If you're familiar with Clifton, there's a good chance you've noshed on a hot dog from The Hot Grill or Rutt's Hut. What makes these hot dog joints such landmarks for so many residents of Northern New Jersey? Learn more below and then swing by to decide on the winning wiener.
669 Lexington Ave
Clifton, NJ 07011
Price per Texas Wiener: $2.68 (including tax)
The sidekick: Fries with gravy and cheese
The Hot Grill's About Us page proudly exclaims: "You know they grow 'em big in Texas, via Clifton, New Jersey." Yup, funny enough, the Texas Wiener has nothing to do with Texas. In fact, the messy but tasty frank originated in Paterson, NJ at a Greek hot dog stand in the 1920s. The Hot Grill's signature "One all the way one!" (as called out to the kitchen by the counter crew) consists of a crispy-skinned hot dog on a plain, white, fluffy bun, mustard, chopped onions, and "sauce", aka the chili you're accustomed to eating but with a Greek spin on it, spice-wise. You can order "sauce" on anything—cheeseburgers, onion rings, roast beef sandwiches—but don't forget to also try the "gravy".
Pro tip: Get the fries ("One frenchie one!") with cheese and gravy as your "side". The gravy is pinkish in color and tastes like cinnamon. Weird, but oh so good.
417 River Road
Clifton, NJ 07014
Price per Ripper: $2.35 (including tax)
The sidekick: Onion rings
Once a roadside stand, this hot dog mecca has both a bar and dining room area and a no-frills take-out counter for quick ordering/eating. At Rutt's Hut, you simply must order a Ripper (named after the frank's ripped-open deep-fried skin).
If you're adventurous, you can experiment with the joint's "levels" of deep-friedness: In-and-Outer (barely fried), Weller (well-done), and Cremator (burned to a crisp). Rutt's has been featured on the Food Network and Travel Channel.
Pro tip: Folks flock here for the mustard and homemade relish. Slather them on via the stainless steel bowls and wooden spoons on the counter. Oh, and if you want a chili dog, you've got to order a side of the (fantastic) chili and dress it yourself.
Bonus: Play a rousing game of Big Buck Hunter Pro or AC/DC pinball after you've devoured your Cremator!