The nice weather’s back so I figured it was a perfect opportunity for an affordable, outdoor dinner at the iconic Liverpool hot dog joint Heid’s. For the most part, a hot dog is a hot dog but I still wanted to get a review up for you. You can’t go to Heid’s expecting more than a couple dogs, fries and maybe a birch beer (my favorite) but sometimes it just hits the spot. It’s a no frills, American dining experience that is always quite enjoyable–even though this was my first visit in about a year (thanks Foursquare).
I’m sure I don’t need to provide any history for 95% of you, but just in case… Originally a Liverpool meat market, Heid’s has been around in various forms since 1886. In 1917 it became the drive-in it resembles today and remains arguably the first of it’s kind–anywhere. While the original meat market’s dog has since been replaced with locally-made Hofmann’s, the recipe differs in some (secret) ways. Personally I’ve never quite understood the hype surrounding Hofmann’s dogs even though many love them. I sorta think that they are the Syracuse favorite by default–it’s not hard being the only show in town. Anyone who’s had a frankfurter from the Rochester-based Zweigle’s or Hartman’s Old World Sausage knows what I’m talking about. These thoughts aside, I was happy enough to order specialty dogs, cheese fries and a birch beer while enjoying the (probably toxic) breeze blowing from Onondaga Lake.
The menu at Heid’s is decidedly unadventurous–no Cinco de Mayo or foie gras dogs (sadly)–but still comprises everything you need at super affordable prices. Just $7 gets you two dogs, fries and a drink but you’ll also find Philly Cheese Steak, the kraut dog, Texas Hot, Italian sausage and a long list of sides–even fried pickles! It’s so affordable in fact that $7 is the most you’ll need to spend. Given that I was doing a review, it got a bit more expensive–and filling–this time (still only $10). While I love franks I simply can’t stomach coneys (contains veal) for some reason, just not my thing. In an attempt to get a good representation of the menu I ordered the Texas Hot, kraut dog and cheese fries. A Texas Hot–as I’m sure you already know–consists of a frank, onions, chili-like hot sauce and homemade brown mustard ($3.99). A kraut is much more than a derogatory Teutonic slur but also a delicious combination of frank, sauerkraut and that same delicious mustard ($3.39). Cheese fries are cheese fries.
I started with the kraut dog, which blends the meaty, salty taste with the earthy tartness of sauerkraut and mustard. I know many people hate sauerkraut but oddly enough I’ve grown fond of it. It lends some European tradition to an otherwise Americanized item. If you’ve ever enjoyed sauerkraut with fresh bratwurst, you know what I’m talking about. It’s just an old world flavor that can’t be beat. I’d really recommend the kraut dog if you have a penchant for old, fermented cabbage. The kraut dog isn’t anything particularly special but it has just the right amount of each simple ingredient, bringing out the flavor of the frank. A minimal and affordable item.
Next I got after my Texas Hot. I’m more familiar with the Texas Hot in Rochester, which features a much spicier frank–but Heid’s fairs pretty well in comparison. As I said, it came with a meaty hot sauce, fresh chopped onion and homemade brown mustard. It’s something for the heat lovers with the perfect amount of a surprisingly spicy sauce that compliments the sharp onion bite and strong, coarse mustard. Take a big bite and the ingredients blend together deliciously. It’s not overly salty or greasy even with the hot sauce and thankfully remains intact without soggy bun issues (gross). Like I said, I’m not a fan of Hofmann’s so this is usually my go-to. The beefy hot sauce really gives it that extra kick of flavor that Hofmann’s sausage simply lack. Highly recommended.
Another worthwhile option is the Mixed Double, which was famously featured (somewhat misleadingly) on Travel Channel’s popular Man v. Food. Basically you get a coney and a frank on the same bun. Top it with whatever you want and you’ve got quite the encased meat-based meal. You’ll also have a huge mess–albeit a delicious one. Might wanna grab a knife and fork for this one. Cheese fries are always pretty good at Heid’s, which feature a cheese sauce that tastes far less synthetic than you might think. They’re even good cold. I haven’t had the fried pickles but I think you should try them as well. Based on the delicious, refreshing pickles ($0.59) on the list of sides–they’ve gotta be good! The only other decision to make: chocolate milk or birch beer?
Somewhat tired Hofmann’s special recipe hot dogs elevated to greatness with a number of traditional and simple ingredients. Go enjoy an early dinner at Heid’s while it’s still sunny! I’m going with:
Disclaimer: All Guru Reviews reflect my OPINION based on a real experience at various Syracuse restaurants.
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