Thursday, May 17, 2012

My Ode to the Hot Dog

New Way Lunch
21 South St.
Glens Falls, NY

“Suit757, what is your obsession with hot dogs?”

I’ve actually gotten that question from a few loyal Suits in Strange Places readers.

If one of my fellow suits posed that question, their suit credentials would be immediately revoked.

Are you kidding me?!?!

The hot dog is one of man’s greatest inventions. Right up there with dollar beer night, Goody’s headache powders and that outfit Scarlett Johansson wore to the Golden Globes a few years ago.

If you don’t believe me, check out the wieners being served at New Way Lunch way up in the frozen tundra of Upstate New York.

Simple pink little dogs smothered in that wonderful symphony of flavors that is raw onions and meaty chili, the lowly hot dog has been the main attraction at this little lunch counter since 1919.

Hot dogs get a bum rap.

Food elitists see them as nothing more than pre-formed nitrated processed scraps of meat deemed not worthy enough for more well-connected meat products.

But we 99 percenters, who appreciate the inner beauty of these tubes of meat, recognize the versatility of America’s favorite culinary pastime.

My hot dog obsession started when I was a kid.

This won’t come as a big surprise to you, but young Suit757 wasn’t a big fan of fruits, vegetables or anything my mother might consider remotely healthy.

When I was hungry, a hot dog or two wrapped in a paper towel, zapped for a minute in the microwave and stuffed into a soft bun with a squirt of ketchup was mealtime nirvana.

While modern science might reject the possible survivability of a pure processed meat diet, it is a fact that my hot dog intake actually increased substantially in college.

Free from the shackles of parental oversight, a two dollar pack of hot dogs, a 99 cent package of buns and a case of cheap Keystone Beer (non-union) was an ideal college kid grocery list, considering my priorities at the time.

But as satisfying as a nuked Oscar Myer can be in a pinch, there is no doubt that hot dog cuisine can be elevated to a much higher plane depending on such variables as cooking method, toppings and even location.

Everything tastes better roasted over a charcoal grill, hot dogs especially. Fire, danger and the great outdoors instantly transform a functional exercise like lining your stomach with processed meat prior to a night of beer drinking into a festive backyard event.

Hot dogs just taste better sitting outside in the sunshine, beer in hand, whether it’s your backyard cookout or behind home plate at Spring Training.

I think it was Humphrey Bogart who once said, “A hot dog at a ball game is better than a fillet at the Ritz.”

Well, said, Humphrey. Well said.

Part of the appeal of hot dogs is that they are so convenient and fun to eat.

One of the greatest moments of my life was at one of my friend’s bachelor parties that began with a Washington Nationals game at old RFK Stadium. Somehow one of the attendees knew someone who knew someone who knew the guy who owned the company that catered the ballpark.

Within moments of the last out, this fellow party-goer appeared with a wide grin on his face – and a box of four dozen unsold ballpark hot dogs that moments earlier had been selling for five bucks a piece. Free!

I’ll never forget my euphoria. Just like winning the lottery.

I spend hours each day dreaming about sitting at the ball park devouring that hot dog of my dreams.

But here I was with a virtual limitless supply splayed out on RFK concrete floor right before my eyes!

“Now that’s a cheap dinner,” I kept exclaiming as we all stood in the concourse devouring our newfound honey pot of RFK wieners, which conveniently allowed us all to bypass that annoying “getting something to eat” exercise before moving on to the evening’s more exciting planned activities.

Cheap, convenient, portable.

But what really elevates the hot dog to roadfood destination dining is its diversity as a delivery vehicle for delicious topping combinations.

Cheese, chili, onions, mustard, ketchup, peppers.

Even bacon and pastrami. I mean, what could be better to add to your processed meat -- than even MORE processed meat?!

The delicious options are almost limitless.

But not at New Way Lunch. Your options are limited to mustard, raw onion and a chili that is really just of concoction of finely ground beef and spices.

But it’s a formula that has been working for nearly a century.

The crunch of the onions and the spice of the meat sauce help to camouflage the fact that the tiny pink dogs served here aren’t anything special.

On this frigid winter day, I ordered a cup of chili on the side, which is nothing like the topping on the dogs.

Infused with tomato, beans, big chunks of meat and just enough spice to warm my frozen bones, the chili is bright red compared to the dark brown hot dog topping.

Unfortunately, the new modern lunch room built in 2006 lacks the century old charm of the original location across the street.

But I guess living up to its name, New Way had to change with the times, even if its most popular menu item never does.

That’s the beauty of hot dogs. It’s something those one percenters will never get.

Like Scarlett Johansson’s fashion sense, hot dogs will never go out of style.

Rating: Would Wear A Free Shirt.

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