A Hamburger Today
New Jersey: Classic Fried Dogs, Burgers, and Yoo-Hoo at Hiram's Roadstand in Fort Lee
Last weekend I biked from my friend's place on 37th street up the west side, and across the George Washington Bridge. That last push up the hill to the start of the bridge ain't an easy one, and in all honesty, the only thing that got me up there in the first place was the promise of a good Jersey hot dog, an ice cold drink, and an all-downhill ride to the ferry port on the river below.
Our destination: Hiram's. A roadside hot dog stand that, according to the world's premier hot dog expert and Jersey native John Fox (a.k.a. hotdoglover on Serious Eats), has been serving hot dogs since 1928. Like the famous Rutt's Hut, Hiram's serves deep fried hot dogs, though unlike Rutt's they'll only cook your dogs until they burst open and form a "Ripper" if you ask for them well done.
The place is about as old school as it gets. We locked our bikes to the fence surrounding the large outdoor seating area lined with picnic tables and stepped into the restaurant, which is divided in two. On one side is counter service where younger neighborhood kids were eating dogs and sipping on Yoo-hoo, while the other half is a bar where the older guys were jamming down dogs and burgers, watching the game, and sipping on...Yoo-hoo, too.
The amount of Yoo-Hoot being consumed at this place was almost surreal.
So surreal that I felt compelled to distance myself from my biking companion when he said, "I'll have a beer." The television's sound shut off with a sort of record scratch screech, and everyone slowly turned to stare at him in a Twilight Zone-esque level of synchrony. Sensing the danger, I stepped in and said, "...and one Yoo-hoo, please." Order was restored and the folks went back to enjoying their food.*
*this may be slight hyperbole. Apparently Yoo-hoo was created in Jersey right around the same time that Hiram's opened its doors, hence their commitment to the product.
Those beers, by the way, are ice cold Miller Genuine Draft, and are only $2 on draft. Two dollars. Let that sink in. Then order a Yoo-hoo.
The dogs at Hiram's are the star of the menu, and they're only $3 for a slightly-larger-than-two-ounce dog. According to hotdoglover, they use Thumann's brand natural casing dogs and deep fry them in a special blend of oils that cause them to puff up more significantly than some of the other Jersey joints. They're pork and beef dogs with German-stye warm spice seasonings, so don't expect the garlic and paprika combo that you'll find in a New York dog. Despite being deep fried, the dogs come out grease-free with a perfect crisp snap and a juicy, well-seasoned interior.
You can get them with a mildly spiced chili (supposedly it's doctored-up packaged chili), which is fine, but the dogs are better with the sharp sweet-and-sour slaw they keep in metal self-serve containers on the counter.
Also on the menu are some pretty tasty diner-style burgers ($3.50)—think thin, well-browned patties, melted cheese, a soft, soft bun, and plenty of onion—and perfectly functional fries and onion rings that tasted like well-cooked pre-packaged frozen ones.
We left a few hot dogs, onion rings, and Yoo-hoos later, having recouped the calories we burned on the way there and made off for the river, only to discover that the darn ferry doesn't run on Sunday. Somehow the bike ride home was not quite as enjoyable as the one out there.
1345 Palisade Ave Fort Lee, NJ 07024(map); 201-592-9602
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.