Look, I’m no Joey Chestnut… but I’m usually able to keep pace with the best of the them when it comes to hot dogs. Let’s just say, on my recent visit to Tower Dogs in Lawrence my eyes were bigger than my stomach and I may have met my match.
A newcomer to the restaurant scene in Mercer County, Tower Dogs is the brainchild of Chef Jim Forkel, and named for his position as Head Chef at Princeton University’s “Tower” eating club. According to their website, Chef Jim developed the menu feeding hungry students and uses local fresh ingredients when possible. All of the sauces are made from scratch (I assume that doesn’t include ketchup… but since ketchup has no place on a hotdog whatsoever, that didn’t come up).
The dogs themselves were big and cooked to have a nice “snap.”
No “dirty water dogs” here. The dogs that I tried (they also have chicken sausage, bratwurst, falafel and chicken) had a pleasantly beefy spice to them. The website says they only use “100% steak cuts of beef, no fillers and limited preservatives” – that sounds about right. I found the topping combinations innovative, though I did ignore that and go for a traditional “Chicago” Dog. Tower’s version was correctly served on a poppyseed bun, with enough of the right toppings to count as a Chicago dog in my book. In lieu of sliced tomatoes, there was a very nice salsa/compote addition.
Other than their boardwalk fries, all their french fries are waffle fries. They were really nice with their suggested toppings but I can’t speak to whether they are okay “plain” (i.e., don’t seem homemade).
I had the Roadhouse fries which were covered with BBQ sauce, bacon, ranch, cheese and other yummy stuff. It was not sized for one person, that’s for sure. Bring friends to share.
I also had a “Tower Dog” which was wrapped in bacon (reminding me of one of my old, though now closed, favorites in Verona NJ called “Amazing Hot Dogs“) and covered with spicy mustard, cheese sauce and chopped up french fries. To quote future former presidential candidate Donald Trump: It’s HUGE.
As I noted before, the specialty dogs are huge and getting two dogs and a tower fries was enough for several people. Having said that… it’s certainly priced for several people. The Tower Dog came in at $8, the Chicago Dog at $7.50 and the Roadhouse Fries $7.50. For drinks, the restaurant has a Coke Freestyle machine… so the sky’s the limit for soda choices (unless you want Pepsi). The ordering system is just as fancy as the hot dog combos – diners are greeted with a row of tablets to make their choices. While pretty simple to use, I might prefer the experience of interacting with a person. Plus, in my case, I would have known how to order food for just one person… instead of a family of four.
Tower Dogs is located at 4110 Quakerbridge Road in Lawrence NJ, in the shopping center next to the new Costco. Like Costco, they don’t take American Express (much to this eater’s disappointment). For more information about our area’s rich history of hotdogs, I highly recommend checking out Philadelphia journalist Holly Moore’s website HollyEats.com.
MercerMe contributor Ryan Kennedy is a member of the Lawrence Township Growth and Redevelopment Committee, and encourages Lawrence shoppers and dinners to nominate their favorite businesses, new and old, for this fall’s annual Township awards.