Boston Restaurant Blog -- July, 2006
Monday, July 3, 2006
It was a long time coming, but a buddy of mine and I finally got to do a classic, yet slightly preposterous day trip to Connecticut. The trip--to hit 5 or 6 old-fashioned food joints mostly between Hartford and Long Island Sound, was planned awhile ago, but we had been unable to find time to do it until this past weekend. And was it ever worth it. You could say it was the ultimate guy's trip, a mystery ride with the sole purpose being to find some of the best roadside dining spots in New England.
We decided to start with two of the places that would be furthest from the Boston area, then work our way back. The first stop turned out to be a little hot dog stand just south of Waterbury in the sleepy riverside town of Naugatuck. Al's Hot Dog Stand sits under a big billboard between a steeply wooded hill and the highway, just south of town. Pretty it aint, but Al's Hot Dog Stand turned out to be our favorite spot for hot dogs on the trip. In fact, the foot-long hot dog I ate at one of Al's picnic tables (along with a fine birch beer to wash it down) may be the best dog I have had anywhere, which is saying a lot, because our next stop would be a place that was voted top 10 the United States for hot dogs by a major food magazine.
Indeed, Super Duper Weenie, located about a half hour south of Al's Hot Dog Stand in tony Fairfield, has received so much praise in the media that it was a bit daunting going there. The name of the place sounds like a little kid's hee-hee joke, but at Super Duper Weenie, they take their hot dogs seriously. The hot dogs are split before cooking, helping to give it a bit of a snappy, crusty crunch to it without having to rely on a thick casing. The results are almost too good for words; I could see why this tiny spot just off Route 95 was so popular even on a holiday weekend. And though my Dixie Dog was smothered in cole slaw (which I didn't realize until after I had ordered it), the combination of hot dog and chili left me with a smile on my face as we left Fairfield and headed east.
We drove along the coast toward New Haven to see what the towering Frank Pepe's Pizzeria looked like, as well as to find out where exactly it was, for future reference. We had planned the trip with hot dogs, hamburgers, cheesesteak, and ice cream in mind, so this was basically a reconnaissance mission to Pepe's, so that the next time I was heading to New York or New Jersey, I would know how to get there. Well, much to our surprise, not only was Frank Pepe's open on a Sunday at 2:00, but it was mostly empty. And you, dear reader, surely know the rest. Our plans took a slight turn as we parked on Wooster Street and proceeded to walk into the original Pepe's, to feel what it was like to be in the company of greatness. And yes, it was truly great. The waitresses were a bit surly and the dining room was a bit less charming than I had expected, but it just doesn't matter; the pizza at Frank Pepe's was every bit as good as the best pizza place in the Northeast, including Regina's and Santarpio's in Boston and Grimaldi's in Brooklyn, NY.
After being at one of the top 10 hot dog stands in the country and one of the top 10 pizza places in the country IN ONE HOUR (think about that!), we readied ourselves for disappointment, and we found it, to an extent, at the Glenwood Drive-In in Hamden, a community a few miles north of New Haven. We ordered hot dogs and fries at the Glenwood, and while the food wasn't bad, it wasn't anything special, either. Furthermore, the restaurant was rather plain-looking, and there wasn't that special feel that we got at the first three places. In addition, the hot dogs at the Glenwood have a fairly thick natural casing, which I am not fond of unless the hot dogs is incredible tasty. I must say, though, that the clams looked and smelled delicious, so perhaps another trip will have to be taken to the Glenwood Drive-In one of these days.
By now, I was really starting to fill up, but we pushed on, heading north along the Berlin Turnpike to the Hartford suburb of Newington. There, we stopped at a rather eclectic place called Doogies, which, according to them is home to the world's longest hot dogs AND the best Philly cheesesteak north of Philly. There was no way I could eat a hot dog that was well over one foot long, so I ordered a cheesesteak, while my friend decided on the hot dog. When the hot dog was put onto our tray, I burst out laughing; nothing can prepare you for the sight of a hot dog that is half the length of a table. And while it seemed that the hot dog was almost more of a novelty (it was decent, but not nearly as good as those at Al's or Super Duper Weenie), the cheesesteak was indeed the best I have ever had. It actually made me hungry as I ate it, which is quite a feat considering all the food we had eaten up to this point.
Our trip was now winding down, with our half-hearted attempt at going to O'Rourke's Diner in Middletown being squelched by a large "CLOSED" sign in the front. It was probably just as well, since their specialty is steamed burgers, and I'm not sure this would have been a good idea at this point. Partly disappointed but mostly relieved, we continued east through the scenic farmland of central Connecticut, stopping for a final snack along the way at the Kool Cow Ice Cream and Restaurant in Manchester. As we ordered some soft serve ice cream (which was terrific, by the way), my friend pointed out how extensive their food menu was. I nodded my head but never looked, fearing my stomach's reaction. We took our ice creams outside where I sat on yet another picnic bench, soaked up some sun, and got the map out to find the way back to Boston.
This was indeed a trip for the ages; how many chances does one get to hit several truly great dining spots in one day? And while I admit I don't feel all that great today, I would do it again in a heartbeat. But perhaps I'll wait awhile--like maybe next year.
One final note: Aside from the sheer fun factor of this trip, I did have another purpose for going, and that was to look for one dining spot out of the six that would not only be good, but also little-known. And one of these places did hit home on both counts, so we will be doing a feature on it soon. The restaurant? Al's Hot Dog Stand in Naugatuck. Congratulations to Al's!
Here are the addresses and phone numbers for each of the dining spots we went to:
Al's Hot Dog Stand, 248 South Main Street, Naugatuck, CT 06770. Phone: (203) 729-6229
Super Duper Weenie, 306 Black Rock Turnpike, Fairfield, CT 06825. Phone: (203) 334-3647 Frank Pepe's Pizzeria (The Spot), 163 Wooster Street, New Haven, CT 06511. Phone: (203) 865-7602
Glenwood Drive-In, 2538 Whitney Avenue, Hamden, CT 06518. Phone: (203) 281-0604
Doogies, 2525 Berlin Turnpike, Newington, CT 06111. Phone: (860) 666-1944
Kool Cow Ice Cream and Restaurant, 242 Broad Street, Manchester, CT 06040. Phone: (860) 647-7343
Wow, did you ever miss the best Hot Dog place in Connecticut and it was within your journey. Rosco's Big Dog on Franklin Avenue in Hartford. Just do a google search from Roadfood to Chowhound. They've only been around three years, but a must for the true hot dog lover.
Posted on 7/13/06
And you missed Shady Glen in Manchester, which is in spitting distance of the now-closed Kool Cow. One of the truly great original soda fountains with amazing cheeseburgers.
Posted on 2/26/07
If you hit Doogie's...you were just around the corner from Capitol Lunch in New Britain, also Blackie's in Cheshire, and Bart's in Windsor. Those are my 4 favorite dog places; as for Shady Glenn in Manchester...a MUST VISIT PLACE!!!!! GREAT frozen pudding (it is an ice cream flavor).
Posted on 5/7/08
O'Rourke's diner is not to be missed. Shame on you.
Posted on 12/25/08
Like I wrote above, O'Rourke's was closed when we got there, so we didn't really have any say in the matter. And sadly, it burned to the ground shortly after our trip. But it's open once again, so I'll try to make another attempt at getting there in the near future.
Posted on 12/25/08
Fairfield County Dad said:
Awesome blog. I'm going to do the same dog tour as soon as it gets warmer.
Posted on 10/20/09
I think you kind of missed a lot of the highlights of Glenwood. As a kid we always loved (well actually, still do) the way you order...you tell the guy in line you want a hot dog and french fries, and he yells in Glenwood code to the kitchen: One dog, One french! How is it possible to not love their hot dogs...they're FOOT LONG HUMMELS! Not just a Hummels, but a reallllly long one (I'm also confused about how you didn't find it tasty either). And you should have ordered it burnt, for sure, that's the best part of getting a dog at Glenwood! If you do go again, be sure to try the soft-shelled crabs too.
Posted on 2/25/11
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