New Jersey Hot Dog Tour: Rahway Grill
Recently I was lucky enough to attend (finally) the New Jersey Hot Dog Tour, an epic all-day bus tour organized by John Fox (or hotdoglover as you all know him here) and fellow hot dog aficionado Erwin Benz. This year's seventh annual tour featured seven stops and two buses packed with 100 hot dog maniacs ready to sample some of the best dogs in Jersey. Over the next few weeks we'll feature some of the highlights of the tour.
First up is Rahway Grill, an old-school lunch counter that somehow managed to crank out a few hundred dogs for the massive line of hungry hot dog tourists. Some of my favorite dogs of the whole tour, Rahway uses grilled Hatfield natural casing all-beef franks. These premium, insanely snappy kosher style dogs are only available in the North Jersey/New York area despite being made by a Philadelphia company.
Rahway dresses the Hatfields simply with a mild chili, brown mustard, and fresh cut onions; buns are warmed on top of the grilling dogs for a few minutes. The flavorful and slightly smokey frankfurter shines through the relatively mild house chili (not the highly spiced Greek chili you might find at a north Jersey "Texas weiner" restaurant) and is really the star of the show.
John led the tour from the front of the bus with a microphone explaining the history of each stop and particulars about the dogs, including detailed descriptions of length and width (that didn't get by without a few chuckles and off-color comments).
The crowd was filled with food tourists and general seekers of the offbeat, as well as the serious hot dog aficionados—devotees of a loosely defined manifesto that values quality and preparation of the dog over toppings. Which might seem ridiculous to some, at least until you bite into one of these dogs from Rahway Grill or Rutt's Hut and everything you thought you knew about hot dogs is obliterated. The bus buzzed with chatter about mustard and relish preferences while boxes of donuts were passed around and beers were pulled out of coolers hidden under the seats.
Seven hot dogs is a lot to consume in one day, even for the most hardcore. Some people were even getting more than one at each stop. It's best to go with a friend to split and share the dogs. John advised everyone not to fill up on off-topic items such as fries and hamburgers (although we couldn't resist at a few places). Of course it was a breeze for Steve Kiener, the 1999 Nathan's Hot Dog Eating contest winner who was on board this year.
Besides being an incredible spectacle of food obsession, the tour is a great opportunity to try out some amazing New Jersey hot dogs hand-picked by the foremost expert. Places that you may have read about or seen on TV, along with hidden gems like the Rahway Grill.
As well as their incredible hot dogs, the Rahway Grill has a classic American menu featuring sandwiches, cheesesteaks and breakfast. All ready to be devoured in a comfortable New Jersey neighborhood wood paneled environment compete with old jukebox and collages of regulars on the walls. Then there's the giant photo of something called the "World Famous John Burger" that I'll have to try next time.
47 E. Cherry Street, Rahway NJ 07065 (map)
Hawk Krall is a Philadelphia-based illustrator who has a serious thing for hot dogs. Dig his dog drawings? Many of the illustrations he has created for Hot Dog of the Week are available for sale: hawkkrall.net/prints/.
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