When Northeast Hot Dog Ambassador, John Fox, put out the call on his Facebook group Hot Dog Nation to help him eat all the hot dogs he’d accumulated at his house, you know we could not resist! The Ambassador title is one officially bestowed on him by the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council. Yes, Ed is jealous of that.
John Fox knows everything about the New Jersey hot dog scene from where restaurants get their dogs, to what is in each dog, to where they get made, and to who is mistaken about what is in the actual hot dogs being served. The man was featured in the New York Times. You aren’t getting anything frankfurter-related past him.
John Fox came to hot dogs through beer. His initial food & beverage hobby was craft beer. But a trip to Galloping Hill Inn in Union arranged by his then girlfriend (and later his wife), Patricia, was all it took to send Fox on a new path. One that lead to organizing bus tours to NJ hot dog joints and consulting for the Food Network.
Unbelievably our schedule was open the very next Saturday so we were available right away to head down to his home in Manchester, NJ for a hot dog lunch and chat. We have talked many times over social media but hadn’t ever gotten around to meeting in real life up until this weekend. Heinekens were enjoyed while we got to know each other and got the initial questions about hot dogs and New Jersey out of the way. If you’ve visited Hot Dog Nation you know that the debates and opinions can get quite heated. This is serious business. However it was all smiles this day.
John had three hot dogs for us to try which he said were some of his favorites. Naturally, he knew which ones were which but Ed and I were left to guess. Our choices were from the German Butcher Shop in Forked River, Pulaski Meat Products in Linden, and Hofmann in Syracuse. These are some of the best hot dogs in the northeast. Sure John could sense the differences like a master sommelier with wine but would Ed and I be able to taste the nuances?
John boiled the dogs first, then griddled them in cast iron. They were served on top-sliced Pepperidge Farms buns. John had three kinds of mustard (Kosciuszko Polish, Hofmann’s horseradish, and Hofmann’s classic) and we brought Rutt’s Hutt relish for topping. Ed’s from Hot Dog Mecca, Clifton, so we couldn’t show up without a little Rutt’s gift. We also saw that John liked Rutt’s Hutt’s cole slaw so we brought him a pint of that, too.
Once the aroma began to waft its way around the house we were getting very excited. Two of each dog were plated, topped, and cut in half for tasting. The results were absolutely evenly split! Alice liked German Butcher Shop the best. Ed liked Pulaski’s. And, John said his favorite of the day was the Hofmann’s. Like John says, “It’s all a matter of opinion. My taste may not be your taste. And there’s nothing wrong with that.” Results aside all three hot dogs were outstanding. It came down to snap and spices.
Funny hot dog stories, weird hot dog encounters, and missed opportunities around hot dog restaurants were told. Most of which, we can’t divulge! John’s got some really great stories. We already have plans to do bratwursts in August for National Bratwurst Day on August 16th.
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