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Food

Clifton, NJ: Rutt’s hut

Americans love hot dogs as much as hamburgers. Over the past decade, burgers have been elevated from cheap street food to gourmet entree that stand up against old favorites like the steaks. Yet, the hot dogs are left behind and only seen in the summer over a grill. With the rise of veganism, I do not a similar hype over the hot dog sandwich anytime soon. It can actually be hard to find these very American dish unless you live in a city with food trucks. Try asking for a hot dog sandwich at restaurants, chain or otherwise. Without a new revolution, the old classics restaurants continue to dominate the food scene. In the northeastern corner of New Jersey, right next to a highway, lies Rutt’s hut.

Back entrance.
To the bar and dining room.
To carry out counter.

I came from the back of the restaurant, so I only noticed the dine and dash standing room. There is actually a sit-down restaurant on the other side, and I completely missed that. I do think that they share the same kitchen, and I’m more used to eating my hot dogs standing up, so there is nothing lost for choosing the more casual option. Rutt’s is famous for its Rippers – by deep frying the hot dogs, the heat cause the casings to rip apart, which is supposed to make the dogs more greasy, and thus tastier. Unlike Chicago’s hot dog shops, this supplier of the sausage is not publicized front and centered. Part of the reason might have to do with the restaurant as it is not just a hot dog stand, but a real restaurant that offers other selections. The huge menu contains various sandwiches, sides and more than 10 drink options. After contemplating for awhile, I ordered a hot dog with cheese, one without, and some fries with gravy. Cash only!

Simplified menu with the important stuff.
Huge menu!

The all white tile interior reminded me of Gene and Jude’s walk-up counter. However, the crowd here seems friendlier, which is not something I would say about New Jersey in general. The turn over is quick, and people come and left while I dine. It never got crowded, but it was also in the afternoon on a Sunday during a rather cold week. The food is ready as soon as I paid for it. The cheese reminded me of cheese whiz, but it might just be melted yellow American cheese, but there is no doubt it is processed cheese. I topped the one without cheese with mustard, which in hindsight is the dumb thing to do. Toppings are placed in large metal jars on the table, and I should have chose relish (which is homemade and famous), instead I got mustard like I’m at IKEA.

Fries with gravy.
Left, with mustard; right, with cheese.

I thought the fries with gravy is fine. I wasn’t expecting anything spectacular, and it definitely was as average as it could be. Still appreciate the option to get it with gravy, which is an underrated and underappreciated sauce in the food world. The cheese on the hot dog is overpowering, and I would have appreciated a dab rather than a spoonful. I prefer the one with mustard, but I could do without either toppings. The beef and pork hot dogs, after deep fried, is very greasy unlike any I have elsewhere, or even in my life. They are a bit crunchy on the outside and not snappy, which is what the Vienna Beef’s are famous for. These ain’t bad, but it is hard to come back after having snappy hot dogs. The texture and firmness is just so much more interesting.

Just the 7th friendly reminder.
View of the kitchen.

Rutt’s, in my opinion, is fine. On one hand, Rutt’s is cheap and the Rippers isn’t some common hot dog sandwich. However, even if good hot dogs are hard to find, there are decent options like Shake Shack’s, which isn’t half bad. If I base my opinion of these hot dogs at this time, it is hard to put Rutt’s into the classic category, that includes the greats like White Manna and John’s Roast Pork. Rutt’s is still in business after 90 years, so I’m sure there is a demand for Rippers. I’m just not a huge fan of this style of hot dogs. However, I’ll keep an open mind about that secret relish next time.

Visited: Nov 18, 2018 at 2pm for lunch.
Address: 417 River Rd, Clifton
Website: ruttshut.com

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