A Tour Through the Hot Dog Capital of the World…New Jersey!

“Ciaoing Down”

Last Saturday, I was invited by my friend and News 12 NJ anchor Alicia Vitarelli to the 7th Annual New Jersey Hot Dog Tour.  Alicia couldn’t make it to the tour, so I took my wife along for the ride.  The tour met at the Galloping Hill Grill in Union, NJ.  The tour was organized by New Jersey hot dog lovers, including John Fox, who can be considered the authority on the hot dogs of New Jersey.  There were 2 full-sized coach buses waiting for over 100 hot dog lovers to take them on the tour.  The tour has been using buses since its second year.  John picks the itinerary for the tour every year.  He rotates the popular hot dog spots. 

Hot Dog Aficionado John Fox sporting a “7th Annual New Jersey Hot Dog Tour” T-Shirt

The Galloping Hill Grill in Union

The Galloping Hill is always on the tour and is the first spot.  It’s a great spot to begin because it’s close to the Garden State Parkway and they have a huge parking lot.  I decided it was time to give a Galloping Hill hot dog a try.  I ordered one with mustard & sauerkraut.  This was a very enjoyable dog.  I especially liked the harder style roll they use.  The hot dog fit perfectly into this roll.  The hot dog itself had a nice snap to it.  The sauerkraut was good, too.  I guess it would have to be since its hot dogs are considered German style.  The Galloping Hill has been doing it right since 1925.  I would definitely go back there to enjoy another dog.  From there, the tour began its trek to Rahway and the Rahway Grill.  We took our car because we had to leave the tour early for a prior engagement.

Hot Dog with Sauerkraut & Mustard at the Galloping Hill

Rahway Grill in Rahway

We arrived in Rahway after a 15 minute drive down the Parkway and through the side streets.  We parked in a parking lot adjacent to the railroad.  We walked through the parking lot and between two buildings which put us onto East Cherry Street.  If I didn’t know better, I would have thought I just stepped back into the Old West.  The street was nearly deserted.

East Cherry Street in Rahway or a street from the Wild West?

There were a few stores, as well as a bar and a Puerto Rican restaurant.  The Rahway Grill was located directly across from the Puerto Rican restaurant.  We formed a long line on the sidewalk as we waited our turn to enter the establishment.  A woman in the window was working a grill loaded with hot dogs.  It’s a nice touch to actually see what you will be consuming shortly. 

Serving ’em up!

Upon entering, I was struck by the simplicity of this hot dog mecca.  It looked like it could have been the location of a Rockwell painting.  There were a few booths that lined the right wall and a formica counter that ran the length of the left side.  From what I heard, the Rahway Grill is famous for their chili dog, so that’s what I went with.  And boy oh boy was that chili tasty.  The chili was meaty and not too spicy.  It had a really nice saltiness to it.  The hot dog itself was nice, but the chili really elevated this experience for me.

Chili Dog from the Rahway Grill

The Garage in Millburn

The third stop on the tour was a place in Millburn called The Garage.  It is located on Essex Street in what used to be an actually garage.  Albeit, The Garage looks like an actual garage from the outside; but that’s where the similarities end.  The inside is quite nice and new.  They have a counter that seats about 10 people, as well as booths and tables. 

Inside The Garage

As for the dogs, from what I heard they served 2 styles of hot dogs from 2 classic hot dog joints that have closed.  The dogs are a Don Dog and a Syd Dog.  This being the case I had to try both of these dogs.  The Don Dog is a thick dog.  I had mine with sauerkraut.  This was a really good dog.  It was boiled first than grilled.  A thick dog such as this lends itself well to grilling. 

Don Dog with Sauerkraut

Now the Syd Dog, on the other hand, was my least favorite dog on the tour.  It was oversized for the roll it was served on.  I had it boiled, and not grilled.  This I think was a mistake.  The hot dog tasted almost soggy.  I had it topped with chili.  The chili paled in comparison to the one at Rahway Grill.  This chili was loaded with beans.  And I also think it was overpriced for what I received.

Syd Dog with Chili

Jimmy Buff’s in East Hanover

Jimmy Buff’s in East Hanover was the fourth stop on the tour, and my last.  It’s located on the side of a strip mall on Route 10.  I’ve been to Jimmy Buffs before so I knew what to expect.  I have to be honest, and not because I’m Italian, but Jimmy Buff’s serves up one heck of a great tasting Italian style hot dog.  The hot dogs (I ordered a double) are served stuffed inside pizza bread with mustard, ketchup, peppers, onions and potatoes.  Everything is fried to perfection.  I especially love those crispy fried potatoes.  This place has to be on any hot dog aficionado’s list. 

Italian Style Hot Dog from Jimmy Buff’s

With my last bite of my Jimmy Buff’s Italian Hot Dog, my hot dog tour was concluded.  The tour itself went onto 3 more places all in Clifton; Papaya King, Getty Grill and Rutt’s Hut.  Of the three, I’ve been to Rutt’s Hut many times.  I must admit I am a big fan of their deep fried hot dogs.  Anyhow, it was a fun time and I do look forward to checking the tour out again next year.  By then, I might be able to eat another hot dog.  In the meantime, get out there and do your own hot dog tour of New Jersey.  Like John Fox says, “New Jersey is the hot dog capital of the world!”  Enjoy!

P.S. Many of these spots serve more than just hot dogs.

With Jimmy Racioppi, grandson of the original Jimmy Buff

Living to eat,
Tony Mangia

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One thought on “A Tour Through the Hot Dog Capital of the World…New Jersey!

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