Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Frank the Ripper: satisfying the hot dog jones at Rutt's Hut

The random post-flood driving and detours created a felix culpa:  a visit to Clifton's own Rutt's Hut, the home of the ripper.

What's a ripper, you may ask? Well, let's start with a tasty frankfurter, raw.  Toss it (gently, mind you) into a vat of boiling vegetable oil.  Allow it to marinate until the skin cracks. Then fish it out and place on a bun. That's a ripper.

When you get to the Hut, you're immediately confronted with a choice: sit or stand. Those who like to eat standing up, from a counter in a weirdly non-hygenic-looking white-tiled fast food joint, will go to the counter portion, which has a satisfyingly unattractive view of Route 21 below. Service is fast and courteous, cash only. That's where Ivan and I opted to go. (Standing helps the digestion.)

Those who like to sit while they dine will go to the dark paneled interior dining room, replete with an old man bar that probably still reeks of cheap cigars. Last I was inside, the tables were sticky, and estimating the waitresses' ages would require carbon dating, which would rationalize the slowness of the service. In its own way, though, the dining room is an experience which must be had, if for no other reason than to be entertained by the characters at the bar and the random signs posted on the walls. Rumor has long had it that Babe Ruth would stop at Rutt's occasionally, and one could easily imagine him at the bar for a couple of dogs, a couple of snorts and a beer chaser.

While still a mass-production outfit, Rutt's will take requests for variation on the rippers -- everything from the 'in and out' (lightly ripped) to the 'cremator' (left in the oil until, well, cremated).  They also offer a decent selection of other fast food items, though I really don't know why you'd go there for a tuna salad sandwich.  I guess they have to have something to rationalize the visit for people who get dragged there by rabid hot dog aficionados.

For our visit, we chose the hot dog, lightly ripped (for me, big shock), the hamburger with gravy (for Ivan) and a plate of onion rings (shared). The dog was just as good as I remembered it to be, and while the o-rings were maybe a little more well done than I usually go for, these irregularly-shaped treats were a tasty diversion from the uniformity of the average fast food version.  Ivan mentioned that the gravy was a good addition to the burger, something I'd never have considered using as a topping. Reminds me:  the Hut's hot dog relish is well known and treasured in hot dog maven circles.  They even sell it in pint and quart sizes for you to take home.

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