John Fox, aka hotdoglover has to be one of the foremost hot dog experts on the east coast. He organizes the New Jersey Hot Dog Tour and is in the hot seat for this week's interview In Our Community Corner. —The Mgmt.
Name: John Fox
Location: Union, New Jersey
Occupation: I work for the US Postal Service as a letter carrier
You are undoubtedly an expert on the topic of hot dogs and encased meats. Can you tell us how your obsession was born?
My obsession with hot dogs began when I started dating my wife. She came to watch me play softball and invited me to hang out with her later on. It was our first date and she took me to the Galloping Hill Inn in Union where she lived. I was told that they were known for their hot dogs. I liked them a lot, but still didn't ask what kind they were or anything else. We got married and I moved to Union. We ended up getting a house right down the street from the GHI.
So how does that lead to you running the New Jersey Hot Dog Tour?
Our newspaper, the Star Ledger, was doing an article on the 12 best hot dog joints in the state. I was curious to see if our local place, the Galloping Hill Inn, would be included as one of the best. I made sure I got the paper the day of the article and found that the GHI was included as one of the best in the state.
At the end of the article the people on the panel picked what they considered the best hot dog in the state. It was at a place called Syd's. I was shocked to find out that Syd's was located in Union. My hometown and I never even heard about them! I made it a point to go there and found the hot dogs to be the best I had ever had. My interest in hot dogs was sparked by the Star Ledger article and now I had decided to visit all 12 places profiled.
I began posting about my visits online and reading about the various hot dog joints in Jersey. I started visiting places in New York and Connecticut. As I became known on the internet, companies began sending me their products to sample and give feedback. It sort of snowballed from there.
I was on a local cable show and profiled in the New York Times. In 2004 a friend and I started the Annual New Jersey Hot Dog Tour. At first there were about 20 people who carpooled to 5 places representing different styles of hot dogs. From there we rented a school bus. The Tour got so big that we rented 2 luxury motorcoaches. We could easily fill more buses but decided to limit the Tour to 100 people. And even that is a lot of people to be descending on a hot dog joint.
Is there something that you've eaten recently that you can't stop thinking about?
The Italian Hot Dog at Marci's Dog House in Clark, New Jersey. The Newark style Italian Hot Dog is a Jersey original and Marci's makes my favorite. They also prepare several different regular hot dogs and serve them with a variety of homemade toppings. A lot of great hot dog establishments in N.J. but Marci's is my favorite and the one I consider New Jersey's premier hot dog restaurant.
We know that you love hot dogs, but what else do you love to eat?
Hamburgers and pizza. (And yes, hot dogs.) I'll take these 3 over any steak, lobster, or anything else for that matter.
How often do you eat hot dogs? Do you limit your hot dog intake?
I try to limit it to once a week. Sometimes twice. I could eat them every day. I know hot dogs are not health food, so that's why I don't eat them as much as I could, but I have a physical job where I walk every day, so that helps.
If you could eat or cook a meal with anyone who would it be?
I don't really cook, except for hot dogs, but I'd have to say Martha Stewart since she loves hot dogs and did a whole show on them. I was actually a consultant for that show. Nigella Lawson would be my second choice. I love her accent and watching her cook.
If you could only eat the food of one nation or region for the rest of your life, what would it be?
The food of the USA, specifically North Jersey as we are the Hot Dog Capital of the World. Pizza and burgers here are excellent as well. Germany would come in a distant second as they are known for their sausage. I love sauerbraten and wienerschnitzel.
If you had to give up pork or beef for the rest of your life, which one would you?
Tough question since I love both and hot dogs are made with both. I'd have to give up pork since I love beef burgers. I love bacon, but there is beef bacon.
Is there anything you hate eating?
Onions. I just can't stand the taste or smell. I wish I did like them since I eat a lot of burgers and subs and always order them without onions. Many times they are included as the people who prepare them are so used to slapping them on. I can't explain it except to say that the smell and taste disgust me. I had an order of fries and an onion ring was in there. I ate it by mistake and almost threw up. As for toppings, 90% of the time I have my hot dogs with mustard only as I prefer to taste the meat in a quality frank. The better butcher shops use whole cuts of premium beef and/or pork. I like the quality meat and unique spicing of a well made frank. Most toppings mask or detract from a good hot dog. That said, I do enjoy chili occasionally. Rutt's Hut has a unique relish that really complements their mild deep fried hot dogs. Marci's has a delicious sauerkraut that is like no other.
I enjoyed the dogs at Syd's (RIP) so much that I never put anything other than mustard on them. Same with the pristine tender high quality franks I pay between $7.99 and $9.99 a pound for at butcher shops like Kocher's and the Union Pork Store.
What would your last bite be?
It would be from a double Italian Hot Dog at Marci's Dog House, making sure I get a bit of bread, frank, peppers, and potato.