Friday, January 27, 2012

Fear and Loathing in Rochester

I just returned from a trip to my hometown, Buffalo, NY. You may be asking yourself why on earth would someone go there in January, and you would be right to ask. Except for maniacs and shower curtain ring salesman, nobody goes there in January. The reason for my trip was to take a tour of the Sahlen's Packing Co. plant in downtown Buffalo. I wanted to see how the sausage is made. But I also wanted to eat some as well. In the name of research, you see. And there are quite a few places in that part of the world that grill up a damn fine hot dog.

I landed in Syracuse so that I could visit the iconic "Heid's." Then 60 miles to Rochester on I-90W to experience texas hots at "Schallers" - founded in 1967 - followed by the World renowned Nick Tahou's for a white hot. NT's is more famously known for their garbage plates, a late-night godawful mess (as the name suggests) of food on a huge plate. And finally, Sahlen's and a trip to Ted's, the best hot dog on the planet, with my dear Godmother Judy and cousin Kyle, the last of our family still in Buffalo. Orchard Park, actually. In the Southtowns. Home of the Bills.

What I also found was a lost world. Wind and snow-swept highway landscapes. Shapeless men, resembling Bill Macy in Fargo, walking down the street, destination unknown, tethered mittens dragging from their parka sleeves. Chilly grey skies and the shelling rain pelting closed down factories, farms and theaters - all too vivid memorials of long gone prosperity.

But beneath this mantle I also found the roots of the American dream. A flower peeking through the snow. It is located at 318 Howard Street in Buffalo, the site of a humble cluster of buildings, home of the Sahlen's Packing Company, a fifth generation family owned and operated business founded in 1869. They don't let cameras inside, lest snapshots leak out to PETA freaks, the competition or any other soulless jackals that want to sabotage or otherwise distract these hard working souls.

So you will have to take my word for it's pristine cleanliness, state of the art production machinery, gleaming garage sized smokers, and the many proud smiling faces that greeted me inside the facility. No matter. The real proof is not going to be found in a snapshot or any other facsimile. All you need one gorgeous bite of their flagship smokehouse hot dog. Everything you could ever want to know about Sahlen's is right there inside that crisp chewy casing. A wholesome experience that one day we all should understand.

At JJ's, we will carry all five generations on our backs with great pride, as they are more than just worth it. They deserve it and have earned it.



Heid's, Syracuse:


Nick Tahou's, Rochester, NY:

Kodak Building, Rochester, NY:

Buffalo, NY:

St. Stanislaus Church, Buffalo, NY:

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