. Eating this second weenie was like that time in high school when Ms. Morrison let us go to the library for our project, but we got Chick-Fil-A instead. I felt a little bad, but it was totally worth it in the end. This is a really good weenie. Yankee Stadium’s was bigger, but Citi Field has a higher quality dog with a more diverse range of toppings. Therefore, I hereby present the weenie crown for the best ball park dog in New York to: Citi Field.

3.25 weenies

Now, I’ll play the poke flute and awaken the Snorlax that is me in order to show you the hot dogs I’ve eaten the last few weeks. I gave them all names, because when you care about something, it’s polite to give it a name. Be polite. Name things.

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Jacinto. (Spanish for Jack) Named for the pepper jack cheese adorning a mustard-glazed weenie.

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Sybil. This guy just couldn’t find his true identity.

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This one already has a name. These are the legendary Cannibal Dogs from The Cannibal, currently the best weenie in Manhattan. Stop what you’re doing and go to this restaurant now. If I had to start a restaurant, it would not be much different from The Cannibal. Amazing.

Cheers

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100 Montaditos

I feel small when I take a picture from a restaurant’s website (100montaditosny.com) and use it as a banner on my blog. However, I feel huge when I eat small sandwiches that cost a small price. I then feel ever larger, massive in fact, when I find out that one of the sandwich of the 100 that they call Montaditos is the greatest creation of all mankind: a hot dog. I’m not a big Spanish tapas guy, but apparently a Montadito is also Spanish, so Spain just earned some major points in my book. Viva la España! I forgive you for your staunch metrosexuality.

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Things can be good when small. I really like the munchkins from Wizard of Oz, Altoids, and Pugs, so when I saw how small this hot dog was I tried not to worry. #31 on the menu of 100, this is as simple of a sandwich that one man can buy – for one dollar. There is a nicely toasted bun, a kind of small wiener inside of it, and a stripe of both mustard and ketchup on top. 100 Montaditos played it safe, but they played it right. If you’re going to have a hot dog on one of the most diverse sandwich menus I’ve ever seen, stick to the classics. The best part is, they used yellow mustard. The next best part is, this sandwich is a dollar on Wednesdays. Follow that up with two dollar beers, well, I’ll be there every Wednesday. I’m pumped to have a new neighborhood hang out. I’m also pumped that I’ve said all I need to say about this hot dog. A little wiener gets a little amount of words, because I don’t need them. It’s great, and the place is great too. Go forth and enjoy a micro-wiener… or 5.

3.25 weenies 

Cheers

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Danish Dogs

I saw a list today that named Denmark the happiest country in the world. I think it is no coincidence that the happiest country in the world also happens to serve the most hot dogs per capita of any country in the world. Both are true facts, and both make me want to be a Dane. I could be a Great Dane, which is also the biggest dog in the world. We’re talkin’ about extremes here, people. What else is extreme? $8 hot dogs in Grand Central Terminal are pretty “doggone” extreme. Without a doubt, I will use my extremities to grab a few of these extremely unique extreme danish dogs and have myself a Tuesday. Claus Meyer opened this place opened up two weeks ago, and thanks to some great scouting by staff member Mike, we’re off to the races and puttin’ beets on wieners.

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Pictured above are 4 very unique sausages. I’m reminded of the Copenhagen guys who once gave me weenies for free – Copenhagen Street Dog Winter Championship. In fact, these are so unique, that one is chicken, one pork, one beef, and one beef/pork combo. I went for the two on the right, which happened to be beef/pork and beef. As you can tell, I’m a fan of the cow. I am probably not as big of a fan as the Hindu folks though, because I’ll actually eat it, but you know what I mean. I first was able to experience the dog on the farthest right, named the Gravhund. Gravhund is the danish word for Dachsund, the canine we in America usually call the wiener dog. I’m loving the naming system already. This dog is topped with Beet Remoulade, Lingonberry preserve, pickled onions, and crispy shallots (elegant onions). Yes, this sounds like the menu at your grandmother’s old folks home, but it tastes much better. I was instantly wowed by the sweetness combined with the crispy shallots (elegant onions). This is the most unique dog I’ve ever had, and it was amazing. The bun could have been a little more toasted, but the toppings were great and the sausage homemade with some snap. Très bon.

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The next dog was the Great Dane, the dog I was told would be the best. I must say I was disappointed. The mustard was so spicy that I couldn’t taste anything else and there was no need for ketchup. I liked the pickles and onions, but the mustard was too overpowering. The dog itself was also sort of gooey, and not as good as the Gravhund all-beef sausage. Something wasn’t quite working with it, as there was no snap and it seemed like I was eating the meat out of the intestine like play-doh. Sorry for that image. The bun, again, was underwhelming, dry, and not toasted enough. This is probably my biggest complaint with Danish Dogs. You need new buns. My anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns, hun.

The Gravhund saved the day for Danish Dogs, and kept it at a pretty good rating. It is an amazing wiener that you should go try, but I think Danish Dogs still needs a little work if they want people to pay eight bucks for a dog.

3.5 weenies

P.S. I’m pretty sure you could buy a real dog for 8 bucks from, like, the SPCA or something. For the record, I don’t condone eating real dogs. That’s something that should only exist deep in the annals of history. Do people look at pictures of cute baby cows? No, that’s why we eat them. Save the puppies. Kill the cows.

Cheers

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Westville

I didn’t expect to be a hot dog blogger, but once I did it was amazing. I also didn’t expect to get a yo-yo for Christmas, but it has been phenomenal. Even the unexpected crazy homeless man who wets himself and yells “Aunt Delilah get the pie!” can add a good chuckle to your day. The oncoming of the unexpected can often be a scary experience that turns out to be positive. When Westville offered “market vegetables” as a side item, I wanted to turn to stone like a gargoyle and hide from the existence that surrounded me. However, after I ordered artichoke hearts nestled in between two different varieties of hot dogs, the unexpected became the unbelievably delicious. I’d vote for “market vegetables” over Donald Trump any day.

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Y’all thought I couldn’t be healthy, but look at that. There’s more nutrients than you can shake a stick at. There are artichoke hearts on the side, pickles on top, and beans in the chili. I feel like I lost 5 pounds already. Regardless of health, because that’s not what I write about, because that shouldn’t be a factor when it comes to rating hot dogs, there are two types of weenies at Westville. There is the Hebrew National and the Niman Ranch “fearless frank”. Obviously I got both. The waiter had no idea what the best way to eat their dogs was, so I opted to leave the chili off of the Niman Ranch wiener to ensure I was able to observe the full breadth of its flavor. As for the Hebrew National, it was doused in chili and cheese. For two high quality dogs and a side, the price is 14 bucks, and the choice of toppings and sides is impressive. While the place is tiny, its very charming and could easily be a date spot. I also saw the other food choices, and everything looks really good, I will definitely be back, but who knows if I will be able to resist the hot dogs.

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Pictured above is the Hebrew National with chili and cheese, adorned with a kosher dill slice. The chili isn’t very spicy, but it is homemade and would look great just about anywhere, on anything or in anything, kind of like Taylor Swift. The cheese is thicker than most hot dog cheese, is slightly melted, and rich in flavor. This is the best cheese I’ve had on any hot dog so far. The bun is literally grilled. There are grill marks. That fact alone earns this place a lot of respect for me. A Hebrew National emerges from inside of it. This is a big beefy boy with a nice smoky flavor that I think is brought out from the way it is grilled. This truly is an old school grilled dog, like Wilt Chamberlain is to basketball or Grandmaster Flash is to hip hop. Kate Moss to modeling? Either way, superb.

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The fearless frank. The beefiest sausage this side of 6th avenue. I think on the Niman Ranch they take the filet mignon, ground it up, and stuff it inside of pig intestines to make hot dogs that they call fearless franks. This is a high quality, organic-y dog that I can get behind. My only complaint, and the only real reason this dog isn’t getting a stellar rating is that it has absolutely no snap. It’s as if there is no casing. I don’t know how they did it. Also, they had a yellow mustard bottle with spicy brown mustard in it. That’s perhaps the worst tease in the game. The only thing worse would involve putting a vegan dog in front of me without telling me. No sin could be worse than that. Luckily, they didn’t do that to me, and I really enjoyed their wieners. Go to Westville.

4 weenies

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Cheers

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