I’ve finally figured something out about me and hot dogs. All these road food adventures are leading me to some deep processed meat induced soul searching.
This is Tom’s in Whately, MA. Hop off 91 as you are heading north towards Greenfield, and the wildly friendly counter woman at Tom’s is ready to feed you. This is no snobby hotdog joint- Tom’s aims to please everyone. Far beyond the length of my lifetime, they have been posting their motto, “If you can think it, we can make it.”
Unfortunately, they don’t seem to be able to make the hot dog I’m thinking of. The one I really want. There is no seating at Tom’s, so on a cold and snowy day, the car is your fancy table in the corner. A dog each for the girls and I, two for Joey, side of fries, and lunch was served. Tootsie pops were on the house.
Tom’s is famous around these parts for their special dog with tomato sauce and cheese. Joey ordered one of these, alongside a more traditional kraut dog.
He deemed the hot dogs superior to most, although the fries were a disappointment. He said definitively, “This is a great hot dog.”
But I had to disagree. Not on the fries- those disappointed me too, but on the whole dog experience. I agree that the the dog itself was excellent. It had a very satisfying snap with every bite. But the tomato sauce, although innovative, tasted downright old to me. The bun was soft as wonderbread, but I wanted a little more heft to it. The kraut was sad and flavorless, and I was left wanting.
The truth is, I love a good hot dog. It needn’t be nitrate free or made of chicken- I just like a good hot dog. But a great hot dog? My great hot dog is different from Joey’s great hot dog, and I’m certainly not going to find it at Tom’s.
In Ghent, NY, there is a farm store that makes their own hot dogs from their own meat. They bake hefty rolls in which to lay the dogs, and they offer their own lacto-fermented sauerkraut along with grainy mustards. Joey may call this an imitation of the ideal hot dog, but for me, it is bliss. Joey loves the dirty road food, and I love the road food that has been taken and recreated with good ingredients and new flavors. We enjoy the tastes of the other, but our opinions differ on what is truly great. We are finally finding peace in this, and someday maybe he’ll even stop saying that broccoli pizza is an abomination. At least maybe he’ll stop saying it, but I know he’ll never stop thinking it. That stuff runs deep, real deep.
So, depending on your definition of great, Tom’s is maybe worth the drive. It’s worth it for the hot dogs, the tootsie pops, or maybe just the deep introspection it may inspire.