I grew up eating grocery store hot dogs - pale, lethargic looking wieners that were a terrifying combination of mystery meat and filler. The pink meat tubes were quickly fried or boiled and served alongside tinned pork and beans or Kraft Dinner. It wasn't my favourite meal. When I moved out of my parent's house I stopped eating hot dogs; choosing hamburgers at BBQs and avoiding eye contact with the downtown vendors. I was reunited with the hot dog years later in Chicago at Hot Doug's but instead of the discounted pink meat I was used to, Doug Sohn was serving foie gras, kangaroo and the standard (but delicious) Chicago-style hot dog. My eyes tastebuds were opened. Hot dogs didn't have to be bland tubes of discarded meat and filler. They could be rich, full of choice cuts and so tasty that you'd line up for hours with no complaints.
Heid's of Liverpool may not be serving duck or bison but their grilled Hoffmann franks are a local favourite and a must have for anyone travelling through Syracuse. The menu is small, offering mostly hot dogs, fried things, cold salads and something called the Sea Dog. Making the mistake of skipping dinner to get a head start on a long weekend road trip to New York City, the boyfriend and I were famished when we arrived at the old art deco building that has been the home of Heid's for over 75 years. We ordered too much, or just enough - onion rings, chili cheese fries, a Mixed Double, Coney Double, Kraut Dog and (why not) the Sea Dog.
Heid's features two types of Hoffmann's franks. A red German all beef wiener and a white veal/pork Coney, also known as a snappy thanks to the snap heard when you bite into the natural casing. You can specify which wiener you want or have them both on the same Freihofer’s New England-style roll (a Mixed Double) or stick with your favourite as a single or double.
I liked both the red and white wieners (topped with spicy brown mustard and piled high with onions please) but I think they are best enjoyed together, side-by-side in a mixed double. The onion rings were crisp, the chili cheese fries had the correct amount of bean-to-neon cheese ratio but what surprised us was the Sea Dog. A crisp, flaky piece of North Atlantic beer-battered cod nestled in a bun with packets of tartar sauce served on the side. It was one of the best pieces of battered fish I've eaten and the boyfriend and I fought over every bite.
In warmer weather Sweet Treats, the ice cream parlour next door, is open. Malts, milk shakes and sundaes are the perfect end to a meal of hot dogs and chili cheese fries. I'll be returning so I can order my own Sea Dog and Mixed Double and have a Peanut Butter sundae for dessert!