When the organizer of a friend's bachelor dinner sent out an email saying that we'd all be meeting in New Brunswick at what I assumed was a hot dog place, my first reaction was: "Good grief, that's an hour away, and that's far." My second reaction was: "A hot dog place??!? Really? I'm not 24 and I'm slightly less broke than I was then so, like, WTF?"
These concerns melted away once I booked a hotel in NB, and took a closer look at Destination Dog's website. This is no hot dog place.
The menu consists largely of house-made sausages, with creative toppings, on top-split buttered rolls which are complimentary rather than overpowering.
Truth be told I was very busy drinking a few of their well-crafted cocktails and trying a few craft beers and having a grand ol' bachelor-party-style time to give the restaurant and food as much consideration as they deserved. But from what I did eat, drink, hear, see, and more importantly, what I can recall, I can conclude that Destination Dogs is worth an hour drive, and even a hotel room if that's your style.
I ordered the Charles Dog Gaulle, which is a duck sausage, topped with duck confit, shaved foie gras, pickled mushrooms, cornichons and mustard. Get the eff out of here. This thing was fantastic! Duck, fat, spice, acid, crunch, more fat, all in perfect balance. Oh, and, if you didn't catch it from the name of this sausage, the menu is chock full o' puns. While I realize puns are considered the lowest form of humor, I just love 'em.
A bunch of the sausages caught my eye, including brats, wild boar sausage, lamb sausage, and the list goes on. While they have their own creations so you don't have to think too much, you can also go right ahead and make your own. Choose your sausage, your toppings, and you're off. Thousands of combinations are waiting for you.
The sausages/dogs come with house-made chips, which were executed very well. French fries and a bunch of other sides are available. People go bat-shit over the truffle fries here, but I made sure mine were not truffleless, and I was very pleased.
A couple of observations from my single meal (well, I lie; we went back later in the night for another meal, which, I recall even less):
- Lots of good music coming out of the sound system. Maybe not your style, but my style. You know, that college rock stuff.
- A bottle of water was placed on the table. Why every, single, freakin' restaurant doesn't do this is beyond me. Why have servers run back and forth pouring water? It's a waste of money and time.
- The main room is mostly a long u-shaped bar, with some high-tops and window seating (overlooking a large garage, in which you may park). There is another, smaller room with some regular table seating.
- The bartenders and servers were patient, efficient, and pleasant, especially when you consider they were dealing with a group consisting of six guys, each trying desperately to be the funniest guy at the table. A regular laugh riot for us, but annoying, not doubt, to everyone with whom we came in contact.
- The bartender in particular was very accommodating with respect of the "inquisition" that generally gets underway when I belly up to a bar for the first time ("Is the lime juice fresh?" "Is it sweetened?" "Can I taste it?" "Will you be putting any bitters in there?" You know the routine.)
I can't think of any place like Destination Dogs in New Jersey. To my mind they've got a unique and winning recipe here. Great atmosphere and service, house-made sausages, creative menu, craft beers, and some nice cocktails. I'd be a regular here if I didn't have to book a hotel room every visit.
Destination Dogs : 101 Paterson Ave : New Brunswick, NJ : 732.993.1016