Anybody who knows their Red and White Hots from their Coney Dog knows that July is National Hot Dog Month. We certainly do. Filmmaker Mark Kotlinski is one of our people, having devoted an insane amount of time studying the regional hot dog stands when filming his documentary, A Connecticut Hot Dog Tour (the feature-length film made its debut on the Documentary Channel of the Fourth of July week. It’s also available on DVD.)
The filmmaker’s tube steak hunt visited 10 of the state’s beloved (and quirky) stands. As one man puts in the film’s trailer, “You go to the Midwest and you are not going to find hot dogs like you find in New England.” This is certainly debatable — I’m personally behind Chicago’s Weiner Circle and Pinks in Los Angeles. Bark, a wonderful one-off shop in Park Slope, Brooklyn, has a secret wiener source in Upstate New York. There’s a special snap to those franks, which can we washed down with some of the region’s best craft beer. And sparkling wine from time to time. So, to the man in the movie trailer, may we suggest branching out a bit.
Regardless, Kotlinski’s film brings to light some great spots in Connecticut. Here are five highlights. For the complete list, visit CTVisit.
Frank Caiazzo started making hot dogs in 1933 when he took over the $3,000 lease of a recently closed stand in Waterbury. To differentiate themselves from the competition, they asked a local supplier to create a foot-long dog (considerably longer than the average dog). The rest is history. There are currently eight locations in the Frankies empire (with fun names like Ballpark Frankies and Frankies by the Sea).
- Glenwood Drive-In
This Hamden stand first opened in 1955. Cars were cooler back then. The spot is famous for charcoal-grilled dogs— which I personally could do without. I’ll reserve eating a bitterly charred dogs for the backyard barbecue. Regardless, Glenwood has some fans (they were voted #1 hot dog by Connecticut Magazine). There’s also some serious innovation here with a Top Ten Things to Order list. What if every restaurant did that? “Our gazpacho is charting at #9 this week, may we suggest the lamb shank at #4?” Also, poor tuna sandwich at the bottom. And, onion rings or French fries? Controversy!
- Top Dog Hot Dog
TDHD is a trailer parked off Route 66 in Portland (so American!) run by a husband and wife team for the past 30 years. The stand is a ’60s-era Airstream pulled by a Checker cab (so American!). The tube steaks are actually made in New Jersey at Thuman’s Hot Dogs. It’s a weiner. Groooaaaan.
- Super Duper Weenie
This Fairfield spot is known for their pork-beef blend — with a hint of smoke — and a range of offbeat toppings. The Tuna Port features tuna salad. That is just not acceptable. I’d much rather try the New Englander (sauerkraut, bacon, mustard, sweet relish and raw onion).
There is no more of an old-school spot than this former gas station in Cheshire, which first started serving dogs in 1928. A No Dancing sign still hangs and — contrary to the wide opinion that every day is a good day eat hot dogs—they are closed on Fridays. The franks themselves are deep-fried until they split open. Condiments are limited and ordering consists of shouting a number to the cashier. We’d like to see Joey Chestnut walk in there and shout 62.
Any favorite hot dog spots in Connecticut? Share the knowledge in the comments.