A story about any “odd little eatery” is Fightin’ Words. The very idea that any odd little eatery other than YOUR FAVORITE odd little eatery should be highlighted brings out a tsunami of partisan allegiance to (insert YOUR odd little eatery). And THAT is exactly how it oughta be….
Pity the sad soul that does not have his/her very own Favorite Odd Little Eatery… the mere thought of which brings back a flood of nostalgic memories from a simpler time and place. I’ve never been to North Korea or to “the Middle East” or to Macau. Do North Koreans have “odd little eateries”?
AgentPierce recently posed the query of “are Muslims ticklish?”…. I don’t know but they (Muslims) probably don’t know much about hot dogs or, I suspect, odd little eateries in general. …. sigh. Their loss.
I’ve never been to Danny’s Drive-In or ever heard of it before 30 minutes ago…. but this story reminded me of “Shady’s” and “Pharo’s” and “Carlyle’s”. When I was umpiring Little League Baseball, I would have a Pharo’s “Big Boy” and a Coca Cola each night before walking across the street to Fairfield Park to “go to work”.
Danny’s Drive In in Connecticut is certainly no more “special” than your place. If this makes you nostalgic for “your place” then it’s achieved it’s purpose.
The scene: Connecticut is hot-dog mad and chock full of roadside stands, trailers and even a wiener-serving boat. Ten of these classics were featured in the fun food documentary A Connecticut Hot Dog Tour, which also noted that the Nutmeg State is the epicenter of a unique regional cuisine, the oil-fried hot dog. This preparation style is especially popular in southern Connecticut, with some spillover into New York and New Jersey, where Great American Bites last visited Rutt’s Hut, another classic fried-dog dispensary.
But the documentary skipped over one of my favorite shacks, Danny’s Drive-In, self-proclaimed to be “Famous Since 1935.” It’s simple, cozy and authentic, with none of the pretension that often accompanies rediscovered classics. Located on a slightly busy commercial road in Stratford, it is very convenient to the Merritt Parkway, a road with limited dining options, as well as to I-95 (but do not trust GPS!). A true shack (it has no bathroom), the small inside area features a tiled eating counter and just four stools, while the outdoor space has a few picnic tables. Neon lights fill the windows, and illuminated menu signs are overhead — like in a pizzeria.
You order at the counter from what is likely to be an exceptionally friendly local high-school student, then wait for your name to be called. Hot dogs and burgers are served wrapped in wax paper, fries and onion rings in cardboard boats, shakes in paper cups, whether for here or for the brisk to-go business. The walls are festooned with magazine and newspaper clippings, old and new — raving about the place. There is a self-serve soda bar, and above that, a somewhat incongruous and recent flat-screen TV, which was playing Field of Dreams the last time I stopped in. Oozing Americana, it’s the kind of frozen-in-time place I love to patronize because they really seem appreciative of the business, whether you’re a regular or first-timer.
The food: The juicy hot dogs are the main attraction. These have all the excellent hallmarks of the deep-fried style: a slightly crunchy casing that is visibly blistered and split by the intense heat. The thin frank, which has a nice snap and resembles the Hebrew National shape, is appreciably spicier and more flavorful than most dogs. Folks unfamiliar with fried dogs often expect something more dramatic — maybe dripping grease or the frank version of chicken-fried steak — but it is just an excellent way to cook hot dogs (and if no one told you, you might never know it was fried).