As I’ve mentioned a few times before, a lot of people believe that (to quote my former coworker Marc), “A hot dog is a hot dog.” I don’t concur, I’ve eaten enough hot dogs, from Sonoran Hot Dogs, to Chicago Dogs, to DC half-smokes, to New York papaya dogs, to Dodger dogs, that this clearly isn’t the case (and for those that aren’t up to speed on their hot dog styles, our buddies over at SeriousEats put together this handy guide).
It’s also important to note that it’s not just serving styles that vary, but also the dog itself. The Sabrett’s beef hot dog is what give those New York dogs their flavor. Similarly, a Chicago dog isn’t really right unless it’s a Vienna Beef dog hiding under all that stuff. And in the case of Connecticut, there’s quite a bit of variety hiding in this little state, with several regional butchers producing the hallmark style of that state: beef and pork blend, spiced similar to New York dog with lots of garlic and paprika notes. One of my favorite hot dogs is one of these from Hummel Bros. in New Haven, CT, making a good natural casing hot dog with a serious spiciness to it.
And one of the best places to get a Hummel dog is Blackie’s in Cheshire, CT. A no-nonsense hot dog place if you’ve ever seen one, it’s basically a serving counter with two small dining rooms on each end of the building. You simply walk up to the counter, tell them how many hot dogs you’d like (the menu is basically just hot dogs, although allegedly you can get a burger if you really wanted one), and what to drink, and you’re ready to go.
The Blackie’s hot dog is prepared using a fairly exotic preparation approach, in which the dog is fried in shallow peanut oil until it starts to rip open down the side (for those folks familiar with Rutt’s Hut in NJ, they do something similar with their “ripper” hot dogs). The result is a nice combination of the Hummel hot dog taste combined with just a little bit of crunch and the lighter snap of the natural casing.
Served up in a side-split (instead of the more usual “New Enland Style” top-split) bun, the Blackie’s dog is then served up naked, with a grand total of two toppings out on the counter: brown mustard, and Blackie’s own hot pepper relish. The latter of these is what Blackie’s is really about. The relish is rich, hearty, spicy, and has just enough heat that you feel it on your lips for 5 minutes after you eat. It’s also the perfect complement to the spicing of the hot dogs, and just oozes into the little rips made from the cooking process.
Add in a Birch Beer (on tap!), and you’ve got an excellent roadside lunch.