Rutt’s Hut is a north Jersey institution. Hot dogs cooked in a deep fryer until the casing splits open, and they are deemed “rippers.” Onion rings fried to a greasy mess of deliciousness. And most importantly, their own language behind the counter. Want a Yoo-Hoo? You’ll get a marlvis. Want them fries to go? Two rippers, Frenchy one, traveling! One marlvis, cap!
That’s part of the charm that makes their crispy fried dogs and their unique yellow relish so memorable. Rutt’s Hut was one of the first entries in the Greasy Spoons catalog, and we’ve come a long way baby. So we returned, on the eve of a Judas Priest concert, to have some rippers, in hope that the band would play my favorite song, “The Ripper.” And by jinkies, it worked! For those not familiar with the Hut of Mr. Rutt, it was opened in 1928 by Royal, aka “Abe” Rutt and his wife Anna. My 89 year old great-uncle Jimmy remembers going there with his wife before they were married. And they still serve the hot dogs the same way.
They are an acquired taste, but once you acquire it, nothing else will do. The crispy skin of the fried hot dog, the juicy center, the no-frills soft bun cradling the dog slathered in yellow mustard and their one-of-a-kind yellow relish made from ingredients unknown, but sure to contain purest manna from heaven. I’m told it contains cabbage, carrots and onions from Wikipedia, but until I see a spectrometry test I’m not budging.
Their fries are always crisp and golden; the onion rings have changed through the years, always a bit dark and overcooked as seen here. But a huge improvement from how I remember them as a child- the batter peeling off, leaving you a soggy fried mess of onions and crispy batter pieces. They also serve chili, but for some reason I’ve never had a chili dog here. The relish stands on its own. They also serve chicken, shrimp, burgers, the ubiquitous Taylor Ham, beer, and more, but nothing to write home about. The bar in back is a classic Old Man Bar (as defined by Weird NJ) and serve dinner specials; you can get hot dogs back there too, if you want a cold one.
Personally the counter is where it’s at. I remember eating on the tiny low children’s counter when I was a wee one, and besides, you can’t hear the guys manning the fry belt out their patter if you’re in back. And the atmosphere brings you back to the past. Jersey is full of ’50s style diners chromed to the gills and neoned to the nines, but this is more the real deal. A food counter that once served beer by the quart, with an overlook giving a scenic view of Route 21 and the glorious Passaic, where bodies still wash up. The tributaries thrive with carp the size of rottweilers, with odd numbers of eyes. The trucks rumble along the highway below belching diesel fumes that give your marlvis a certain extra something. (Cancer- we call it flavor!)
And now for your viewing pleasure, I sing “The Ripper” by Judas Priest while eating a ripper…