If you're not from north Jersey, you probably don't know what "all the way" means. At least as it relates to hot dogs. "All the way" means that your dog will be served with mustard, chopped raw onion, and chili "sauce." Additionally, if you're not from north Jersey (or Cincinnati), you probably don't know what chili "sauce" is. I'm not really sure either, but I'm relatively certain that it has little-to-no meat or beans.
Living in North Jersey (the hot dog capital of the world) affords me the luxury of choosing any number of about a gajillion hot dog places that make these "Texas Wieners", as they're called, for lunch or dinner or breakfast or late-night dinner. You want to love them all equally, but there comes a time in every man's life when he has to rank his local hot dogs.
My goal for this particular exercise was to visit 3 local places, one after another, for comparative purposes. All very scientific-like as you might imagine. Additionally, I wanted an excuse to have 3 hot dogs at 3 places for dinner. Off I went to River View East (Elmwood Park), Goffle Grill (Hawthorne), and Johnny & Hanges (Fair Lawn):
River View East: $1.47
A deep rich chili sauce on a somewhat small deep-fried dog. Smaller than Johnny and Hanges and Goffle Grill I'd say. I do like this dog. The spicing of the chili is a bit assertive and has a bit of a bright flavor running through it. A good dog.
River View East: deep dark and delicious
Goffle Grill: $1.98
I have a hard time loving this dog. There's something about the chili sauce that tastes "dirty" to my mind. Too earthy for some reason. No bright notes. Nothing really pops.
Goffle Grill: a little muddy
Johnny and Hanges: $2.49
Another great example of how "nothing is as good as it used to be." Ask anyone about anything, and they'll tell you that it's not as good as it used to be. That's poppycock. Usually. Anyway, before J&H's bright new digs, they lived in a somewhat dumpier location around the corner just over the river in Paterson. This is where you went after you went bar hopping in and around Glen Rock and Hawthorne and wherever. You ended up at J&H. And of course it was "much better back then."
But that was before my time, and I never got to taste "how they used to be." I only know the new version in the family-friendly shiny new J&H. And I like it just fine.
The chili sauce at J&H is much brighter than Goffle's or River View East's. It has notes of cinnamon (my guess) and I think it's the most pleasant tasting and well-balanced of the bunch. The hot dog seems bigger than River View East's, and the whole thing just works. I bet it's as good as it used to be, regardless of what they say.
Let's face it. It's all about the chili sauce with this comparison. I'd say Johnny and Hanges takes the gold, and River View East isn't far behind.
River View East: 455 River Drive : Elmwood Park, NJ : 201.797.9258
Goffle Grill: 1140 Goffle Rd : Hawthorne, NJ : 973.423.0881
Johnny & Hanges: 23-30 Maple Ave : Fair Lawn, NJ : 201.791.9060