Ed, Alaina, and I had plenty of fine dining scheduled for our food road trip from New York to Boston. But the first stop on our eating itinerary, less than an hour north of the city, was about as old-school roadside snack stop as they come: Walter's Hot Dogs, in Mamaroneck, New York. Opened by Walter Warrington in 1919—and at its current location since 1928—it's still in the family, now owned by Gene Warrington, Walter's son.
Even if you're unfamiliar with the area, the hot dog stand is impossible to miss: just look for the pagoda. Yes, the pagoda, complete with a copper-tiled roof, and the lanterns and toothy carp to flank it. "This building typifies the attention-getting styles of roadside restaurants in the 1920s," reads the Westchester County historical marker beside it. (You don't say.)
When we arrived on a beautiful springlike morning, just ten minutes after their 11:30 AM opening, a line already stretched around the side—and the smell of butter-browning hot dogs already hung in the air.
What makes this hot dog stand better than any other? (Besides its charming digs?) The Walter's dog itself, its recipe devised by the original Walter. Made of pork, beef, and veal, it's grilled, split open, brushed with a buttery sauce, and grilled again split side down—maximizing the heat-to-meat action, leaving each dog with plenty of golden brown crust.
And since they're split in half, they stack nicely, so you can get a single dog, two, or even three to a single soft, squishy bun. (Go for the spicy, sweet house mustard, flecked with pickle relish, over the ketchup.) We preferred the meat-to-bun ratio of the double dog, but I'm sure there are plenty of Walter's regulars who would disagree.
To round out the menu, there are curly fries, perfectly decent straight fries, and strangely tasty sweet potato fries—really, so thick as to be more like sweet potato croquettes, with a crisp-fried exterior and a steaming sweet potato mash inside. We also loved a coffee malt, made from homemade ice cream.
Take your haul to the picnic tables out back—or, should weather prove inclement, right back to your car. It's not quite the same as lunching outside under the blue sky, the sun melting your milkshake. But it's just a few minutes of automobile eating. These hot dogs never last long.