This story may cause a bit of a controversy (in my household at least). You see, on Friday afternoon The Wife suggested that we take the Little Monsters to the Worcester Public Library to check out some stuff and try to get some museum passes for the long Memorial Day weekend. She also suggested that we stop at Coney Island (also known as George's Coney Island or Coney Island Lunch) for some hot dogs afterward. Now, I have previously detailed a little bit about the fact that The Wife tends to have us eat a bit more healthily than I did back in my bachelor days--when my meals consisted largely of mac & cheese and takeout food. See Night of the Living Bread for more on this topic. While I am not a big fan of tofu and multi-grain bread, I do understand and appreciate that she is trying to get our little family to eat as healthy as possible, and to try to keep me around for a few more years than I might last if I eat the stuff I really want to eat. Suffice to say, we don't go out to Coney Island on a regular basis. It's a special treat to get such an opportunity. With all that in mind, I was certainly interested in going there on Friday. My arm didn't need to be twisted or anything.
George's Coney Island in Worcester MA
At night Coney Island's magnificent neon sign beckons passersby with its dripping mustard!
Here's a little video to show the true magnificence of the sign at night. Unfortunately the "DO" was out on one side on this particular night, but you can still get the idea.
This place is a Worcester (MA) institution. Their specialty is (not surprisingly) Coney Island Hot Dogs! I know that there are a LOT of places that claim to sell the best hot dogs, and many different cities and regions have their own take on how a hot dog should be served. I haven't taken stock of all the different styles of hot dogs around the country (though I wouldn't mind embarking on a trip based around doing just that!), but from my experience, Coney Island Hot Dogs rank right up there at the top. They take a grilled dog (important) and add mustard, an absolutely divine meat sauce and onions in their "The Works" dogs. You can have them other ways, but this is what George's Coney Island is known for. If you ever see someone at the counter ordering a hamburger it's a pretty safe bet that they've never been in the place before and they don't really know what they're doing.
Anyway, to get back to the story, we entered Coney Island Friday evening and I proceeded to get my usual order of "four, no onions". True, I'm missing out on a part of the true Coney Island experience, but I just don't like onions. It may not be a "genuine" Coney Dog, but it's still more than delicious! Plus, there is an unwritten and unspoken tradition between George's Coney Island and myself; you see, I always order mine with no onions--yet every time I go there at least one of my hot dogs will invariable have one (1) onion either on top of it, or hidden in the sauce. I've gotten over the disappointment of biting into one of my dogs and having an unsatisfying crunch of onion, and now I would actually be disappointed if there wasn't an onion in there somewhere. It would feel like the order of the world was out of whack or something.
Here's where the story gets interesting. As we were enjoying our meal of processed meat tubes, The Wife innocently quipped: "We should see how many hot dogs we can eat this weekend". Now, according to her, she meant it as a joke. Actually, she supposedly didn't mean anything at all by it--and even forgot that she had said it. On the other hand, I heard the challenge issued loud and clear and I took it very seriously! The challenge was on.
A photo from a previous visit to Coney Island (note the "bonus" onion!)
DAY ONE TOTAL: FOUR HOT DOGS
The next morning we were at a yard sale at our local library which was sponsored by the Boy Scouts. They had a snack area set up where they were selling coffee, soda, chips and...hot dogs. I mentioned to The Wife that I should get a hot dog (at 10:30 in the morning, as she'd later point out) to add to the four I'd already had the night before at Coney Island for the "challenge". She looked at me dumbfounded and asked "WHAT challenge?". When I reminded her of what she said Friday she pleaded ignorance. Either way, I did indeed order one (it was for a good cause after all), and the total was now up to FIVE HOT DOGS.
We next went to the Ecotaruim in Worcester, a nice little natural history/science museum which was previously known as the Worcester Science Center and the New England Science Center. We checked out all the exhibits and rode the little train around the property and then...made our way to the refreshment stand which we discovered is now run by a well-known Worcester restaurant. I considered (to the consternation of The Wife) getting another hot dog there, but the line was too long and an opportunity was wasted. The total stood at FIVE.
But, later that evening we were planned on visiting some of our friends and hanging out with them for a while. When we see them we usually either make food there or get takeout (subs or Chinese food). However, it turned out that they were having a big spontaneous cookout for Memorial Day weekend. In addition to a bunch of tasty side dishes they grilled up chicken, steak, hamburgers and...bratwursts. After a bit of consideration I decided that brats are close enough cousins to hot dogs to count toward the challenge. I was already eating one when the decision was made (by me), and then I just had to have another one.
DAY TWO TOTAL: SEVEN HOT DOGS
Sunday was a good day. The weather was nice and sunny. We had arranged for a babysitter so The Wife and I could get a little time to ourselves. We went to Red Robin Gourmet Burgers for lunch. Sadly, while Red Robin specializes in great hamburgers, they don't serve hot dogs. We had a very nice day all around, but the total for the challenge remained stuck at SEVEN by the end of it. A valuable day was "wasted" and there was only one day left of the long weekend. Which brings us to...Memorial Day.
Monday started out with some rain showers, and even a little thunder and lightning that threatened our town's Memorial Day parade. Luckily it did happen and we were able to watch it with the aid of rain coats and umbrellas.
The Little Monster greets a giant Duckie on a rain-soaked street during the Memorial Day parade
After the parade we were planning on having a cookout (hamburgers and...hot dogs). The sky started to brighten and the sun started poking out just as I fired up the charcoal. The rest of the day was beautiful (if a little muggy). A look at the plate below shows that I had a little bit of everything. If I was truly taking this Hot Dog Challenge seriously I should have replaced the hamburger, grilled veggies, broccoli salad and potato salad with three additional hot dogs, but I did want to enjoy myself and try everything available. The single hot dog brought the total up to EIGHT hot dogs--and this one was a Hillshire Farms Cheddarwurst dog! But there were only a few precious hours left of the challenge.
Memorial Day Dish
I was able to muster up enough stomach space to have a regular Oscar Mayer hot dog a little later (NINE), and while cleaning up I finished the half of The Little Monster's hot dog that she didn't eat. This brought the total up to NINE-AND-A-HALF hot dogs late on Monday evening. It looked like the end of the challenge, but later in the night I reheated a leftover cheddarwurst dog and managed to (barely) get the total into double-digits!
The final hot dog of the weekend--and the challenge!
FINAL TOTAL OF THE CHALLENGE: 10.5 HOT DOGS
Now I realize of course that ten-and-a-half hot dogs over a four day period only averages out to a little over two-and-a-half per day. This is a paltry sum for a "challenge" and absolutely nothing compared to what will be going on in the real Coney Island on the Fourth of July when Nathan's has their annual hot dog eating contest, but it still meant something to me. For a guy who doesn't usually get a chance to go off on a hot dog rampage like this, it was a very fulfilling and filling weekend!
The challenge is over, but fear not--it's only the beginning of the summer and I'm sure a lot more hot dogs are just waiting to be eaten over the next few months. This coming Saturday we're planning on going to a Worcester Tornadoes baseball game. Can you go to a baseball game and NOT have a hot dog? The adventure continues...
A hot dog from a Tornadoes game last year