"...if you've moved to Westchester, but have never eaten a Walter's hot dog, you only have one foot in the county...Ordinary hot dogs could be found anywhere, but those at Walter's would be different...It is a hot dog that has become a legend...its fame has crossed continents and oceans." - Gannett Westchester Newspapers, 1985
The greatest hot dog stand that ever was is located about 30 minutes north of New York City on Palmer Avenue in Mamaroneck, New York. Growing up, there was always local chatter about Walter's being "legendary" and "world famous," but as I grew older I found out that these claims are not exaggerations. Often upon telling a stranger that I grew up in Westchester County he'll break into a smile and say, familiarly, "oh, Walter's Hot Dogs!"
This one-of-a-kind roadside stand is worth a visit. Across the street from the bucolic hillside of Mamaroneck High School, it's a very pleasant small-town setting in which to spend an afternoon... in line.
The line in front of the charming and anachronistic pagoda can be quite long, on summer afternoons you may gladly wait an hour or more. Displayed for customers are photos of the little league teams they sponsor and postcards from admirers around the globe.
The menu board is displayed inside the kitchen and you have to peer in the tiny service windows to see it, so you had better be prepared. I recommend you order a "doubledog" (two hotdogs in one bun, four halves) with "special mustard," a black & white "cowboy" shake (it's extra thick and made with both vanilla and chocolate syrup,) and either spicy curly fries or "sweet spuds," their thick-cut sweet potato french fries. If you've got room for more, their tiny italian ices perfectly compliment that huge and heavy meal.
Finally, some demystification: There's a pretty obvious and simple reason why Walter's hot dogs are tastier than any others -- they are sliced lengthwise and then fried in fat (most likely lard.) The mustard secret is also out, the tang is accomplished by mixing the mustard with finely chopped relish. This is not to downplay the glory of dining at Walter's, it is everything it's cracked up to be.
the official line:
Little did Walter Warrington know back in 1919, when he was starting his Hot Dog Stand, that it would be the beginning of a legend. For generations, his "splits" have been called, "the best Hot Dogs in the world."
When Walter opened his business, he decided to sell Hot Dogs along with his own pressed apple cider. He wanted to serve a Hot Dog different in taste and quality, so he contacted a local meat company. The result was a recipe for a specially blended Hot Dog that would not shrink, curl or burn when cooked in an entirely new way. Walter's innovation was to split the Hot Dog down the middle, grill it in a secret sauce, and serve it on a toasted bun with his own home-made Mustard. To this day, the Hot Dogs (which originally came in links in wooden barrels) and his own Mustard are still prepared according to his unique recipes, protected under trade secret agreements.
The Stand, a free-standing copper roofed Chinese pagoda, was declared an historical landmark by the Tri-Centennial Committee of Westchester County in 1983, typifying a 1920's road-side stand. Will Anderson, 1991 editor of Mid-Atlantic Road-Side Delights featured Walter's under "Present Day Delights" as "Westchester County's best-known contribution to road-side architecture," replete with a pictorial history and review.
In 1999, a documentary was aired in Tokyo, Japan, presenting Walter's in Mamaroneck as a famous eatery not to be missed on any visit to New York." The New York Times, The New York Daily News, The New York Post, and The Washington Post have all hailed Walter's as a culinary landmark to which even the President should journey, should he move to New York. Their maps of New York place a Hot Dog over Mamaroneck. If Walter only knew!
praise for Walter's:
In their "best of" issue, Westchester Weekly named Walter's "The Best Local Landmark That Happens to be a Sinful Pleasure"
Even if you're a kosher Islamic vegan on a Zone diet, you should skip out for a meal at Walter's. A local landmark since 1919, Walter's has their own unique method of grilling dogs, and they distill mustard like a bootlegger. The whole experience, from standing in line to dabbing the final dollop of ketchup from your mouth, is a Westchester treasure. Keep in mind, Walter's has no set closing time, management usually wraps things up when the line for food withers. In the summer, that can be pretty late.
Gourmet Magazine named Walter's the #1 hotdog joint in America.
Walter's is a pagoda-shaped roadside stand that has been serving incomparable hot dogs sine 1919. A frank of beef, pork, and veal( made exclusively for Walter's) is split lengthwise, coated with secret sauce, and cooked on a grill. However you like your 'dog', have it with mustard (it's Walter's own - grainy and dotted with pickle bits!) On a pleasant day, you can dine in a grove of picnic tables suited to the devouring of multiple hot dogs and the drinking of excellent malt (or egg creams). In inclement weather, you're on your own; Walter's has no inside seats.
The New York Times has said,
There are hot dogs and there are hot dogs. But in Westchester there is only one hot dog worthy of the name and it is sold in only one place...Walter's
And the Westchester County Board of Legislatures issued a Proclamation in 1979
Whereas, the owners of this long-established institution, by reason of their unique and unusual cookery, have raised the status of that simple American food, the frankfurter, to the level of an Epicurean delight.