Some people rarely put a lot of trust in “best of” lists, for so very many reasons. Nevertheless, when Upstate businesses are recognized by a topflight online company, they can’t be ignored. The latest example is seeing six Upstate venues making the list of the 75 best hot dogs joints as proclaimed by The Daily Meal.
The Daily Meal is a 4½-year-old website that produces original content and videos from editors, industry insiders, and its user community. It frequently comes up with “best of” lists on a variety of topics. In the case of hot dogs, it looks at hot dogs from all around the country, including such places as high-end restaurants, old-style luncheonettes, motor speedways and sports stadiums.
No. 1 on the list is Katz’s Deli, located on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and also famous for its corned beef and pastrami sandwiches. You can see the entire list of 75 eateries online. The listees and the comments from The Daily Meal reviewers about the Upstate locations selected:
No. 8, Ted’s, 7018 Transit Road, Buffalo — Ted’s, with eight locations in the Buffalo area and one more in Tempe, Arizona (of all places), has been charcoal-broiling hot dogs since 1927, serving them alongside great milkshakes and perfect onion rings, washed down with an ice-cold Crystal Beach Loganberry. The cooked-to-order dogs (available in regular-sized, foot-long, and jumbo all-beef varieties) get a nice char from the charcoal, and you’ll be missing out if you don’t top it with Ted’s famous hot chili sauce, based on a recipe brought from Greece by founder Ted Liaros. It’s sweet and spicy, and they thankfully also sell it by the bottle.
No. 13, Walter’s, 937 Palmer Avenue, Mamaroneck, Westchester County — On the side of an unassuming road, in the unassuming little town of Mamaroneck … sits an odd, pagoda-shaped hot dog stand. This is Walter’s, and the hot dogs here haven’t changed since Walter Warrington opened his first stand nearby in 1919. The copper-roofed pagoda was built in 1928, and is currently on the county’s inventory of historic places. But it’s the hot dogs that have really made Walter’s so legendary. Warrington devised the recipe for these dogs himself, and to this day they’re still split down the middle, basted in a secret sauce as they grill, placed into a fluffy toasted bun, and topped with homemade mustard. There’s nothing else quite like Walter’s.
No. 23, Schaller’s Drive-In, 965 Edgemere Drive, Rochester — Folks come to this waterfront Rochester institution for the nostalgia and stay for the timeless fries, hamburgers, and hot dogs. It opened in 1956, so that distinct Happy Days atmosphere is in fact purely authentic. Schaller’s specialty is the upstate hot dog variety known as White Hots: fat natural-casing dogs comprised of pork, beef, and veal that are made by local butcher Zweigle’s. Top it with some of their meat-based “hot sauce,” mustard, and onions, grab a handful of pickles, and you’re in summer vacation heaven. Two other locations have since opened, but the lakeside outpost is the one to visit.
No. 35, Famous Lunch, 111 Congress Street, Troy — Famous Lunch has been in business in Troy since 1932, and they’re still selling their legendary little Helmbold’s hot dogs: four inches long and full of spicy, garlicky flavor, cooked on a griddle that’s nearly as old as the restaurant. Grab a seat at the counter and order a few dogs (they won’t set you back much, just 60 cents apiece), and make sure you get them topped with mustard, onions, and their classic Zippy sauce, filled with big chunks of beef and bursting with cumin and paprika.
No. 45, Shake Shack, Saratoga Springs (Saratoga Race Course) and elsewhere — New York may be the home of Nathan’s and Gray’s Papaya, but anyone who has sought out the nation’s best hot dogs knows the unfortunate truth: New York City, for all its sidewalk hot dog carts, is not really a hot dog town. So it is that one of Gotham’s best hot dogs is Shake Shack’s is Chicago-style Shack-cago dog. “A hot dog from a burger joint?!” Actually, as Shake Shack’s own site notes, the burgeoning burger empire “began as a humble hot dog cart.” This dog is “split and dragged through the garden with Rick’s Picks Shack relish, onion, cucumber, pickle, tomato, sport peppers, celery salt, and mustard.” The bun is even soft, just like in Chicago.
No. 63, Clare & Carl’s, Route 9 South, Plattsburgh — There’s a tiny shack … with a big sign on it advertising Texas Red Hots. When you set foot inside the little building, which was built by founders Clare and Carl Warne in the 1940s, you’re going to want to order not a Texas but a “Michigan,” a steamed little hot dog made just for the stand, on a special-made bun, topped with a secret meat sauce (aka Michigan sauce) and chopped onions. The origin of the name is the stuff of legend, and plenty of secrets are housed within these walls, namely the ingredients in the sauce and the providers of the dogs and buns. But you don’t really need to know any of that. All you need to know is that this is a darn good hot dog, the best example out there of the style that’s unique to the region (and happens to have nothing to do with either Texas or Michigan).