A Sandwich A Day: 'Italian Hot Dog' at Jimmy Buff's in West Orange, NJ
In this great city of ours, one could eat a different sandwich every day of the year—so that's what we'll do. Here's A Sandwich a Day, our daily look at sandwiches around New York. Got a sandwich we should check out? Let us know. —The Mgmt.
I go back and forth on whether hot dogs are, in any way, sandwiches. (My instinct says no, but I consider a lobster roll a sandwich, and that's stuff-on-a-long-bun too, right?) But if any hot dog is a sandwich, it'd be the "Italian Hot Dog," as done at New Jersey institution Jimmy Buff's.
Hawk Krall has chatted about the genre over on Hot Dog of the Week, but even then, I wasn't quite prepared for just how bizarre this creation is. The name might have you envisioning, say, marinara and mozzarella on top of a normal dog, but no, not at all.
The first thing you see when you walk in is the bubbling deep-fryer, in which hot dogs, onions and peppers, and thick potato coins all fry together. Order a sandwich and they'll take a wedge of cornmeal-bottomed "pizza bread" (sturdy but soft-middled, almost like a muffaletta loaf) and scoop in the dogs, fried 'taters, and oil-soaked veggies, with salt, pepper, and (in our case) a huge squirt of ketchup to cover it off. (Mustard and onion relish are options, too).
Since Kenji and I were spending the day in the Serious Eats Explorer (courtesy of Ford) on a day-long slider and sandwich tour of Northern Jersey, we thought we'd order on the lighter side: "We'll have a single."
"You mean a double," the woman behind the counter replied. "It's Fat Tuesday."
"Er, no, just a single is fine."
"It's Tuesday. Here that means it's Fat Tuesday. You get a double for the price of a single. Get a double."
Er... all right then.
If it sounds like state fair food... well, it tastes like it, too. I'll admit to loving a first bite, when the all-beef dogs were snappy, the potatoes were somewhat crisp and also meaty-tasting, and the soft onions were a little sweet relief. Points for the bread, too, ample enough to hold all this business but soft enough to squish down around the contents and soak up some of the hot dog/veggie drippings.
On a second bite, it's still tasty, in a "Wow, this is greasy" way. On third bite... well, it is what it is. Customers around me were polishing theirs off in a few minutes. I don't think I could make it through one, but I certainly understand the appeal.