I realize I’ve been a little negative about my adopted region in a few recent posts, so let me tell you something I really like: Stewart’s Shops (hereafter Stewarts) and in particular their Deli Dog.
Stewarts is a chain of convenience stores that’s like 7-11 but with a few quirks. They’re is headquartered right here in Saratoga Springs, NY, but their locations are all over eastern New York and western New England, often just a few blocks apart. (In my own town of 30,000 people there are 9 Stewarts.)
On the outside, Stewarts are typically drab brick buildings though they occasionally occupy a leased space. The interior is absolutely devoid of any attempt at décor. There are hand-lettered signs and the fixtures and counters look like they were put together by a guy in his garage out of Formica and particle board. Each Stewarts has an ice cream counter serving their own (pretty good) flavors in cones and fountain treats. (50 cent discount for kids in sports uniforms.) There’s a seating area that is typically well-used by retired folks and well behaved transients. And… there’s the Deli Dog.
The Deli Dog is a quintessential hot dog that is either steamed or roller-grilled, depending on the preferences of the manager at each store. (A very few stores sell them both ways.) Buns are provided in a heated drawer below the dog display, and condiments are available in soda fountain cups with a hole cut in the top. There is deli mustard, onions, sauerkraut and ground red pepper relish, and there’s also meat sauce which you can add for free (there’s also chili which looks the same as the meat sauce, but costs extra).
Once you’ve loaded up a dog with mustard, followed by condiments, then a dollop of meat sauce, you’ve got a pretty good meal which will set you back $1.49 for one, $2.49 for two, though they often run two for $1.99 sales. I often go to one of the stores that have both the steamer and the broiler and get one of each. (There’s also a fluorescent Cajun dog for the same price.) The steamed dog has an appealing delicacy about it—you have to carefully fish it out of the steamer or it will break apart, and the interior is almost custardy. While the broiled dog has that crispy skin that reminds you of the ball park. Really, no way to choose between them so I’m going to go to Stewarts and have both right now.