Destination Dogs in New Brunswick: You’ve Never Had a Hot Dog Like This
The hot dog is one of the most humble foods imaginable – take the animal scraps and organ meat that no one else will touch, throw them in a blender with nitrates and pink food coloring, put the resulting slop in a plastic casing, and serve it on a bland roll that falls apart as soon as you touch it. But at Destination Dogs in New Brunswick, the simple hot dog is elevated to entirely new levels.
Though I heard about this establishment a couple of years ago, I didn’t make it over there until recently – a very poor mistake on my part. Like most people when they think of a “hot dog place,” I had imagined just a dumpy little shack where you go to a counter, they pull a hot dog off one of those rotating warmer things and slop on some sauerkraut as you stand there. Instead, Destination Dogs is a full on, sit-down, fill-up dining experience. Residing at the what used to be Doll’s Place, which despite sounding like a strip club was actually one of the nicer bars in the midst of the numerous hole-in-the-wall drinking spots surrounding Rutgers University, Destination Dogs offers a menu full of gourmet offerings that go far beyond a simple hot dog, including a wide variety of meats and almost unlimited number of toppings.
Putting the “destination” in destination dogs, each item is inspired by a different part of the world. For instance, you’ve got the “Howlamo” from Texas, consisting of a wild boar sausage topped with pork belly, chicharonnes, and baconaisse; the “Swede-Dreams” from Sweden – a Swedish meatball sausage covered with mashed potatoes, gravy, and lingonberry jam; and the “Slumdog Meal-ionaire” from India, a vegetarian hot dog with samosa filling and curry sauce.
During my visit, we tried two different hot dogs; the first was the “Mighty Duck,” inspired by the city of Anaheim and made up of a duck sausage with duck confit, chicharonnes, some kind of teriyaki sauce and scallions. The second was the Scarlet Bite, drawing from New Brunswick’s own Grease Truck sandwich tradition of shoving everything you can into a role and consisting of a regular beef hot dog smothered in cheese sauce, ketchup, mustard, mayo, fries, lettuce and tomato.
Despite the overload in a single bun, which is good quality and toasted and able to stand up to whatever is shoved inside it, the different taste combinations definitely work. The result is something that shouldn’t even be called a hot dog – it is so much more.
Prior to this establishment, the Armpit of America’s only notable contribution to the world of meat was pork roll, or Taylor ham if you prefer its other name, an indigestion-inducing meat log of murky origin. Destination Dogs, with its huge menu of handmade sausages, is truly something different. So, next time you find yourself in that little college town of New Brunswick and looking for a cheap yet classy dining experience, you’ll know where to go.
P.S. Just learned that the owners of Destination Dogs, who got their start at New Brunswick landmark Clydz, also own Garden Steak – offering just as many selections of cheesesteaks. Looks like I’ll have to make the trip there again soon…