Walter's Hot Dogs
You usually see Nick "Beef Aficionado" Solares in this space talking about burgers, but today, it's hot dogs. Hot diggedty! —Ed.
Peter Fellows is far too modest to actually make the claim that Walter's Hot Dogs are the best in the world, but you can tell he knows they are. Fellows manages Walter's Hot Dog Stand in Mamaroneck, New York.
Founded in 1919 by Walter Warrington and originally located on the Boston Post Road, Walter's moved to its current address in 1928. Locals refer to it as the "new" location. The building Walter erected on Palmer Avenue is curiously patterned after a Chinese pagoda and was designed to attract attention. It does. As you drive down Palmer Avenue, the distinctive building with a copper roof as weathered as the Statue of Liberty is impossible to miss. Lanterns hang off the extruded peaks, underneath which is invariably a line of hungry patrons. When one of the lanterns was damaged in a storm a few years back it cost more than $5,000 to repair. That's a lot of hot dogs, but fortunately Walter's sells a lot of them. As Fellows says, "We count them by the mile."
Warrington developed his custom-made hot dog with the help of a local German butcher. It is a closely guarded blend of beef, pork and veal and was designed so that it would not shrink, curl, or burn during cooking. The same butcher made the dogs for Walter's for many years, but after he died, Boar's Head agreed to make them for Walter's using the secret recipe.
The dogs are still prepared in the same manner that Walter pioneered, they are initially griddle cooked and you can indeed see that they indeed neither curl nor shrink, remaining perfectly rigid. They are then split down the middle and the exposed interior gets placed on the griddle until it is burnished to a deep bronze hue. After a nice char has been put on the dogs, they are slipped in the buns and wrapped in wax paper.
The buns are from Freihofer's and are chosen for the robustness of what Fellows refers to as their "hinge"—the bread stays intact even when holding a double dog. The buns are toasted on a separate griddle (above) that puts a wonderfully crunchy ring around the circumference, adding a pleasing textural component to each bite. The bun does a good job of absorbing the juice that emanates from the dog.
Add the secret mustard (it is blended with pickles) to complete the synthesis, and you have one of the most unique and compelling hot dogs around. Each bite rewards you with an interplay of texture and flavor. The dog itself has a very clean taste, it is not overly spiced, allowing the meat to assert itself. Because of the cooking process employed at Walter's the dog has both a crunch exterior skin, as well as the wonderfully charred face on the "split" side both giving way to the ethereally succulent and tender inner flesh. Snuggled by the soft bun that also has adds a pleasing textural contrast by virtue of the griddling it receives the dogs here are unparalleled in my experience.
Peter Fellows might be too modest to tell you how great the dogs at Walter's are but I am not. They are utterly exquisite and are definitely my favorite example of the breed.
Walter's Hot Dog Stand
937 Palmer Avenue, Mamaroneck NY 10543
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., Mon.–Sat.; 11:45 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sun. (closes earlier for weather, holidays)