This week I experienced a Boston Chowhound rite of passage – my first Speed's Dog.
A volunteer assignment took me around the corner from where drooling food lovers had told me I would find "Boston Speeds" Famous Hot Dog Wagon. I spotted it and pulled into a parking space in the adjacent lot.
When I arrived, there was no line. That let me have my "Speed's Dog" (with everything on it) without waiting too long. But remember, these are grilled to order so there may be time to socialize in line if you get here at a prime eating time.
I've heard that when the legendary Ezra "Speed" Anderson was grilling, he only cooked one hot dog at a time and the wait could have stomachs growling.
Being there by myself let me hang by the window and watch the operation. Chef Gregg took the monster hot dog out of its cider and brown sugar marinade and popped it onto a smoking hot charcoal grill. He moved, turned, poked, and generally attended to it.
When he felt the time was right, he opened a bun and placed it next to my hot dog to toast. The bun too has its moments of moving, checking, and turning. Finally he grabbed a foil wrapper, placed the toasty bun in just the right spot, added my dog, and topped it with mustard, onions and the secret sauce.
I paid, grabbed my drink from the cooler in front and heard him ask whether I wanted it wrapped. Wrapped? Who could wait? "No, just like that is fine." I carried my hot dog to a spot at one of the recently added picnic tables.
In less than a minute, I took a couple of quick snapshots of the finished product. No time for food styling or clean ups. This was hot dog in the rough! This was my first Speed dog and while I needed a photo to share, I wanted that first bite.
By this time, there was a line of hungry folks waiting for their turn. I could see them wishing that they were already sitting where I was ready to eat.
Big bite, satisfying snap, toasty bread, pleasant contrast of topping flavors. Sigh, chew, savor... bite again. Chew. Think, "I'm not going to be able to eat half of this." Watch the line while chewing. Go back for a nibble this time. "What is in that sauce?" "What type of mustard is that?" "Are the onions completely raw?" This is a hot dog to think over.
The large diameter of the hot dog (it's more the size of a kielbasa) means that you're really biting into something meaty. The hot dog itself has great flavor- a little smoke, good spice, and great texture. The casing has that perfect snap, and the contrasting sweet of the cider mixture makes for good balance.
I quit eating at about half. Next time, I'll take someone with me to share. Oh yes, there will be a next time, and a next, and a next. I fear that I'll join those who spend late winter and early spring, with one ear to the ground, listening for Speed spottings.
And, about that word "famous" on Speed's sign. Well, they were picked as the #1 hot dog in American by the Wall Street Journal.
Right now I'll savor the memory and start to think about my next Boston food rite of passage. All suggestions are gratefully accepted.
Here are the posted hours for the rest of this season.
Speed's Hot Dog Wagon
Newmarket Square, Boston MA
(update: 5.26.09- look for the wagon at 40 Newmarket Square)