RAWLEY’S VS. SUPER DUPER: Who’s got the best hot dog?
FAIRFIELD — It’s the dog days of summer — or, perhaps more appropriately, the hot dog days of summer.
Local residents who don’t feel like firing up the grill have a couple of other options, two hot dog restaurants that, as different as they are, have a lot in common.
Down on the Post Road, sandwiched between Hemlock Hardware and Dairy Queen, stands Rawley’s, a drive-in that’s been around for decades.
Over on Black Rock Turnpike, just off the traffic circle, is Super Duper Weenie, the relative “newcomer.”
Both have had their time in the television spotlight on the Food Network, Rawley’s on “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” and Super Duper on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.” Both have their share of loyal customers and serve fresh-cut french fries. Both have won awards. And both have very small, cramped parking lots.
Patti James grew up in Westport, and a trip into Fairfield to Rawley’s for dinner was a treat. Back then, she said, she liked her hot dogs plain. Now, having recently moved back to the area, James said her go-to dog is one with the works — mustard, relish, sauerkraut and real bits of bacon.
“It’s still a treat,” James said.
Owner Nick Frattaroli bought Rawley’s about 14 years ago, and, he said, hasn’t changed a thing as far as the menu goes. The hot dogs are still deep-fried and then grilled, and the french fries cut fresh each morning.
“We added some things, but nothing has really changed here in probably 50 years,” Frattaroli said, “including the hours.”
He said he doesn’t know of many hot dog stands that cook the dogs the way they do. On an average day, Frattaroli said, they cook and sell 15 to 20 dozen hot dogs.
Find your hot dog
1886 Post Road
Hours: Monday through
Saturday, 11 a.m.-6:30 p.m.
Super Duper Weenie
306 Black Rock Turnpike
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Friday and Saturday,
11 a.m.-8 p.m.
Although they also serve burgers and sandwiches, hot dogs are the most popular menu item. “Our milkshakes are a close second,” Frattaroli said. “We sell a lot of those. They’re made the old fashioned way, we scoop in the ice cream and blend it.”
In the small dining room off to the side, with booths with pithy names, diners chow down.
Lynne and Jim Ferrell stopped to grab a bite on their way back home to Minneapolis. Originally from Connecticut, the Ferrells stopped at Rawley’s on their way to the airport.
“We’ve been here before, many years ago,” Jim Ferrell said, adding they Googled the restaurant to make sure it was still open.
In the booth next to them was a man who, because of his friendship with Super Duper Weenie owner Gary Zemola, wouldn’t give his name.
“I go there all the time,” he said, but added, “I also enjoy Rawley’s once in a while.” He said one can be a fan of both. “They each do something different,” he said, with Super Duper more of a “culinary” place, and Rawley’s more of a traditional “dive,” though dive, he said, is meant in a good way.
Zemola opened Super Duper in 2000, after having sold his trademark dogs and homemade relishes from a truck since 1992.
What makes his dogs better than your average hot dog? “It’s definitely the condiments,” Zemola said. “I don’t think anyone makes their own relishes anymore, except maybe Blackie‘s in Chesire.”
Zemola makes both a sweet relish and a hot relish from scratch, as well as his chili and soups, and he’s never used frozen french fries. His rolls are made fresh at Chaves Bakery in Bridgeport.
“That’s what keeps us a cut above,” said Zemola, who estimates they sell hundreds of hot dogs each day. “I keep it as fresh as possible.”
As they finished their California dogs, Dennis Vieira said the hot dogs have a nice texture. “They have a kind of crunch, which is good,” he said.
Unlike Rawley’s, the dogs at Super Duper are strictly grilled.
“We had our first one the weekend we moved here in February, and I’ve come back four or five times since,” Justin Kurek said.
Super Duper, his dad said, has excellent quality and a nice variety.
One of the diners at Super Duper has been a regular since Zemola was selling from the truck, but as a vegetarian, Suzy Damon has never tried the hot dogs. Her choice is a veggie burger, twice a week. “It’s the hot relish, and the mayonnaise,” Damon said.