Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tony's Texas Hots

Name: Tony's Texas Hots
Location: 300 Main St., Johnson City, NY 13790
Phone: (607) 797-0366
Cuisine: Diner (Breakfast/Lunch), Hot Dogs!
Price: Around $5 per person. Very cheap.

I am a diehard fan of the Cincinnati Bengals. (That is probably the oddest way that I could begin a review of a hot dog joint in Johnson City, NY, but bear with me.) I'm such a big supporter of the team that I made the 10-hour drive from Binghamton to Cincinnati for the Bengals' playoff game against the Jets back in January.

My team didn't win, but one positive development from the trip was that I was able to try Cincy's famous Skyline Chili for the first time. Perhaps the most popular item available at these fast-food landmarks is the Cheese Coney. A cheese coney consists of a hot dog, mustard, chopped onion, Cincy's famous Greek-style chili and a ginormous mound of finely shredded cheddar cheese on top. It's said that Skyline Chili is one of those foods you either love or hate, and I certainly fell into the former camp. Upon returning home, I found that Wegman's sells Skyline Chili in cans, which I tried a couple times, but I'll probably hold off on having more Skyline until my next visit to Cincy, hopefully for another playoff contest this season.

My point is, I like a good chili dog, and there are a couple places in the Triple Cities that specialize in Texas Hot Dogs. Despite the name, "Texas Hots" are usually found only in Central and Western New York State and parts of Pennsylvania. They get the name from the fact that chili, or some other spicy meat sauce, is used as a main topping. Tony's Texas Hots is one such place that serves these creations as its signature item.

Having lived in Johnson City for a number of years now, I have long wondered about Tony's. It's located across from the Post Office on Main St., and despite driving past it many, many times, I don't know that I had ever seen anyone enter or exit the place. The most I could say about it is that its phallic-looking hot dog logo on the sign was rather amusing. I had absolutely no idea what it would be like before I went in, but figured the pursuit of a good chili dog would be worth finding out.

As it turns out, Tony's is more of a traditional diner on the inside than simply a hot dog stand. It's a very small restaurant with a few tables in the back, but it appeared that most patrons preferred to sit at the counter in front, a medium-length coffee counter with about 8-10 stools. To my surprise, there were about four or five other patrons enjoying breakfast or lunch when I arrived. I placed an order for two Chili Dogs with the gentleman running the cash register, and a couple minutes and $4.90 later I had them in my possession.

I have to admit, I was not expecting much at all from this place. It's the veritable definition of a hole-in-the-wall, and I'd never heard a word (good or bad) about it in my decade of living in the area. But I'll be damned...these hot dogs were really good! With a light coating of mustard, chopped onion, and a healthy topping of chili, I'd have to say that these dogs reminded me somewhat of those I'd had in Cincinnati. The major difference between the two is the chili itself. Cincinnati-style chili is kind of indescribable. It's beanless, kind of clumpy, and the meat is ground very fine, and is spiced with all sorts of weird stuff like cinnamon and maybe chocolate. As for the chili on these Texas Hots, it was definitely more like traditional chili. It also lacked beans (which I understand is the custom) and had a sweeter, less spicy flavor than the Tex-Mex chili that I'm accustomed to.

In the end, I was glad to have tried these out and would definitely eat them again. If nothing else, I was glad to have tried a place that appears to be in somewhat of a historic location (anyone know how long Tony's has been around? I'm guessing it's one of the area's oldest restaurants...) and which offers a regional specialty food item. They're nothing amazing, but Tony's Texas Hots definitely helped satiate my hunger for a good chili dog until my next trip to the Queen City.

Grade: B

Tony's Texas Hots on Urbanspoon


  1. I've only had their hot dogs once and wasn't too crazy about them. I grew up in Wilkes-Barre, where they have Abe's Hot Dogs, which are absolutely amazing! They've been around forever and are well known by everyone for how good they are. The next time you make a beer run to NEPA, do check out Abe's Hot Dogs on South Main Street. That's the best location. Order a couple "with everything." You'll love them!

  2. I was out for a spin yesterday and spotted Tony's Texas Hots on Main St. as I was heading back to PA. I thought it looked like an interesting place, having found in my travels that some of the best food is found in these little hole-in-the-wall joints. But I had just eaten a heavy lunch and I didn't feel like eating much of anything, so I figured I'd save Tony's for another day. Here in the Scranton area the best "Texas Hots" or "Coney Island Dogs" are found at The Coney Island Lunch on Cedar Avenue (as opposed to the identically named rival Coney Island Lunch around the corner on Lackawanna). After reading a couple of reviews about Tony's, my mouth is watering and I shall be heading there sometime in the next week or so.

  3. You're right, Tony's has been around forever. I used to eat there 55 years ago, and the place was around a lot longer than that. When I was a teenager, going to JC High I in the early 60s, you couldn't get in there at lunch -- the place was packed with high school kids and the workers from the shoe factories around there. Tony's business died along with the rest of Main Street. Now, every year or so when I get back north and stop in for lunch, Peter tries to sell me the place. Heck, I don't want the diner, just the chili recipe and the flattop.


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