If You Go: Searching for a great hot dog

Email|Print| Text size + By Jane Roy Brown and Bill Regan
Globe Correspondents / August 1, 2004


Bolley's Famous Franks

38 Water St. (Route 201)
Hallowell, Maine
Take out or eat in
Basic hot dog $1.43
The best of the best, and cheap to boot. This dog with a salty zest (it's grilled with salt pork) has a crispy skin cushioned by a soft steamed bun. If you ask for a dog with everything, they'll ask if you also want ketchup, letting you know that this newfangled condiment is in questionable taste. Bolley's Formica-tables eaterie has been around since the 1950s, also serving breakfast.

Parking lot at Belfast Plaza
Intersection routes 1 and 3
Belfast, Maine
Take-out only, walk-up and drive-up windows.
Basic hot dog $1.50
A classic parking-lot cart offering burgers and dogs in steamed buns. Add 25 cents for bacon, cheese, chili, or kraut. Here, too, you have to ask for ketchup. Enjoy your lunch at picnic tables while watching the traffic. Somehow, it feels perfect.

Lopes Square
Take-out or eat in
Basic hot dog $2.55, foot-long dog $2.85
This turn-of-the-20th-century establishment near Commercial Wharf has sold hot dogs, among other beach fare, since 1951. Today's crispy Maple Leaf-brand dogs have excellent flavor, served on a grilled bun in a little cardboard holder.

Red's Eats
Route 1 and Water Street
Wiscasset, Maine
Take-out only
Basic hot dog $1
Savory, salty dogs split on the grill and then folded back into cylinders in a well-buttered, grilled bun. Add 25 cents for bacon, cheese, or kraut, etc. The special ''puff dog" ($2) is a real heart-stopper, stuffed with cheese and deep-fried. A shaded terrace with tables behind the dog cart overlooks the Sheepscot River.

Sugarloaf Frostie
Route 116, Sunderland
Take-out only
Basic hot dog (long) $2.20
Disguised as a soft-serve ice cream stand, Sugarloaf Frostie features an excellent dog on a menu that also has burgers, fries, and sandwiches. Tasty in a grilled bun, these dogs are about 8 inches long. One of the few places offering brown mustard.

Courtney's Countertop
Route 201
Winslow, Maine (across from Winslow Automotive)
Take-out only
Open May-October only
Basic dog $1.25
This tent operation near a busy intersection has people pulling over for a unique dog bedded down on a layer of homemade baked beans and covered with coleslaw, all on a steamed bun. (This is the ''special," which costs $1.75, as does any combination of cheese, grilled onions, kraut, etc.) These wieners are too tasty to bury in vegetables.

George's Coney Island Hot Dogs
158 Southbridge St.
Take-out or eat in
Basic dog $1.15
The crown jewel of the hot-dog emporiums we visited, this cavernous sit-down restaurant has been in the same family since it opened in 1918. A river of neon outlines a dripping hot dog on a 25-foot marquee over the entrance. The ''regular" George's Coney Island dog features a mild chili topping made from a secret family recipe, garnished with chopped raw onions and served in a steamed bun. This place is worth the trip just for its ambience.

Mama Theresa's
Newmarket Square (Interstate 93 exit 15, Columbia Road)
Take-out only
Basic dog $1.50 (small), $3 (medium)
For pure all-beef bang for the buck, you can't beat Mama's medium dog, which measures at least 10 inches long and about an inch and half in diameter, requiring a toasted grinder roll to hold it. The small dog is regular-sized. Finding this white wagon, nestled in a triangle of meat-packing plants and warehouses behind the South Bay Mall, is a true urban adventure.

White Hut
Memorial Avenue (Route 147)
West Springfield
Take-out or eat in
Basic dog $1.85
Pulling into the lot at the White Hut is like beaming back to the '40s. The mild-flavored dogs served in grilled buns are fine, but it's the atmosphere that makes this place worth the drive. Inside, sawdust coats the floor and ceiling fans spin slowly overhead. Customers belly up to a seatless Formica table or take a stool at the counter after shouting orders to the line of six servers and cooks. A bare-bones menu posted over the grill doesn't list prices, but four dogs, two sodas, and a cheeseburg came to $11.80.

C & J's Foot-long Hot Dogs
Lopes Square, Provincetown
Take-out only
Basic dog $2.25, long dog $3.25
Another Provincetown institution, C & J's serves a perfectly yummy dog in a toasted bun (we sampled the regular size, not the more famous foot-long). The dogs aren't quite as zesty as some others, but the self-service condiment assortment includes chopped pickles and hot-pepper relish, a definite lure.

Spike's Junkyard Dogs
108 Brighton Ave., Allston
Take-out or eat in
Basic dog $2.25
A newcomer in Boston, open less than two years, Spike's serves a savory, hearty grilled dog, but the big toasted sub roll it comes in competes with the flavor of the frank. The house special Junkyard Dog features tomato, pickle, scallions, pepperoncini, and Spike's mustard. Busy interior trappings emulate utilitarian 1950s decor, with hubcaps, posters, and a chain-link fence. Customers order from a menu that includes many other offerings -- even a veggie dog -- over a car door attached to the counter.

1410 East St., Pittsfield
413-447-9592 or 413-443-4513
Take-out or eat in
Basic (short) dog $.95
The only frank emporium offering ''baby dogs" (four inches long) served with a secret meat sauce topped with raw onions in a short bun. To our palates, this rather plain-tasting mystery concoction concealed the hot dog's flavor. But local customers consume 30 quarts a week of the stuff, so clearly we are in the minority. The bar-like decor is out of the early '70s, and this is a popular lunch spot for workers in the surrounding factories.


Eagle Point Pitt Stop
Route 2
Gill (near the bridge to Turner's Falls)
Take-out only
Open May-November
Basic dog $2.10
This roadside trailer parked at a busy intersection on Route 2 serves a savory Blue Seal dog in a natural casing that snaps when you bite it. The substantial franks come in a steamed bun that soaks up condiments without becoming soggy. This combination of flavors and textures is one of the hot-dog lover's ambrosial moments. Picnic tables with umbrellas outside.

Route 202 (Jaffrey Road)
Peterborough, N.H.
Take-out only
Basic dog $1, jumbo (long) $2
At this roadside trailer in a large parking lot, we sampled jumbo and regular-size franks, both served on plain buns, and found the regular dog to be high-flavored with a pleasing pop when bitten. The jumbo, while having a smooth texture, lacked oomph. The repeated question, ''Would you like cheese on your jumbo?" let us know that cheese dogs are a favorite here. This place sports a big condiment assortment with several kinds of hot sauce, pickles, and jalapenos alongside the usual fare. Picnic tables are shaded by a tent canopy.

Flo's Steamed Hot Dogs
Route 1
Cape Neddick, Maine
No phone
Take-out or eat in
Basic hot dog $1.75
First-time customers are dubbed ''Flo virgins" by Gail Stacey, who solicits orders with the manner of a good-natured drill sergeant. Inside the somewhat down-at-the-heel roadside diner, the floor slopes up along the counter, so anyone over 6 feet tall must stoop to order, or else take one of the few stools while awaiting one of the region's most unusual hot dogs. If you order the ''special," you get a slender dog laid over a smear of mayonnaise and topped with Flo's unique sauce, a tangy onion relish, in a soft steamed bun that makes the unlikely combination sing. When queried about the mayo, Stacey retorted, ''What, you've never had mayonnaise on a hot dog?"

Tom's Long Hot Dogs
Routes 5 & 10, Whately
Take out only
Basic (long) hot dog $2.15
This popular establishment in Western Massachusetts serves a slim frank about 8 or 9 inches long on a steamed bun. The dogs are tender and not highly seasoned, which makes them good vehicles for the spicy toppings listed on the menu. For those who prefer plain old mustard and the like, the dogs aren't too memorable. This is another place you have to ask for ketchup.

Nick's Nest
Routes 5 & 202, Holyoke
Take-out or eat in
Basic hot dog $2
The self-proclaimed ''Nest of Delicious Hot Dogs, Popcorn, Baked Beans" has been operating continuously since 1921, and the interior provokes instant nostalgia. Like the White Hut, this place is a time capsule. Nick's Nest conjures an image of hot dogs as a sort of gastronomical DNA passed down through generations. ''My father used to take me here as a kid, and now I take my son," said customer Dave Wolowicz. Let's hope the Nest is there for Dave's grandchildren; it was for sale when we visited in May.

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