September 2012 - Hot Dogs vs Hamburgers: Great American Taste-Off
Driving North or South along the US East Coast?



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Restaurants come and go, but the tastes of our youth, the local flavoring of a hot dog or the seasoning of a burger, will send us driving well out of our way just to experience it again. Food memories seem to be the ones that have stood the test of time. These 4 hot dog and 4 hamburger joints have lasted 38, 65, 63, 63, 80, 91, 97 and 112 years! There's a reason for this, so pull off the road and indulge.

RI -

New York System
Have a side of Quebec Fries

GA - It's the Pork Chop Sandwich, silly
SC - Ask for the Double Jack
MD - First with the Secret Sauce
CT -
Birth of the Burger
CT -
Won in a Horse Race
NC - A Shower With That?

RI - New York System ... and Have a side of Quebec Fries

RI Exit 30: Sparky's - The hot wiener craze in RI was started in 1915 by Johnny's uncle on Hoyle Square. John Chippis (3rd generation), the newest "Sparky", started a 50-year-club for all the regulars who come back here for the "all the way" wieners (not hot dogs, not frankfurters), which are smaller, spicier and are layered with a special meat sauce, mustard and onions, so all the flavors blend together as one. In RI this is known as the New York system, and they wash them down with coffee milk. You can order burgers, sandwiches, homemade soups, etc. 548 Dexter St., Central Falls. Tel: 401-726-9086.

and right across the street is

Stanley's - In 1932, in the midst of the Depression, Stanley F. Kryla created a regional comfort food with quality beef topped with loads of fried onions and pickles. Yummy Stanleyburgers have stood the test of time, even under the watch of the next owner, Gregory Raheb. The menu has 15 variations on that burger along with sandwiches, homemade soup and chili, Friday fish specials and Quebec-style fries topped with shredded mozzarella and gravy. You can wash them all down with a RI "cabinet" - a shake (traditional flavor is coffee). Notice the fabulous new/old re-design by famous diner guru Morris Nathanson. 535 Dexter St. (other location: 371 Richmond St., Providence). Tel: 401-726-9689.

GA - It's the Pork Chop Sandwich, silly


GA Exit 38: Willie's Wee-Nee Wagon - Yup, there are 9 kinds of wieners here (kraut, BBQ, slaw, bull, chili, cheese, Brunswick, etc.), but the reason the locals have salivated over this joint for 38 years is the pork chop sandwich with onions and mustard. Willie himself thought the cheeseburgers were something special. All of the sandwiches (steak, fish, polish sausage, reuben) come with sweet tea. 3599 Altama Ave., Brunswick. Tel: 912-264-1146.
SC - Ask for the Double Jack

SC Exit 53: Dairy Land - According to the locals, the perfect lunch at this 63-year-old ice cream stand (opened in 1949 by Audis Benton, and still in the family, run by Jackson Hughes and now his son-in-law Thurston Hiers) would have to include a cherry coke or strawberry shake (made with fresh fruit, as is the banana shake), an "all the way" cheeseburger basket (tomato, lettuce, onion, mustard, mayo and freshly ground beef - the double Jack has 10 oz.!), and then end with a parfait, which is soft serve vanilla ice cream swirled with pineapple and maraschino cherries, fudge and walnuts (only $3.59). We enjoyed it all.

At this take out window you could also get a chocolate dipped ice cream cone or go Southern with fried shrimp or chicken or a corn dog, or even chicken salad. If you have a hankering, there's Carter's liver pudding. 438 S Jefferies Blvd., Walterboro. Tel: 843-549-7431.

MD - First with the Secret Sauce

MD Exit 50: Polock Johnny's - The American basics - a hot dog and fries ratcheted up a notch, have been served here since 1921. John Kafka, with his carny background, parlayed his secret red sauce recipe, sausages and lemonade into a family empire. Son JFK Jr. perfected the roll and sausage recipes (going as far as hiring a wurst specialist from Germany!), started an annual sausage eating contest and voiced humorous radio spots to continue the brand.

The dog with "the works" is perfect, even without the add-ons: onions, chili, mustard, ketchup, green peppers, fried onions, cheese, kraut or gravy, but do have it with a side of amazing OC (Ocean City) fries. If you must, there's also cheese steak, fish sub, BLT and chili. 3212 Washington Blvd. Tel: 410-644-5997.

CT - Birth of the Burger

CT Exit 47: Louis' Lunch (The birthplace of the hamburger sandwich) - In 1900, a customer asked Louis Lassen for a meal on the run. He cooked some chopped beef and toast on a vertical cast iron grill. Today you can take a bite of history cooked on that very grill (they sure knew how to build them in those days), but remember - only onions, cheese or tomato are acceptable garnishes (no mustard or ketchup here).

This century-old family business holds such a special place in the hearts and stomachs of the locals that when it was threatened with demolition, many helped preserve it. When 3 of its walls were moved, supporters sent 3rd generation Ken Lassen, Louis' grandson, thousands of bricks from every corner of the globe for the 4th wall. 261-263 Crown Street, New Haven. Tel: 203-562-5507.

CT - Won in a Horse Race

Exit 14: The Original Swanky Frank's - Back in 1947, Frank Christiano lost this hot dog stand in a bet on a horse race. Too bad for him, because this business is still open (run by cousin Lou) 66 years later, selling their yummy grilled or deep fried dogs with famous hot mustard (Uncle's Al's recipe) paired with crispy fries.

On a Saturday this stand goes through 200 lbs. of fresh potatoes. They make their own cole slaw, macaroni salad and onion rings, and to top the dogs, you can slather on Uncle Al's chile, cheese, sauerkraut, green onions or bacon. If you don't want hot dogs, chow down on Philly steaks, fried seafood, patty melt, mac 'n cheese or salmon burger, and wash it all down with local Norwalk Freaky Dog soda (cola, diet, lemon up, roof beer, lickin lemonade). 182 Connecticut Ave., Norwalk. Tel: 203-853-DOGS.

NC - A Shower With That?

NC Exit 180: 2nd Street Lunch - Be careful here cause the 2nd generation owner Danny Haislip, 71, might bark at you, but the bite of his burgers is so worth it, especially to the locals who remember as far back as 1949, as teens, arranging car pools to get here. Now they come from miles away for their burger fix. You might need a shower after you bite into sloppy, sweet, crunchy, spicy, Danny Boy, "full dressed" burger (or hot dog) topped with house-made cole slaw, house-made chile, cheese, onions and mustard. You can get it with a side of addictive sweet potato chips dusted with cinnamon sugar.

They go through 30-55 pounds of fresh ground beef each day. The locals love the onion rings. This is the first place we've come across that sells both Coke and Pepsi. You can order a pimento cheese sandwich, chicken salad, bologna burger or Vicki's (3rd generation with hubby Gregg) chef salad. The waitresses (Brenda's been there 36 years) take your order, cook and even ring it up (cash only). 22 East Second St., Roanoke Rapids. Tel: 252-537-5635.

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