One of the American comfort foods I miss quite a bit are hotdogs, but it’s not just any variety. Given the Jewish demographics in New Jersey and New York City, it’s all-beef kosher Frankfurters I miss the most. Typically, all I need on one of those is a single stripe of mustard.
I am not completely opposed to messy hotdogs, though. Give me a good chili dog any day of the week. In West Virginia, coleslaw is a frequent topping, and that’s not something I am against, either. So, I was intrigued when a friend returned from Wuxi recently and was positively gushing about a tiny hotdog shop. A different friend and I decided to jump into a car, drive over to Wuxi, and make a thorough investigation.
Rambo’s Hotdog & Grill is located on an off street between the Sanyang Plaza and Nanchan Temple subway stops. The “grill” part of the name is important, as they do not boil their sausages. New York City, for example, is infamous for dirty water street carts. There, the hot dog is boiled as opposed to being turned over a hot metal surface. The slur of “dirty water” refers to how some these street carts never actually change their water — which would not exactly pass the scrutiny of a health inspector’s surprise visit. Some say not changing the water improves the flavor of tubed meat. Others — typically some people from Chicago who want to argue with New Yorkers on everything food related — might refer to this as salmonella served on the street!
That’s well and nice. But, it doesn’t answer the question of “What are these Wuxi hotdogs actually like?” The answer: very messy.
My travel partner and and I each ordered two dogs a piece. She got one of standards.
This had a few drizzles of ketchup, mustard, crunchy chips, and something pickled. My co-adventurer also ordered this.
I had a hard time wrapping my head around this at first. It’s smoked salmon draped over a sausage and then drizzled with a mixture of mayo and sour cream. Normally, smoked salmon is something I would enjoy by itself or as part of sushi or sashimi. Never would I put it on a hotdog. Yet, this won me over. Now, onto what I ordered.
This is Rambo’s Buffalo chicken dog. There was no chicken meat here; it refers more to the orange sauce splashed onto the very drippy, melty mozzarella. It’s the same sauce used to coat Buffalo-styled chicken wings. My second selection …
This is, allegedly, is a “Philly cheese steak dog.” For reference purpose, a Philadelphia cheesesteak actually looks like this.
It’s basically bread, cheese, steak, and sometimes fried bell peppers and onions. Depending on where you are eating a Philly, the cheese choices are either processed cheese whiz, cheddar, or provolone. What was on Rambo’s Philly dog definitely was not any of those. The texture of the beef, however, was legit — the steak needs to be thinly shredded, not chunked or cubed.
My biggest criticism of all Rambo’s “hotdog” is the sausage itself. They are not using Frankfurters. Rather, they are using German Nurembergers. That’s just not the taste I am thinking of when somebody says “hotdog.” I am highly prejudiced, given the part of America I am from. For me, this was a profound disappointment, but I forced myself to get over that. After all, kosher all-beef hotdogs just don’t exist in this end of China. A lot of what is labeled and sold as “American hotdogs” is just flavorless mystery meat. Chinese hotdogs? Um, no. Just no. German sausages are also likely easier and cheaper to source. So, grumble, grumble — but, okay, I understand.
The other thing is what is actually piled on top of the sausage. There is actually so much there; it may leave somebody absolutely stuffed if they are eating more than one. It happened to me. It also happened to my dining partner. Either way, Rambo’s may be a return visit for me, despite my being underwhelmed a little. There are other things on the menu I am curious about.