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Discuss Gus Disgust

June 15, 2011

Nobody will argue that the specialty foods of the Capital Region are the pinnacle of high dining. Well, maybe Mr. Dave. But I hear he’s been busy lately.

That hasn’t stopped me from enjoying the heck out of them, and trying to experience them in all of their forms. In part that was the onus behind last winter’s Tour de Hot Dog. There was a bit of disagreement among the attendees about which classic establishment was the best, but there was no disagreement on the worst.

The dubious honor fell to the much beloved Gus’s Hot Dogs.

However, just this past weekend on a gray and rainy day, DerryX celebrated his blog’s one-year anniversary at this very spot. And as is now my custom I order a sausage sandwich with peppers and onions and one hot dog with everything. But this time, something was different. This time the hot dog wasn’t awful.

Thankfully, DerryX himself was on the original Tour de Hot Dog, and he can attest how bad the dogs were that day. He can also confirm that they were significantly better this past weekend.

Now some people might ding the place for a lack of consistency.

But I have to say there is something about inconsistency that really appeals to me. My favorite NY style pizza joint in Berkeley was wildly inconsistent. When they were on, it was freaking brilliant. But the fact that sometimes their slices were less than great made those fabulous trips even more special.

Being a loyal patron to an establishment allows you a deep knowledge of their product, what they are capable of achieving at their best, and how it can all fall apart on a bad day.

I hope you have a place or two like this in your life. I know I have mine.

The downside to writing about food is that a writer cannot possibly have a deep relationship with every restaurant that gets a review. I have to be fickle in order to feasibly cover a broad spectrum of restaurants and foodstuffs around the Capital Region. I don’t expect your sympathy, but I’ve recently found that I can’t always go to places I want to go, and instead need to visit places I should try.

My heart yearns for another deep-fried hamburger at Swifty’s. And one of these days it will get one.

The good news is that the hot dogs at Gus’s aren’t nearly as bad as the ones we sampled on the tour. My best guess as to what changed is that the first time we were eating at Gus’s out of season.

The tour was in December. That’s the dead of winter. And while most of the other regional hot dog slingers have actual buildings, Gus’s operates out of a shack with several picnic tables lined up beside it.

On a gray spring Saturday, even with the imminent threat of rain and a lot of wet picnic tables, Gus’s had a line. There was no such line at the ordering window in December. Not only is throughput diminished, but I can’t imagine the guys are all that happy to be in the shack with the bitter cold wind blowing in the window. For that matter, I can’t imagine them being all that happy standing in the shack over the hot grill in the heat of summer either.

Perhaps that explains why they never look so happy.

Anyway, I think it’s understandable that they may not have brought their A game that fateful day in December. Winter onions can also be exceedingly bitter, and that could have played into the findings as well.

I cannot make any claims that Gus’s makes great hot dogs. I can say for certain that the quality of their hot dogs and even their sausage sandwich with peppers and onions varies dramatically from visit to visit. I can also advise you to avoid the hamburger (in any form) at all costs.

But that doesn’t make this place unworthy of your love and support. In fact, I think it’s part of the overall patina of benign neglect that makes this place great.

It’s a ramshackle shed that sells cheap food. They are not trying to impress you. People have been eating here for decades, and they’ll continue to do so for years to come. Sometimes it may not be good. Other times it will be quite good. But the more often you stop by, the more likely you will be to have a great Gus’s experience.

You just have to ask yourself, is it really worth it? I say yes. But I’ll understand if you disagree.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 15, 2011 9:11 am

    Thanks for the plugs!
    I do think I have a possible explanation to why they were better on Saturday than they were 6 months ago. That’s up in the unofficial part 2 of the writeup from Saturday

  2. Kerosena permalink
    June 15, 2011 3:54 pm

    Thanks for the title of this post. Also, I now have ’50 Ways to Leave Your Lover’ stuck in my head.

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