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Dogged Pursuits

Taking a Stand for Hot Dog Culture
Alejandro Benes
From the Print Edition:
Sharon Stone, July/Aug 2004

(continued from page 4)

"For me, it was a thrill to put this hot dog in my restaurant," says Sherry, a native New Yorker. "I grew up at Nathan's. I love Sabrett's. I'm a Brooklyn boy. The Kobe beef line [there's also a best-selling $41 burger and $95 steak on the menu] has brought the Old Homestead to the highest level among steak houses in New York."

Ultimately, the hot dog culture in the United States is as much about the best hot dog—always the one you like—and about place. Where you ate your first hot dog with your family is often the place you remember as being the best, or at least your favorite. Maybe it's The Original in Pittsburgh or Nu-Way Weiners in Macon, Georgia, established in 1916, the same year Nathan's was opened. Perhaps it's Rutt's Hut in Clifton, New Jersey, which serves "in-and-outers," "rippers" and "cremators," the names reflecting the length of time the dog is left in the deep fryer and the resulting appearance. You'll read all the postcards at world-famous Walter's in Mamaroneck, New York, and relish the special mustard at this roadside stand that's been around since 1919. You might love the slaw dogs, a Southern classic, at Frank's in Columbia, South Carolina, or want to roll the dice on the half-pounder at Slots A Fun in Las Vegas. It costs 99 cents and is used to attract gamblers who might go to other casinos on the Strip. In Van Nuys, California, you can go to Law Dogs and on Wednesday nights get free legal advice from one of the lawyer-owners. The fact that the attorney has a piece of the hot dog stand builds a special kind of trust, customers admitted. What about an Alaskan reindeer dog sold to you by Michael Anderson from his cart in Anchorage? Whichever dog you think is best, you have plenty of company who think they have the right answer as well.

Back in Fairfield, Connecticut, Gary Zemola and John Pellegrino have had to compromise with success. In 2000, they traded in the Super Duper Weenie truck for "a little old house and opened a hot dog stand."

"Now the landlord says that I have to serve diet soda," Zemola explains, saying that he serves Boylan's, a boutique brand made in New Jersey. "He's diabetic and it's a condition of the lease."

And what about ordering ketchup on the dog? "If it's a kid, I'll let it slide."

Alejandro Benes's favorite hot dog is the "pig in a blanket" with deli mustard.


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