Famous Lunch

Famous Lunch hot dogs
Gus’s hot dogs

As excited as I was to head out for a day of eating hot dogs with an equally enthusiastic eating partner in crime, I had no idea the day would end up going the way it did.  Aunt Nicky served as the Patron Saint of Hot Dog Eating for the day, a title I have never bestowed on anyone up until this point, and may never be able to again.  During our trek through Troy, we hurried into Famous Lunch for our first taste of dogs for the day.  I was impressed with the age of the building and took some pictures of an old Cott soda ad painted on the side of the building ages ago.  Of course, the little hot dog diner has been there for over 70 years, and after seeing the setup inside, there was no wonder why.  It was a no frills place – everyone knew the menu, the cooks knew how to cook, and thankfully, the grill probably hadn’t been cleaned since it opened.  .

We sat down, and ordered up some of the wildly inexpensive 50 cent hot dogs.  With a side of fries and an RC Cola to wash it all down the dog goodness lathered not so gently with their house Zippy Sauce, I couldn’t hold ack at the delight I was experiencing.  The skin of the dogs snapped when you bit into them, the warm bun held the dog beautifully and the zippy sauce had a laid back zing that made your tongue dance.  I ate four, and turned down offers for seconds, knowing we were making another stop later on.  Looking back in retrospect, I don’t know how I held out, because these were the best hot dogs I’ve ever eaten in my life.

There, I’ve said it.  The best.  It was a perfect meeting of ambience and food, taste and no decor.  Famous Lunch can now take its rightful place at the right hand of the Father (Arthur Bryant’s BBQ) in the Pantheon of Great Eats.

Afterwards, we crossed town, and stood in a rather long line at Gus’ Hot Dogs.  Located behind a gas station, and having a 15 minute wait for dogs made my mouth water and rejoice at the prospects.  The man in line in front of us told us to ‘just start with 12, you can always come back for more’.  He wasn’t kidding either, as he ordered 16 for him and his wife and had them finished well before we were halfway.  Now, these aren’t full size dogs, rather 2/3 size, all purchased from a local meat market in downtown Troy, but they’re embarrassingly cheap and even more embarrassingly good.  I thought Gus’ meat sauce (the way hot dogs are eaten in upstate New York) was a bit dryer and pastier than Famous Lunch’s Zippy Sauce, which had a keen delight to it that played off the textured of the dog, bread and mustard.

The operations at both places killed me – I could’ve stood and watched them slather hot mustard and onions on the dogs at Gus’ for hours, and stood outside the picture widow at Famous Lunch for days watching them grill those dogs.  There was a devout following at each – the closest comparison I can imagine the great Gates/Bryants debate in Kansas City.  Everyone has a favorite, and will begrudgingly admit the other is good, but nowhere near the same class as their pick.

Famous Lunch made my day, and I long to taste their dogs again soon.

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