Friday, June 22, 2012

Dishing out Bar Stool Philosophy in the Swamps of Jersey

Rutt’s Hut
417 River Rd.
Clifton, NJ

New Jersey. Yuck.

As Suit757, I go to all 50 states. Not every itinerary can include such idyllic locales as Palm Beach, Key West, Coronado or Balboa Island.

Sometimes you get stuck going to the swamps of Jersey.

But the fun thing about being Suit757 is I can usually think up some reason to look forward to going to just about everywhere.

Even New Jersey.

My guess is Clifton, New Jersey doesn’t have a Tourism Bureau.

But if they did, Rutt’s Hut should feature prominently in their promos.

I, for one, can’t wait to come back.

Rutt’s Hut is a North Jersey institution that’s been frying hot dogs for generations.

Yes. I said FRYING hot dogs.

No wonder I fell in love with this place.

I consider hot dogs to be one of the seven great man-made wonders of the world. (Don’t worry, bikinis and beer can huggies are on my list too.)

But even the best inventions of mankind can be improved by a dip in a vat of gurgling grease. (Well, maybe not the bikini.)

At Rutt’s, high quality dogs are deep fried in scalding grease until the molten insides of pig and cow parts burst the skin open, producing a mangled, scarred tube of delicious processed meat, known here for generations as a “ripper”.

A “weller” gets a few additional seconds in the grease inferno. A “cremator” even more – until your dog resembles an over cooked strip of Jersey diner bacon.

You are only allowed two toppings on your dogs at Rutt’s – mustard or homemade relish.

Youse gotta problem wit dat?

Look, you are in New Jersey. Home of Tony Soprano. Just go with it.

Truth be told, I’m not a big fan of mustard or relish on my dogs. But I’m glad I gave the relish a try.

First just a little. Then a lot.

Sweet and zesty, the yellow mish mash of onion, cabbage and spice was one of the best toppings I’ve ever slathered over a hot dog.

Just for the hell of it, I ordered one “ripper” and one “weller”, although I had trouble telling them apart.

The “weller” was just half a notch crisper on the outside. I think.

But both were soft, delicious and juicy on the inside, a perfect accompaniment to the standard issue soft white bun holding all this goodness together.

On the side, I ordered a cup of chili, loaded with big clumps of ground beef and a few beans. Hearty with just a slight kick, this was top notch chili.

When you come to Rutt’s Hut, you have to decide more than just “ripper” or “weller” or “cremator”.

You have to decide where you want to eat these famous fried tubes of meat.

Your first choice is in a blindingly bright holding cell adjacent to the take out counter. Under the radiant glow of florescent lights you stand by a ledge near the big window and eat your dogs prone while admiring through a litter-strewn barbed wire fence the cars zooming by on the Jersey freeway running along the banks of the Passaic River.

Or for the more adventurous, you can open the weathered door under the 50s era “Bar Entrance” sign and walk into a piece of roadside nostalgia that would look familiar to your grandparents.

Guess which side I picked?

Grey haired guys in trucker caps, 300 pound heavily-tattooed union no-necks and a North Jersey politician or two make up the clientele on this side.

If Tony Soprano came walking through the door, no body would even bat an eye.

A long bar punctuated with regulars knock back tiny little mugs of American beer.

Is that a Coors tap handle?

Do they even make that any more?

“Yep. We’ve got Coors AND Coors Light,” the gravel voiced bartender told me in her Jersey accent.

Well, slide me down a Coors Original. This might be my only opportunity in life.

There were only two TVs in the bar. At one end showing the Yankees game. At the other end, the Mets game.

By 10pm, after both games recorded their last outs, there were only a couple of us left at the bar.

The bar tender began ranting about the local politicians down at the Shore who want to ban alcohol sales after midnight.

Apparently teenagers spend too much time these days watching “The Jersey Shore” and head down to Point Pleasant to replicate what they see on television.

Underage drinking, public urination, passing out in the streets, broken beer bottles everywhere, she explained while standing under a sign behind the bar reading, “WE PREFER TO SERVE CHILDREN AT TABLES ONLY. THANK YOU.”

I got her to agree with me that they might want to try enforcing the laws already on the books against the trouble makers before passing new ones to infringe on the liberties of the rest of us.

“Exactly!” She slid me down one more ten ouncer “on the house.”

See? Armed with my famous Suit757 bar stool philosophy, I’m winning converts over to the cause of liberty everywhere I go.

Even in the swamps of Jersey.

Rating: Seriously Thought About Buying Shirt.

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