Anthony Bourdain’s Season 1 NJ Episode
During the very first season of his classic series No Reservations we see Anthony Bourdain visit Hiram’s Hot Dogs in The Soprano’s themed New Jersey episode.
Bourdain explains being born and raised in New Jersey and frequenting this hole-in-the-wall fast food eatery with his mother as a child in this episode.
It had been years since I had seen this episode of the show and upon a rewatch I couldn’t help but want to try some of the places he visited, especially since I had moved from Staten Island to a part of NJ that is only 10 min from his hometown of Leonia.
I plan to visit every place from the episode except the now defunct Howard Johnson’s in Asbury Park. Hiram’s was on the list for this week.
Hiram’s for Valentine’s Day
My wife and I decided to stick it to the man and abandoned fancy cuisine in favor of some famous hot dogs and onion rings on Valentine’s day. That’s right! We ditched our usual high-scale sushi tradition and opted to try this Fort Lee staple after talking about it for months.
Hiram’s is conveniently located right near the George Washington Bridge and is surrounded by high rise apartment buildings. The exterior is draped with antique signage that looks like it hasn’t been changed in 70 years.
This Place Is Old School
These are the kinds of qualities that attract me to a restaurant. If you haven’t had to change anything in that long it means people love your food enough to not care about the ambiance.
The first thing we noticed when pulling up in the parking lot is that you can only access the bathrooms from outside. While inconvenient, it’s also nice because the place is pretty small and if someone bombed the bathroom the patrons wouldn’t have to endure the smell.
When we walked inside we saw the bar to our left where you order, and small tables on the right. The walls were covered in old wood panels and decorated with purplish lights and sports pictures.
One of the first things which stuck out to me was their abundance of New York Ranger pictures. I felt right at home and wondered why these people from New Jersey loved my favorite hockey team so much. They definitely scored points for this in my book.
Let’s Go Rangers!
Aside from some UFC and NY Giants pics, there is an autographed picture of Anthony Bourdain and some kind of plaque which I didn’t bother to read with his picture on it.
If you decide to visit Hiram’s know that they don’t take cards. We made the mistake of not carrying cash and had to run to the bank.
The people at the counter have NY accents and expect you to know what you want so don’t sit there and fumble your words with them. Being from NY, I’m used to places like this and knew what we were in for as soon as we walked in.
The Hot Dogs
The place serves hot dogs, chili dogs, fries, onion rings, burgers and more. I wanted to try the hot dog first so we ordered up two regular, one with chili and onion rings. I made a rookie mistake here by not trying the onions, but to be fair I wasn’t as hungry as I should have been.
Their variety of deep fried dogs are piping hot at first so the initial bite didn’t pack a lot of flavor. As I continued into my chili dog I quickly tasted the difference between their quality dog and the normal supermarket brands. It almost has a beer-like maltiness.
I wasn’t happy with my choice of chili because of how it overpowered the flavor of the dog, and after all, that’s what I was there for. I enjoyed the chili dog nonetheless, but looked forward to my plain which I would douse with a little mustard.
The plain dog was nice, but a little cold by the time I got to it. It packed an oily goodness, but didn’t have the snap of say a Nathan’s hot dog. I was looking for a bit more of that, but it was still very good.
The onion rings were pretty standard. We probably should have tried the cheese fries which looked amazing when they came out. I definitely dropped the ball on the order.
Either way, Hiram’s was a pretty good hole-in-the-wall type place and ended up being a very affordable date night for Valentine’s Day. With all of the notoriety, they thankfully haven’t let it get to their heads with the prices still being reasonable.
We left the place full and with some extra cash in our pockets for dessert. I’m anxious to go back and try some different hot dog varieties and sides.