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I wrote this piece, about spontaneously spending el Día de los Muertos with a family in Oaxaca, several years ago; it’s based on an experience...
What: You’ll find ’em on any old boardwalk, but along the Shore, Long Branch is synonymous with hot dogs, thanks to two local institutions that have been grilling them for decades a stone’s throw from the beach—and each other.
Where: For our photo, we had to pick Max’s Hot Dogs (25 Matilda Terrace), established in 1928, over the original Windmill (586 Ocean Blvd., map), built in 1963; it was, after all, here first. But both places have great atmosphere. Max’s, which started life as a simple boardwalk stand, is a 200-seat diner nowadays, with counter and table seating, beer on tap, and walls festooned with menu advertisements and celebrity autographs, while the Windmill is shaped like an actual windmill—or, more specifically, like a large mini-golf-version of a windmill—and offers a small amount of upstairs outdoor seating. The hot dogs, too, are equally tasty: Both use beef-pork dogs (Max’s uses a slightly longer quarter-pound Shickhaus; Windmill uses Sabrett’s) slow-cooked on a flat griddle (Max’s) or grill (Windmill) until crispy-charred on the outside, and both offer excellent condiments that include both sweet and hot pepper relish. (Why don’t all hot dog places have this available?)
When: Max’s: daily, 11am-9pm; Windmill: daily, 10:30am-3am (sometimes midnight during winter)
Order: At Max’s get the regular hot dog ($4.35) and choose from condiments including mustard, ketchup, sauerkraut, sweet relish, and hot pepper relish—the latter is a perfect complement if you like your spice. We also enjoyed the buttery corn on the cob ($3.95), super crispy onion rings ($4.95), and creamy but not-too-thick chocolate milkshake ($5.75). At the Windmill, the smaller menu is all about the hot dog ($4.19)—with diced raw onion joining the condiment party—and the cheese fries ($4.19), though the cheeseburger is also rumored to be something special.
Good to know: Don’t confuse the original Windmill with its nearest satellite branch (there are eight locations, all in NJ), just a few blocks away at 200 Ocean Ave.—same food, but different atmosphere. Just, you know, look for the oversize windmill. You can’t really miss it!
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