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The Great Hot Dog Debate

Amazing22 The buzz about Amazing Hot Dog started way back in August on e-gullet, when the owners announced their plans for their hot dog emporium in Verona. For folks who hold the rippers of Rutt's Hut sacrosanct, Amazing Hot Dog is going after an entirely different market. In fact, they go out of their way to describe the product as not of the "dirty-water dogs or blown-out rippers" ilk. Instead, the folks from Amazing (two guys named Matt and Eric, the latter a Johnson & Wales Culinary school grad) flash-fry their dogs so the casing is virtually intact and the "snap" is preserved. Although their classic is made this way, their "Amazing" which appears to be their signature dog (and what I found to be the tastier of the two) is the same dog but wrapped in bacon (shown here dressed with sauerkraut). Random thoughts: does anything not taste good wrapped in bacon? And how often do you see culinary school and hot dogs in the same sentence?

Amazing Hot Dog differs from Rutt's Hut in that it touts itself as "A Family Friendly Hot Dog Restaurant." (Hmmm.... as opposed to all those hot dog places where kids just aren't welcome??) The branding, with its super hero logo, kid-friendly menu, and a look that begs to be franchised, gives the immediate impression that Amazing has definite aspirations to reproduce, doing what hallowed hot dog institutions like Rutt's and others have not.


The menu is extensive -- anything you could even think of putting on a hot dog is offered. What we liked best: the Caped Crusader: their bacon-wrapped dog topped with an aromatic homemade chili, creamy cole slaw and spicy jalapenos, washed down with their freshly made limeade. The jalapenos gave the dog a real kick nicely offset by the cool slaw. On opening day the small storefront (previously a sushi spot) was crowded with family and, we learned later, photo-snapping visitors (scroll down for a look) from e-gullet. On my return visit a few days later, things were quieter. My verdict? The dogs are big, have a great snap and the bacon adds nice flavor and texture. The menu offers something for everyone (although I'd pass on mini eggroll dogs which were nothing more than Chinese pigs in a blanket). The fries were tasty and crisp on one visit; somewhat mushy and in need of salt on the second. If they can nail the fries, they'll definitely be on to something. You won't experience the nostalgia rush of Rutt's and that unique ripper taste, but Amazing is offering something special all its own, something more akin to an Americanized version of F & B in NYC. Oh and if you make a pig of yourself, you'll get rewarded. -- Liz George

Amazing Hot Dog, 148A Bloomfield Ave., Verona, 973-433-3073; Visa/Mastercard accepted.

January 20, 2006


Hadn't heard of this place till now. But there is tradition at Rutt's. In the building. In the carrot-laced relish. In the bike and car nights in the summer, in the flyers for country music at local Legion halls. Especially in both the grungy restrooms and in the oil dogs are cooked in, which is, so to speak, the "good" cholesterol.

And the e-gullet crowd is just so doggoned precious. One minute they're rhapsodizing about El Bulli in Spain, about how good a single pea in some emulsion tastes there, the next they're trying to out-gourmandize each other over the "notes" of mint and goat's milk they sense in someone else's pizza sauce.

So, nah. While I wish this place well, may visit soon, I'll stick in general to Rutt's. You shouldn't try to do too much with a hot dog, it only raises the price, not the essence of the dog. The e-gullet gang is welcome to its hot dog affectations. (Hot dogs with bacon? Meaning pork on pork? Jalapenos and slaw?) My heart stays at Rutt's, where rippers and 200 old but loved Fords, Chevys and Pontiacs on a soft summer night says more about NJ culture than any posts on e-gullet ever will.

Posted by: cathar (8T) | Jan 20, 2006 11:19:25 AM

Ah, but it's NOT pork on pork, Cathar...these are 100% all-beef Best's hot dogs (made in NJ, btw)! And although there are people on eGullet who will wax poetic about miniscule details of a fantastic meal, we also manage to appreciate GOOD FOOD made by people who care about quality ingredients. And these hot dogs are damn good. Also the best fries I've ever eaten. Really. This is NOT Rutt's Hut, nor do they aspire to be. It's a clean, well-lit spot that's run by two super-friendly guys. No, I'm not affiliated with them--just a fan.
If you want to read the thread on eGullet, there are pictures there as well. http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=72908

Posted by: Ev | Jan 20, 2006 12:03:28 PM

Sorry--didn't realize that the article I read continued and included the link to eGullet.
Barista--the link opened something like 50 windows on my PC, though--you might want to check that!

Posted by: Ev | Jan 20, 2006 12:08:55 PM

This place is totally ripping off Crif Dogs in the East Village. I recommend Crif aboce all, because have a funky interior filled with action figures and table top video games

Posted by: ccc | Jan 20, 2006 12:12:51 PM


be careful what you say about egullet. If you are or ever have been a member, Rosie has access to all your personal information, and is not afraid to violate e-gulllet's privacy policy. I'm sure if that if Sharky posts again, we'll see her home phone number and address posted here.

Posted by: susie b | Jan 20, 2006 12:32:38 PM

the East Village?

you're telling us about that place because it's easy, for the readers of this blog, to get to?

Posted by: Confused Citizen | Jan 20, 2006 12:58:42 PM

Matt and I would like to thank everyone for their support in our dream. We are truly humbled by the rave reviews from the culinary community. When all is said and done, we are just 2 Jersey guys selling hot dogs. Stop by and say hello and formulate your own opinion on Amazing Hot Dog.

Posted by: Eric@AmazingHotDog | Jan 20, 2006 1:24:16 PM

Thanks much, susie b. But while I briefly belonged to e-gullet (I think they threw me off when they converted to a paid format or something), I don't recall giving them truly personal info.

And Ev, well, now I know the new dogs aren't pork. (Rutt's contents have always been a mystery and I probably prefer it that way. Maybe even need it that way.) Okay, but still, pork on beef? Anyway, my gripe with e-gullet is that it usually reads like two well-bellied monks out of Rabelais's Abbey of Theleme congratulating each other on their respective tastes. I'll take Rutt's grumpy countermen over that any day, especially if you add old cars or bikes to the mix. (Not to mention the thousands of gulls who seem to live in Rutt's parking lot.)

Posted by: cathar | Jan 20, 2006 1:30:21 PM

J&W credentials are impressive, but I'm still looking for the "Jean Georges" of hot dog places, elevating the hot dog sandwich to square white plates and wine pairing.

Posted by: Jim | Jan 20, 2006 2:43:16 PM

Went yesterday, tried the Caped Crusader. Fell in love, cried when it was over.

Fries were also triumphant especially with some chipotle mayo.

Seems like good guys running the place, can't ask much more.

Posted by: Subscribbler | Jan 20, 2006 4:35:03 PM

Whatever the merits of "Amazing Hot dog," there should never, ever be a Jean-Georges type place for hot dogs. As Little Richard once remarked, "You should never try to put a tuxedo on them funky blues."

Also, what the devil really is "flash-frying?" I always kind of like the flavor days-old oil imparts.

Posted by: cathar (8T) | Jan 20, 2006 5:12:29 PM

"Flash frying" is when you run into the kitchen and immerse your wiener in blazing hot oil all at once. Do not try this at home.

"Hot Dog" and "Gourmet" have only one thing in common: they both come from questionable materials and both need to be fully cooked before they can be enjoyed. I am a Rutts fan, too, Cathar. Not often you can buy a short beer any more.

Posted by: Conan the Grammarian | Jan 20, 2006 5:46:48 PM

I loved the dawgs at "Amazing Hot Dog"!

Posted by: ®aymmmondo | Jan 20, 2006 6:47:39 PM

Congratulations to Eric and Matt. Your concept is great, and we adore the antique hotdog memorabilia......

I've got a fabulous copper "sauerkraut and onion warmer" from an 1920's hotdog cart for you to check out - Dusty's Antiques is at 480 Bloomfield Ave in Montclair (in the lobby of the Clairidge Movie Theater).

Looking forward to sampling your dogs-


Posted by: dusty's antiques | Jan 20, 2006 11:45:12 PM

Warning: if you really don't want to know about Rutts, read no further. Hit your Back button right now.

Rutts' dogs are a mixture of beef & pork, so "pork on beef " isn't really an alien or untraditional concept.

See also "bacon cheeseburger." Some folks seem to like those.

Posted by: crank | Jan 21, 2006 10:10:27 AM

See also "bacon cheeseburger."

I had a bacon cheesburger for lunch yesterday and I might have another one tomorrow. We went to Rutt's for lunch today. (On quiet nights, I can hear my arteries hardening.)

One of the most endearing things about the late, great Julia Child was her abhorrence of the "fat Nazis." You just have to eat really high-caloric and fatty foods every now and then - they taste better than anything with a Fat Free label. A good 8-oz. New York Bar Burger (aka "Puck"), medium rare with cheddar and bacon on a toasted English Muffin, and a tall mug of your favorite brew. What's not to like?

Posted by: Conan the Grammarian | Jan 21, 2006 5:11:39 PM

I have been to AHD 2 times now think the food is very good for a hot dog place. Wish them the best of luck.
If this place was not so busy with egullet idiots, would probably eat there more often.
In my opinion Egullet, the New Jersey section is full of people that think they know everything about food, but don't really know s***!!!!

Best of luck to Eric and Matt!!

Posted by: Unhappy Chef | Jan 22, 2006 12:22:47 PM

crank, I've never had a bacon cheeseburger in my life. Wouldn't sully the sacred patty so. As for Rutt's dogs, unless you have a pipeline right to the management there, you may not be right. Rutt's has always been notoriously zippered about the content of its dogs. though New Jersey Monthly many years ago did an analysis which supposedly showed amounts of both veal and chicken in them.

But I did go to Amazing dog today. Very nice people, guy with a beard was so apologetic about being out of limeade that he mixed up a batch and brought me one on the house while I was eating. Big dogs, a little too big for the buns, some snap to them, yes, but only bright yellow mustard (French's) and nothing like Rutt's famous carrot-based relish. Fantastic fries. Worth a stop, you bet. But because of location and hours, never going to be the rendezvous for lost souls with priors and heartaches a-plenty that Rutt's will always be. It's not just the grease at Rutt's, it's also the tears in the grease.

Posted by: cathat (8T) | Jan 23, 2006 1:22:03 PM

Good luck with the shop. I'll have to get up there soon.

Next time you find yourself in Westchester County, go to Walter's Hot Dogs in Larchmont. For many, it's the gold standard.

Posted by: rich | Jan 25, 2006 5:02:38 PM

I had a chance to try AHD earlier this week. I particularly liked the chili, which is a far cry from the usual chili "sauce" that is synonymous with north Jersey hot dogs. Real meat, great aroma.

A minor issue, if it's an issue at all, is that the hot dog is a wee bit too big. I'd prefer a smaller dog, if only so I could eat 2 comfortably.

Posted by: The Most Important NJ Diner | Jan 26, 2006 9:21:27 AM

Is there an easy way to get a hotdog AHD without the bun for those of us (me) with gluten allergies?

Hey guys, if not, why not come up with a bunless version that can be eaten out of hand for the low carb, fat-loving, crowd. Wrap it in something interesting that will hold the extras please.

Posted by: Max | Jan 26, 2006 4:35:47 PM

I'm quite fond of the Mini Buffalo Dogs, which are pieces of hot dog flash fried and served smothered in Buffalo (as in wings) sauce in a basket! No bread, but there is blue cheese for dipping...
And knowing how the owners are, I'm sure they would accommodate a request for any of their dogs without the bun.

Posted by: Ev | Jan 26, 2006 5:21:57 PM

I went to AHD - absolutely incredible. I loved the Jersey Breakfast...

I'd go back any day - can't wait to become an AHD Super Hero too..

Posted by: 890 | Jan 26, 2006 7:44:57 PM

Amazing Hot Dog is not a rip off of Crif Dogs. Crif Dogs is a copy cat of Rutt's Hut. A former owner admitted as much to me in an e-mail. They use the same dog and try to reproduce Rutt's famous relish. Amazing Hot Dog is a completely different animal. It's a spicier, more well seasoned beef dog, rather than a mostly pork based dog like the one used at Rutt's. The Rutt's (and Crif's) dog is a Thumann's frank made specifically for deep frying. According to the plant manager (who gave me a tour of the place) The Rutt's dog has a slightly higher percentage of pork than does Thumann's griller, which is 75% pork. So we're talking 80 to 85% pork with 2 extra ingredients; soy protein concentrate and semolina, which cause this dog to puff up and rip. There is no secret as far as the ingredients. They are listed on the package. Rutt's is not the only hot dog place to use this dog. Crif's, Libby's, Hiram's, Goffle Grill, and Johnny & Hanges are some others. I like this dog. And I like the dog used at Amazing Hot Dog. Most of the time I'm in the mood for an all beef dog, which is tastier and spicier than the milder (some say bland) pork based dog. And give AHD time to create their own history. Atmosphere, history, ambience, gruff counter people, etc. are all part of the experience, but for someone like me who makes it a hobby to sample hot dogs from all over, it's about Taste and Quality, first and foremost! And Amazing Hot Dog is at the top in both categories. Good luck guys.

Posted by: John Fox | Jan 27, 2006 7:30:10 PM

The dog was great! Two negative comments however. First, I stressed to them and put on the ticket no bun, wheat allergy, don't even let the dog touch a bun! My bf watched while we waited and of course they put the dog on the bun. He made them redo it.

Second, 1pm on Saturday it was crowded but it was crowded in part because they are SLOW! These guys need to get their dog production line moves a bit more smooth and improve their time flow. The cooking wasn't the snag so much as the execution.

We'd go back despite this because the dog was mighty tasty but I'd probably pick a less busy time.

Posted by: Max | Jan 28, 2006 2:24:53 PM

C'mon...the only REAL HOT DOG is an All Beef Vienna Hot Dog from Chicago. End of Story

Posted by: FoodDork | Jan 28, 2006 3:34:49 PM


Have you ever had a Best's all beef dog? Makes Vienna taste bland by comparison.

Posted by: John Fox | Jan 28, 2006 7:22:44 PM

Thank you for that very interesting post, John Fox!

Posted by: Raymmmondo | Jan 29, 2006 12:49:29 AM

They were slow on Saturday b/c they were SLAMMED, thanks to being in the Star-Ledger AND on Eyewitness News for the "Neighborhood Eats" segment on Friday. I'm told they actually closed early on Saturday b/c they ran out of hot dogs, having gone through over 1000 of them! They expected to be busy, but I don't think they ever thought it would be that nutty.
Keep in mind that they've only been open for two weeks, so they're still getting a sense of their busiest times and will staff accordingly. Great product, great owners--and they really do want their customers to keep coming back.

Posted by: Ev | Jan 29, 2006 2:16:47 PM

Yes Ev, as I indicated, I know they were busy but they weren't putting out orders at a good rate which made it a longer wait. Their "line" organization/layout needs work. I'm sure they will debrief and figure out a way to improve after their baptism by fire (flash fire) on Saturday.

We'll be back, the dogs were great!

Posted by: Max | Jan 29, 2006 3:36:34 PM

We are sorry to hear about some people's inconvenience on Saturday, when we unfortunately ran out of food. We were lucky to garner some exciting press, but if you missed out in any way on trying one of our dogs, please come by another time - introduce yourself - and we'll do our best to accomodate you. We actually sold 1,000 dogs in 24 hours and had no way to anticipate the crowd. We have debriefed our staff since Saturday and are adding an additional person to just bag orders, and there will be 2 of us doing toppings rather than just one. We are limited by the square footage of our kitchen and were operating at absolute maximum capacity. Again Matt and I sincereley appologize for any inconvenience that was experienced, and hopefully you will come by another time to try out our food.

We are grateful and appreciate you, our customers and will do everything we can to make your experience at Amazing Hot dog a pleasant one.

Eric and Matt

Posted by: Eric | Jan 30, 2006 11:09:06 AM

Yo...Yo..Yo!!! I moved out here 15 yrs ago. There two things this we never had out here. One is a dog or tube steak. You don't throw a dog on the grill or deep fry it??? Only a DWD, (dirty water dog) and corn relish ????. When there is a hot dog competition on TV the dogs are boiled. The other thing is there only one decent deli with in 10 miles. That's the pork store in west Paterson.

Posted by: COZZIE | Jan 30, 2006 12:27:31 PM

Have to say these are the most "Amazing" hotdogs. Huge, juicy and VERY creative. And I prefer all beef. Looking forward to trying many more exciting menu items. Eric and Matt you're doing an Amazing job. All the best to you. And to the others out there, try it, you'll like it!!

Posted by: Julie | Feb 1, 2006 1:17:52 PM

the hot dogs were nasty, just plain nasty i would never eat here again. the fries were cold and not crispy at all. YOU GUYS NEED TO DO A BETTER JOB

Posted by: bb | Feb 3, 2006 11:27:37 AM

Three visits so far.

Two home runs (dogs were hot, fries were crispy) one so-so dog with good fries. I like the place, and like the attitude.

Yyou can see the whole process, and they're willing to customize a little. One guy asked me if I wanted more salsa on my salsa dog, for example. You'd never have that happen at McDonald's

Posted by: Paul from OB | Feb 7, 2006 9:21:46 PM

Got to try AHD yesterday. Gotta say I love the place. Have had dogs in Chicago and Toronto both claim to have the best in the world, and have covered many of the Jersey spots Hot Dog Johnny's, Hot Grill, Johnny & Hanges, Falls View, the old, now gone, Anthony Wayne, Goffle Gril, The After, etc.

These are real good.

Posted by: Peter Conway | Feb 12, 2006 12:54:39 PM

Finally had my chance to stop by. The hotdogs were tasty, mmmm-good fries and the limeade was a nice change of pace. Overall two thumbs up. The only thing I would change is the roll, I like the firmer ones like costco has as opposed to the squishy ones. However, that certainly won't keep me from going back.

Posted by: grcanary | Feb 13, 2006 1:17:19 PM

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