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Visiting an expert's top three hot dog joints in North Jersey.

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Every hot dog lover has their preferred style of dog. Deep fried, blistered and loaded with smokey chili, crunchy chopped onions and spicy mustard. Boiled, with a satisfying snap, topped with biting sauerkraut. Naked. All the way. New Jersey has them all.

A worthy hot dog, "has to have a good flavor, a good blend of spice, choice beef and pork and a natural casing," said John Fox, a New Jersey hot dog connoisseur who cofounded the annual New Jersey Hot Dog Tour, has been featured on the Food Network and lent his expertise to articles, books and TV shows.

A good dog also has no preservatives, said Fox, and is either all beef or made with a blend of pork and beef — no poultry. And that's what we looked for when making this list of stellar hot dogs in every county in New Jersey. Bland, "variety meat" (another word for the discarded ground meat, said Fox) hot dogs are not on this list. (Though some unusual twists, like alligator, got a pass.)

Let's start with some hot dog terms you should know:

  • Thumann's: High quality pork and beef dogs in a natural casing that provides an excellent snap. These dogs hold up well in the deep fryer. Thumann's is based in Carlstadt.
  • Sabrett: Based in Englewood, this company's hot dogs are used for many boiled "dirty-water" dogs. Sabrett makes a few different franks, but the most popular are all-beef with natural casing.
  • Texas Wiener served All the Way or "One all the way": A deep fried frank served with fresh chopped onions, mustard and chili sauce (thinner and sweeter than meat-and-bean-based chili, often seasoned with cinnamon and nutmeg). Despite the name, Texas Wieners were introduced by John Patrellis at a stand in front of a Paterson hotel in the '20s.

Now that you have the vocabulary of a hot dog expert, let's get to our county-by-county list of great hot dogs, created with input from our food reporters, hot dog experts like Fox and reader write-ins.

Of course, everyone has their own preferences; a definitive list would be impossible to make. But, we hope these suggestions will guide you to a summer full of top quality hot dogs.

Atlantic

Tennessee Avenue Beer Hall, Atlantic City

Expert recommendation

Tennessee Avenue Beer Hall pays ode to the classics while leaving room for experimentation. How can we deny the greatness of the Don’t Pass Go Dog, an all-beef Hebrew National Dog on a buttery split-top bun ($6)? And yet, kudos also belong to more out-of-the-box choices like the Oriental Dog, topped with kimchi and sweet chili mustard ($7) and the Mexicali, a bacon-wrapped dog with avocado puree, pico de gallo and chipotle cream ($9). Pair your franks with a craft beer from Tennessee Ave.’s expansive selection, and you’ve got yourself a perfect summer meal.

Go: 133 S. Tennessee Ave., Atlantic City; 609-541-4099, tennesseeavenuebeerhall.com.

Bergen

Hiram’s, Fort Lee

Staff recommendation

Bergen has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to great hot dogs. And yet — you knew this was coming — we have to bow to the history and quality of Hiram’s in Fort Lee. The humble roadside joint has become a favorite of food gods like Anthony Bourdain for its deep-fried, Thumann’s pork and beef dogs — served with or without chili, cradled by a toasted bun and served on paper plates. Open since 1928, Hiram’s isn’t fancy. But it is legendary.

Go: 1345 Palisade Ave., Fort Lee; 201-592-9602, no website.

Other reader recommendations: Hot Dog Caboose (211 Greenwood Ave., Midland Park; 201-444-2531, facebook.com/hotdogcaboose); Steve's Burgers (three locations: 506 Route 46, Garfield, 973-772-1770; 68 Passaic St., Garfield, 973-955-2882; 7409 Broadway, North Bergen, 201-430-6661, facebook.com/Steves-Burgers-108686152507598); River View East (455 River Dr., Elmwood Park; 201-797-9258, no website); Kocher's Market (634 Bergen Blvd., Ridgefield; 201-945-7086, kochersmarketfortlee.com); Johnny and Hange's (23-20 Maple Ave., Fair Lawn; 201-791-9060, facebook.com/johnnyhanges); Karl Ehmer Quality Meats (120 Broadway, Hillsdale; 201-664-1477, facebook.com/KarlEhmerHillsdale); The Fireplace (718 Route 17, Paramus; 201-444-2362, thefireplacerestaurant.com); Hank's Franks (210 Route 46, Lodi; 973-473-8589, facebook.com/Hanks-Franks).

Burlington

Russ Ayres Famous Hot Dogs, Bordentown

Staff recommendation

Nostalgia seems to hit home for folks when they talk about this famous hot dog spot on Route 206. The owners may have changed since those early days, but the hot dogs are still the talk of the town. Chris Baldassari and wife, Pam, have owned it since 1999.

“We used to come,” said Baldassari, a former Trenton fireman. “I live in Hamilton. My father used to bring me over. I didn’t know the original owner personally, just from coming in and getting hot dogs and leaving... We ended up buying it and we’ve been here 22 years now.”

The hot dog stand's namesake, Russ Ayres, ran the place for more than four decades. He died in 1994. Legend has it that at one point, you could only get a hot dog with relish, mustard or sauerkraut. Ayres started off selling hot dogs from a cart at a local park, then graduated to a building.

The hot dog cart that Ayres once used is in the center of the shop, and they still use it to serve boiled dogs.

“That’s the original cart,” Baldassari said. “The inside (of the shop) is pretty much the same as when we bought it. There’s not much different in here.”

Go: 680 Route 206 South; 609-233-7600, facebook.com/RussAyresHotDogs.

More: Russ Ayres Famous Hot Dogs in Bordentown is a town treasure

Other reader recommendations: Hot Diggidy Dog (Routes 532 and 563, Chatsworth; 609-519-3705, hotdiggidydog.us); The Hot Dog Shack Rancocas Woods (120 Creek Road, Mount Laurel; 609-605-6820, facebook.com/thehotdogshackrancocaswoods); Mart Pretzel Bakery (202 Route 130 North, Cinnaminson; 856-829-0012, facebook.com/profile); MoonDog Grill (Moorestown Mall, 400 Route 38, Moorestown; 856-206-9773, moondoggrill.com/home); Stewart’s Drive-In (4524 Route 130 North, Burlington; 609-386-0106, facebook.com/Stewarts-Drive-In-Burlington).

Camden

Weber’s Drive In, Pennsauken

Staff recommendation

Weber's can be described in two words: old school. It offers a car-hop experience: waiters and waitresses that come to your car and take your order. The food is brought out and placed on a steel tray they attach to the car window.

Though Weber's is famous for its root beer, people love their hot dogs, too. Manager Vincent Mark said they use Dietz & Watson half-pork, half-beef dogs that are deep fried in peanut oil. Toppings include chili, cheese sauce and Whiz.

Mark said the current location opened in the early 1950s. His father, Michael Mascarelli, owns the place these days. There is a Weber’s Drive In located in Stratford, as well, with different owners.

Go: 6019 Lexington Ave., Pennsauken; 856-662-6632; facebook.com/WebersDriveIn38.

Other reader recommendations: The Original Hot Dog Factory (910 Haddonfield-Berlin Road, Suite 3, Voorhees; 856-258-2857, theoriginalhotdogfactory.com).

Cape May

Maui's Dog House, North Wildwood

Expert recommendation

Quality hot dogs are hard to come by in South Jersey, unless you're at Maui's, a beachy, bright yellow and orange stand that's been serving dogs since 1999. Maui's offers Hofmann hot dogs, a company out of Syracuse, New York, made on on a flat top grill.

At Maui's there's no dearth of toppings, from sauerkraut slow cooked in beer to homemade chili to gooey Wisconsin cheese. Some of Maui's most popular combinations include the Forget About It (mustard, onions, chili cheese and bacon), Better Call Saul (horseradish mustard, hot cherry pepper relish and sauerkraut) and the Alabama (house-made Mac Daddy sauce and caramelized onions).

Go: 806 NewJersey Ave., North Wildwood; 609-846-0444, mauisdoghouse.com.

Other reader recommendations: Hot Dog Tommy's (10 Jackson St., Cape May; 609-884-8388, hotdogtommys.com).

Cumberland

Outlaw's Burger Barn Creamery, Vineland

Staff recommendation

Popular footlong hot dogs from Outlaw, located in the Magnolia Court business center, include the RY Dog with cheese sauce, charred red onion and jalapeño ($8.75); the O.G. Dog with American cheese, applewood smoked bacon, caramelized onions, barbecue sauce and crushed house chips ($9.25); and the Barn Dog with sharp white cheddar, chipotle lime slaw, pickle and barbecue sauce ($9.25).

Finish off your meal with one of Outlaw's many ice cream cakes, including flavors such as strawberry crunch and Reese overload.  

Go: 1370 S Main Rd, Vineland; 856-691-5438, outlawsburgerbarn.com.

Other reader recommendations: Stewart's Drive-In (584 S Delsea Dr., Vineland; 856-696-8062, stewartsallamerican.com); Jim’s Lunch (105 East Main St., Millville; 856-327-1299, sites.google.com/view/jims-lunch).

Essex

Dickie Dee's, Newark

Reader recommendation

What makes Dickie Dee's stand out from the rest of this list? It serves deep fried Italian sausages, served with peppers, onions and potato slices ($4.95) — and for an extra dollar, hot cherry peppers. Italian hot dogs are entirely different from the Texas Wieners so many joints are famous for, but no Jersey hot dog list would be complete without them.

Dickie Dee's was one of the first to serve Italian hot dogs when it was opened in 1958 by Dominick "Dick" D'Innocenzo and Enrico Bruno.

Go: 380 Bloomfield Ave., Newark; 973-483-9396, dickiedees.net.

Other reader recommendations: Jimmy Buff's (60 Washington St., West Orange; 973-325-9897, jimmybuffs.com); JJ's Hot Dogs (230 Bloomfield Ave., Newark; 732-691-6714; 572 Route 46 East, Fairfield; 973-521-7352, jjshotdogs.com).

Gloucester

Alaura Kitchen Homemade Ice Cream, Pitman

An ice cream shop isn't the first place to look for hot dogs — but hear us out. Nestled in the heart of Pitman, Alaura Kitchen Homemade Ice Cream has a variety of dogs to choose from like the Popper Dog with cream cheese, cheddar, grilled jalapeño strips and a drizzle of their spicy samurai sauce ($5.49); and the Chicago’ish Dog with diced onions, sweet relish, sport peppers, tomato slices, dill pickle spear, yellow mustard and a dash of celery salt ($5.99). And for $2.50, you can get a grilled cheese dog — a grilled cheese sandwich with one and a half split hot dogs inside.

Go: 36 S. Broadway, Pitman; 856-589-3845, alaurakitchen.com.

Toni’s Treats, Malaga

Don’t let the smaller exterior of this Malaga spot fool you. Its hot dog selection is vast, including foot-long dogs like the Hound Dog with homemade chili, chopped onion, barbecue sauce and mustard ($8.75); the Truck Driver with sauerkraut, relish and chopped onions ($8.75); the Southern Belle with homemade chili and coleslaw ($8.75); and the Junkyard Dog with homemade chili, cheese whiz, sautéed green peppers and onions, topped with French fries ($9.15). Finish your meal off with one of Toni's many parfaits, layered with chocolate, vanilla or twist soft serve and topped with whipped cream and cherry.

Go: 487 Delsea Drive Malaga; 856-694-9655, instagram.com/tonistreats_malaga.

Other reader recommendations: Nifty Fifty (4670 Route 42, Turnersville; 856-875-1950, niftyfiftys.com).

Hudson

Joey Mac's, Harrison

Staff recommendation

Hot Dogs are, as a rule, pretty cheap. Yet, few are more affordable than the Sabrett dogs cooked dirty water style at the Harrison food truck Joey Mac's. Mac's Dolla' Dog, a plain Sabrett on a bun with nothing on it, is — well — a dollar.

"Deluxe" dogs aren't much pricier. Owner Shannon Mac said one of the most popular options is called The OG. It's topped with SexyKraut (sauerkraut slow simmered with bacon and onions), chipotle aioli and spicy mustard and costs $2.50. Stilly hungry? Try Joey Mac's footlong, slightly-spicy, slightly-smokey Kielbasa dog ($5).

Go: 101-103 Frank E. Rodgers Blvd. S., Harrison; 973-671-1028, joeymacs.com.

Hunterdon

Designer Dawgs, Clinton

Expert recommendation

Expect whimsical hot dog combinations from Designer Dawgs' colorful, cozy kitchen, with its teal walls and bar disguised as a Jeep. Options include hot dogs with guacamole, cheese and Doritos; or mac and cheese; or pineapple, bacon and barbecue sauce.

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But the thing all these dogs have in common is that they’re steamed, then grilled just before serving. Enjoy them outside facing happening Main Street, inside at the counter or in the flower-filled patio garden.

Go: 3 Main St., Clinton; 908-200-7353, designer-dawgs.com.

Mercer

The Hot Stop, Windsor

Reader recommendation

Joe and Elijah Blythe are the father/son team behind The Hot Stop. The dogs, a beef and pork blend from Grote & Weigel, are grilled or deep fried. After they're cooked, they're set on fresh Italian rolls, though Martin's potato rolls are available on request, and piled with toppings. Its two most popular options, said Joe, are the Italian (a deep fried dog with green peppers and potatoes, $6.50) and All the Way (deep fried with bacon, homemade chili and cheese, $6.50).

Go: 1392 Route 130, Windsor; 609-301-7585, thehotstopnj.com.

Middlesex

Destinations Dogs, New Brunswick

Staff recommendation

Most hot dog restaurants are low-key, but Destination Dogs is reinventing the wheel with its 25 gourmet, upscale dogs inspired by worldwide destinations. Here, find varieties such as alligator and shrimp sausage, duck sausage, lamb sausage or simply an all-beef hot dog.

International eats:  See the world from your plate at Destination Dogs

The hot dogs at this decade-old Hub City legend are "first-class dining on a bun," said co-owner Jimmy Cronk — not served hastily out of a to-go window. Plus, you can enjoy your dog alongside internationally-themed cocktails. 

Go: 101 Paterson St., New Brunswick; 732-993-1016, destinationdogs.com

Other reader recommendations: J&G Texas Weiners (238 North Ave., Dunellen; 732-968-4343, jgtexasweiners.com); Boulevard Drinks (8 Journal Square Plaza, Jersey City; 201-656-1855, facebook.com/Boulevard-Drinks).

Monmouth

Max's, Long Branch

Staff recommendation

Monmouth County's two most popular hot dog joints can be found just a few blocks from each other, so taste-testing to choose your favorite couldn't be easier. Max's Bar & Grill, originally Max's Famous Hot Dogs, got its start as a boardwalk stand in 1928 and still serves its foot-long grilled beef and pork hot dog. Try it plain or topped with everything from house-made chili to lobster meat. 

Go: 25 Matilda Terrace, Long Branch; 732-571-0248, maxsbarandgrillnj.com.

WindMill, Long Branch

Staff recommendation

WindMill Hot Dogs, which has been in business for nearly 60 years, serves a beef-pork hot dog flavored with a proprietary spice blend. Nab one from the original location, a red building topped with a windmill, or one of WindMill's three other Monmouth County locations. Diners love them topped with chili and cheese, with a side of crinkle-cut fries.

Go: 586 Ocean Blvd., Long Branch; 732-229-9863, windmillhotdogs.com.

Other reader recommendations: Sonny’s Grille (821 Belmar Plaza, Belmar; 732-749-3953, sonnysgrillenj.com).

Morris

Curbside Cafe, Parsippany

Reader recommendation

This humble hot dog truck, printed with red and white checkers and infamously parked next to an adult book store, is known as one of Morris County's best hot dog joints. Large Sabrett hot dogs are served here ($2.25 to $3) — try one (or five) with a hearty scoop of sweet, spicy, smokey chili sauce.

Go: 100 Route 46, Parsippany; 973-510-6775, eopd.com/curbsidecafe.

Other reader recommendations: Jersey Johnny's (25 Newark Pompton Turnpike, Pequannock Township; 973-872-2299, jerseyjohnnysnj.com).

Ocean

Forked River German Butcher Shop

Staff recommendation

Two of Ocean County's most iconic hot dog spots — Berkeley Township's Wunder Wiener and Toms River's Joe Joe's Italian Hot Dogs — are not currently open; the former is being rebuilt after a car accident destroyed the roadside stand in 2018, and the future of the latter is uncertain. But don't fret: There are hot dogs to be had a little further south.

Forked River German Butcher Shop, known for its top-notch meats and prepared foods, serves hot dogs (plus bratwurst and knockwurst) for lunch. A good-sized frank is tucked into fresh bread from North Jersey's Calandra's Bakery and topped with your choice of condiments, raw onions or sauerkraut. Served with crispy chips and a pickle, it's a great meal — especially when enjoyed at one of the shop's outdoor tables. 

Go: 109 Lacey Road, Forked River section of Lacey; 609-693-7100, germanbutcher.com.

Other staff recommendations: Dewey's Dogs (118 N Main St., Lanoka Harbor; 609-489-4994, facebook.com/DEWEYSHOTDOGS); Dicky's Dogs (332 Atlantic City Blvd., Toms River; 848-221-2735, facebook.com/DickysDog); Boardwalk Hot Dogs (143 Drum Point Road, Brick Township; 732-920-0892, boardwalkhotdogsnj.com).

Passaic

Rutt's Hut, Clifton

Staff recommendation

Whether Rutt's Hut or The Hot Grill is the better Clifton hot dog spot is hotly contested. But both are legendary. Rutt's Hut is known for its "rippers," so named because the casing becomes blistered and split while frying. The original Rutt's opened in 1928. Be sure to order your dog with the yellow relish Rutt's is famous for — a piquant topping made with a secret blend of mustard and spices.

Go: 417 River Road, Clifton; 973-779-8615, ruttshut.com.

The Hot Grill, Clifton

Staff recommendation

Call us indecisive, but there's just no choosing between Rutt's Hut and The Hot Grill. At the former, which has been open since 1961, ask for a deep-fried Texas Wiener "all the way" —  with mustard, finely chopped onions and a layer of chili ($3). Or, drench yours in cheese sauce. We'll never judge.

Go: 669 Lexington Ave., Clifton; 973-772-6000; makeitbutter.com/the-hot-grill.

Other reader recommendations: The New Corral (499 Hazel St., Clifton; 973-772-0941, no website); LoverDog (822 Main Ave., Passaic; 973-307-3107, instagram.com/loverdogsnj); Goffle Grill (1140 Goffle Road, Hawthorne; 973-423-0881, gofflegrill.com); Paul's Place (1849 County Road 511, Hewitt; 973-728-2532, no website).

Salem

Huddock's Custard Stand, Salem

Reader recommendation

This roadside stand, like all the best hot dog joints, is in the middle of nowhere. It's known for its dinner-plate-sized burgers, but Huddock's also grills hot dogs, split butterfly style for maximum char. Choose between a foot-long frank ($3.85) or a cheese dog ($4.35). And be sure to save room for dessert. Hudock's is a custard stand, after all.

Go: 544 Salem Quinton Road, Salem; 856-935-5224, facebook.com/Hudocks-Custard-Stand.

Somerset

Red Tower II, North Plainfield

Expert recommendation

With red trays, paper plates, counter service and a crude drawing of a hot dog on the roof, Red Tower II is a throwback to classic fast-food restaurants — this Route 22 staple dates back to 1936.

Here, regulars often go for Red Tower II's popular Texas Wiener-style chili dog served with onions and mustard. Plus, you can get them late — Red Tower II is open until midnight from Thursday to Saturday.

Go: 864 Route 22, Plainfield; 908-754-0002, facebook.com/pages/Red-Tower-II/158418094180076.

Sussex

Jersey Dogs, Newton

Reader recommendation

Jersey Dog makes hot dogs three ways: boiled dirty-water Sabretts ($2.25), deep-fried Thumann's ($2.75), and (for the really hungry) foot-long beef and pork Schickhaus, called Big Dogs ($5.50). These franks can come ladled with cheese, dripping with chili, wrapped in bacon, and smeared with Dirty Jersey mustard -- or customized with more out-of-the-box toppings such as Taylor ham and avocado spread.

Go: 77 Water St., Newton; 973-756-7007, jersey-dog.com.

Union

Galloping Hill Inn, Union

Expert recommendation

Don't let its highbrow neighbor, Galloping Hill Caterers, steer you away. This nearly 100-year-old landmark is the only hot dog joint to be consistantly featured on the NJ Hot Dog Tour every year thanks to its German-style beef and pork franks made from a recipe from Gaiser's Pork Store and prepared on a griddle. Here, hot dogs can be served over baked beans, with barbecue onions or homemade chili, or as double hot dogs.

A nearly 20-year tradition: NJ Hot Dog Tour is much more than meat

Our hot dog expert Fox said The Galloping Hill Inn is one of his Top 10 favorites. The modest restaurant has also been voted as having the best hot dogs by NJ Monthly.

Go: 325 W. Chestnut St., Union; 908-686-6777, gallopinghotdogs.com.

Other reader recommendations: Tommy's (900 2nd Ave., Elizabeth; 908-351-9831, facebook.com/TommysItalianSausageHotDogs); Jerry's Famous Frankfurters (906 2nd Ave., Elizabeth; 908-355-4242, no website).

Warren

Hot Dog Johnny’s, Buttzville

Reader recommendation

With a massive wooden hot dog sign advertising frosted birch beer and fresh buttermilk, Hot Dog Johnny’s is a New Jersey institution, opened in 1944 by John Kovalsky. Johnny’s serves deep-fried dogs, topped with mustard, chopped onions and a pickle spear. Johnny’s is nostalgic, humble — and remote.

Go: 333 Route 46, Belvidere; 908-453-2882, hotdogjohnny.com.

Other reader recommendations: Toby's Cup (857 Memorial Pkwy., Phillipsburg; 908-859-3779, tobyscup.com).

Rebecca King is a food writer for NorthJersey.com. For more on where to dine and drink, please subscribe today and sign up for our North Jersey Eats newsletter.

Email: kingr@northjersey.com 

Twitter: @rebeccakingnj 

Instagram: @northjerseyeats

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