A dozen miles northwest of midtown Manhattan, Paterson, New Jersey, is the home of the Hot Texas Wiener. Each year, the members of the many cultural communities populating this multicultural, multilingual city eat hundreds of thousands of deep-fried beef hot dogs, topped with spicy mustard, chopped onions, and a distinctive chili sauce.
Hot Texas Wieners are restaurant food, served at several dozen establishments throughout, but mostly limited to, Paterson and its southern neighbor Clifton. Greeks own a great many of these restaurants, but though the Hot Texas Wiener's chili sauce owes more to Greece than it does to Texas, the wiener is not locally thought of as a Greek food. Hot Texas Wieners are workingman's food: they are inexpensive, and most of the older Hot Texas Wiener restaurants, including some no longer in business, were specifically located near industrial plants or along important truck routes through Paterson.
And, of course, Hot Texas Wiener restaurants are workplaces themselves. They are the home of several distinctive occupational traditions, and have been important enculturating and economic-development sites for the Greeks and others who have worked there. Much less well-known than other American regional foodways such as the New England clambake, the Southern fish fry, or the Southwestern barbecue, the Hot Texas Wiener is the most locally distinctive foodway in the Paterson area, recognized, remembered, and argued about in loving and educated detail by present and former Patersonians.
In August 1994, I investigated the Paterson-area Hot Texas Wiener tradition by interviewing Nick Doris, Greek-born part-owner of the Hot Grill on Lexington Avenue in Clifton, and Chris Betts, who with his brothers operated the Falls View Grill in Paterson.
About the Author
Timothy Lloyd is the Executive Director of the American Folklore Society. He lives in Columbus, Ohio.