The capital region of NY has a very unique way that it serves hot dogs. There are tons of small, hole in the wall places that serve up these mini hot dogs on small buns with meat sauce. Taken one step further, ordering a small dog with “the works” gets you mustard, onions, and special meat sauce on your dogs, almost everywhere you go around here.
When I started at Siena college back in 1997, as a transplant from Orange County, NY, I had never heard of this style hot dog. In fact, I would watch people in the food courts of Crossgates or even the Latham Circle Mall walking back from a place called “Hot Dog Charlie’s” and wonder what was so special about the hot dogs.
Fast forward 4 years to 2001.
I started graduate school at RPI, and every day, on my way home, I passed a place called “Famous Lunch” in Troy, NY. Much to my surprise, everybody I spoke with raved about their mini hot dogs.
In more recent years post graduate school, I had heard about this little shack in Watervliet, NY called Gus’s Hot Dogs, again, famous for the same style mini hot dogs. In fact, Gus’s has become a staple junk food for me and a few of my buddies, namely Metalfrog and John Jordan. I love gathering there with these guys and just totally gorging on mini dogs.
Last month, in my regular perusing of local blogs, I came across this post, which basically invited anyone local to do a tour of the above three places (in addition to a few in downtown Albany) to ultimately judge which place has the best mini hot dogs in the area.
This past Saturday, a few of my friends (namely Rory, Brian G., Metalfrog w/ his lovely wife Dorena, and Nasty Nick) participated in Daniel B’s Le Tour de Hot Dogs. I’m not looking to steal Daniel B’s thunder here by spoiling any of the final results prior to publication of his post, but I’d like to point out some of the intricacies that my friends and I noticed in our participation in the event.
The first stop was one of the remaining Hot Dog Charlies in Cohoes, NY. I was treating the whole day for my buddy, Rory, who was gracious enough to drive me around. There, we ordered a special that got us 10 dogs with the works (see above), an order of fries, and a large soda. Rory wanted chocolate milk just because it was on the menu, but I suspect it also had something to do with the fact that the staff at this place was predominantly older female ladies you would only classify as “Lunch Ladies.” My group enjoyed the place overall.
We then headed a few short miles south to Watervliet, NY to find Gus’s. As you can see from the above images, the place is basically a take out window. There are actually three or four small chairs you can take inside. On the way over to Gus’s, I pointed out to Rory that this was one of the only places I know of that always has grape soda available as a beverage. We both committed to getting grape soda with our dogs; the grape soda they stock is Fanta brand. We again split ten dogs, but this time, we were only able to finish four each, mainly because we were not fans of the meat sauce after having the sauce from Hot Dog Charlies. The staff at Gus’s is basically a small family, most of which don’t seem to even really want to be dealing with you, but who obviously take pride in what they do, if that makes any sense. Another noteworthy tidbit about Gus’s is found in this review on yelp. [GREATEST RESTAURANT REVIEW EVER!]
The next stop was across the river at Famous Lunch in Troy, NY. On the way there, we again decided to make sure that grape soda was ordered if available, as we are declaring grape soda the official quintessential beverage for mini hot dogs. Feeling full from the previous two stops, I only ordered us eight mini dogs with the works and two Sunkist grape sodas. We enjoyed the dogs here, but commented that far too many onions were provided by this place. Also, the brand of grape soda was slightly worse than what we had at Gus’s. The people working here were basically two older guys, one taking orders at the door, and the other making mini dogs as the orders come in along with a young kid taking orders at the bar counter and yelling them out to old man number two..
The remainder of Daniel B.’s entourage continued on to a few stops in Albany, but my entourage stopped eating mini hot dogs in Troy.
Like I said, I’m sure Daniel B. has some big plans for how he’s going to unveil the scoring, as he had some fairly intricate score cards there for us to fill out. But, as an overall commentary on the tour, among me and my friends, we can safely say that, far and away, Hot Dog Charlies was our favorite, and Gus’s was our least favorite. Going into the tour, this was my prediction, but not having had Hot Dog Charlies in a good five years, and never having been to Famous Lunch, I would not have been surprised however it turned out.
I am looking forward to reading Daniel B’s take on the event, so keep it locked in here and at http://fussylittleblog.com/2010/12/22/small-hot-dogs-big-differences/ for all the latest updates on the 2010 Le Tour de Hot Dog.