I’ve been meaning to visit this place for months, after a coworker thought I was talking about it, on one of many days when I lean back in my chair and wax poetic about the perfection of a Rutt’s Hut hotdog. He thought I meant Hiram’s. I’d never heard of the place. Then Anthony Bourdain went there on his New Jersey episode of No Reservations, and I knew I had to get there. He also went to Gencarelli’s Bakery in Bloomfield, and Mario Batali shot him in the Meadowlands in that episode, for pretending to be a New York City hotshot chef, when he really grew up in Bergen. Probably one of Tony’s most entertaining episodes.
Anyway, Hiram’s is on Palisades Parkway, a half mile south of the George Washington Bridge. This spring, I’m going to drag Firecracker out of bed, and we’ll walk across the bridge, get some hotdogs, and then walk along the Palisades, and see the ruins of the old Riviera nightclub. And perhaps the ruins of Zabriskie mansion, but I think that’s a long hike from the bridge. Anyway, watch this space for our hilarious adventure.
Hiram’s has been selling deep fried chili cheese dogs, burgers, and accompaniments for 75 years. They have a good size parking lot and a fenced in park with picnic benches for enjoying your dogs in good weather. The place was packed this Saturday afternoon, but thankfully there are two lines for eating in or take-out, and I only waited a few minutes. They lack the lingo of Rutt’s Hut and the Hot Grill, but they make up for it in flavor and good old Jersey atmosphere. The grillmeisters sound more like guys working at an Italian deli than the hot dog slingers at Rutt’s, or the Cheeborger guys at the Billy Goat in Chicago. Which is very comforting for a Jerseyite.
They serve up sizzling dogs slathered in chili with a slice of American cheese underneath, much like the Hot Grill meets Rutt’s. They use a big dog like Rutt’s instead of a skinny Sabrett’s dog, and their chili has a sweet, smoky flavor. I give them the edge over the Hot Grill. Their fries are crispy and delicious, without being too greasy. Their fries kick Rutt’s Butt, in my opinion. But they don’t have Rutt’s famous relish, so I think they’re about equal. They also have onion rings, that unlike Rutt’s, actually stay in a ring shape instead of being a soggy mess of grease on your plate. So their sides beat Rutt’s. The dogs are about equal, but if you like chili, they have the advantage. Thankfully no science known to man can replicate the Rutt’s Hut relish, so they will always be safe.
They serve a good birch beer, and American beers on tap. I didn’t ask for a marvis. I didn’t want to push my luck. Hiram’s is a great hot dog stand and definitely worth going out of the way for. If you’re heading over the GWB, or cruising the Palisades Parkway through Fort Lee, you should stop in for a bite. Even if you prefer burgers, they seem to be one of the few places left that serves little char-grilled ones, like the now-gone Anthony Wayne, Red Chimney, and other stands along Route 3 and 46 used to. Here’s to another 75 years of Hiram’s.