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Meet the Man Who Made Hot Dogs His Hobby

The 8th Annual New Jersey Hot Dog Tour is on Sept. 24.

John Fox fell in love on a first date. He ate at the Galloping Hill Inn, one of his first experiences with New Jersey hot dogs, and he was hooked. Fox married his date, moved to her hometown of Union, and made hot dogs his hobby.

So it’s no wonder that Fox is organizing Serious devotees of the dog gather for a day-long bus tour that with six stops where dogs and more dogs are on the menu.  Fox will lead the tour by telling them what to taste and appreciate at each stop. The tour grew out of Fox’s comments on food chat boards, when people asked him for recommendations, then for a tour. Now, two busloads of eaters follow Fox around the state.

“It could be bigger,” he says, noting that he turns people away. Some of the hot dog joints simply don’t have the capacity for larger groups. “They’re mom-and-pop places,” says Fox.

“Some people like the Texas weiner,” he explains. “Others like a dirty water dog.” Fox is partial to Galloping Hill Inn, where the tour begins, but likes a good dog wherever he finds it.

As aficionados know, hot dogs are prepared many ways in the Garden State, including “dirty water dogs,” which are boiled; deep-fried until the casing splits Texas wieners; and griddle cooked frankfurters.

The 2011 tour will take local foodies, fans from around the country, and even some serious eaters from Europe to the Galloping Hill Inn, Jimmy Buff’s, Soup or Dogs, Out of this World Dogs, Jack’s Frank and Fries, and – representing this part of the hot dog state – Manny’s Texas Weiners.  Last year’s tour included Millburn’s The Garage.

“We had a blast,” recalls John Lockedema of Millburn. His first trip was the 2010 tour, and he’s on for another this fall. A longtime hot dog fan, Essex-county born and bred, Lockedema recalls Sid’s and Don’s Drive-In as long-ago favorites.

Lockedema recommends the fried dogs at Clifton’s Rutt’s Hut, though it’s not about the atmosphere, he notes. For a griddle dog, he recommends the Galloping Hill Inn. “It’s a beef-pork blend,” he notes. He recommends ordering a “double,” which is served on a Pechter’s roll, custom-baked for the Inn.

Still hungry? “We are blessed,” says Lockedema, “with great independent butchers nearby.” Specifically, Lutz’s and the Union Pork Store are prepared to supply even the hungriest hot dog fan with the Garden State’s finest.

“Hot dogs have become trendy,” notes Fox. “But in New Jersey, we’ve always eaten them. We appreciate a really good hot dog.”

If you're going on the tour, please share your experiences with photos and comments!

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