Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Grease Rorshach (I Got Some Famous Lunch Dogs)
I made one of my rare (before outdoor market season) jaunts across the mighty Hudson on an errand the other day. I know that it has become all the rage to carry on about the regional dinky dog (I have been participating shamelessly since I started this hack blog), but I thought I would share with you my visit to Famous Lunch anyhow.
Famous Lunch is a Troy, NY institution from way back. Along with Hot Dog Charlie's and Gus's Hotdogs in Watervliet, Famous lunch is a member of the classic dinky dog triumvirate of the Capital Region. I am a die hard Charlie's man myself, so my rare trip to Famous Lunch was a product of proximity combined with hot dog lust (Renssalaer was a little out of my way). You can see the wee dogs on a flattop through the windows. I didn't get a good shot (the place was packed), but there is also an iconic bean pot of their "zippy" sauce (you can see it on their website) bubbling away next to the dogs.
I was at Famous Lunch at almost exactly noon, so it was packed. The counter space and booths were full and there was a queue for takeout. You get a nice mix of working class lunch breakers, cheap college students, and dingleberries like me who come out of some sort of nostalgic obligation (I vividly remember my Ma buying me dogs at Charlie's when I was a kid). In front of me in line was an individual who I dubbed "weird backpack guy," who ordered two dogs with the works and paid with exact change (silver and pennies). I am always bemused by the local Trojans, and this was no exception. I ordered 6 with the works to go. They come in a bag with piece of wax paper to cover, much the same delivery vehicle as at Charlie's. Here is my prize after the twenty minute drive home.
Here are 6 Hot Dog Charlie's product with everything for visual comparison.
You will notice that Famous Lunch is a little more generous with sauce and onions, I think Charlie's uses a bit more mustard. I am not sure where Famous Lunch gets its dogs from now (Troy Pork store closed a while ago), I know Charlie's is using Sabrett's which is kind of a shame. In any event the actual sausages are fairly similar. The buns are different as well, Famous Lunch uses a slightly more toothsome bun which is dusted with a little corn meal.
Now, the important difference. The sauce. Capital District style Hot Dog Sauce is a subject to which I have devoted no small amount of thought and effort (click for my bare bones interpretation of the recipe). As I have stated before, the most interesting thing about our hot dog sauce is that the dominant flavor component is a sort of pleasant bitterness. I don't know why, but I find the mild bitterness of Charlie's sauce to be just a little more palatable then the Famous Lunch's "zippy" sauce. Famous Lunch sauce is a little more up front with that particular flavor, it is still very good, just not my favorite.
After consuming your dogs you are left with a Styrofoam tray stained with the singular red grease residue of the sauce (which I have referred to in the past as, "the nectar of the the hot dog gods which our forefathers worshiped in strange ceremonies behind closed doors.").
I decided that this was an interesting subject with which to examine my psyche, a little grease Rorschach test if you will. I see a horse running through some woods, see it? The horse head is the most striking part. What do you see?