Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Jimmy Buffs: One of New Jersey's Premier Grease Cuisine Spots

This past week we were taking care of my mother-in-law at our house. We took her back to West Orange on Saturday and from West Orange I headed over to Flushing Meadow in Queens to officiate at a wedding. (What a crazy day). When I got back, to West Orange, to my delight, I found a sandwich from one of my favorite New Jersey "grease cusine" places--a double Italian Hot Dog Sandwich from Jimmy Buffs. One of the cool things about living in New Jersey for a foodie is that because of the density and ethnic diversity of our population you will find food specialties that are known no where else except in that little area where the food originated. As people spread out from those areas, the special food spreads with them. Take for instance the hot dog. I already blogged about the Texas Weiner. This a particularly Passaic, County way of eating hotdogs. The Italian Hotdog, as exemplified by Jimmy Buff's is pretty much an Essex County way eating hotdogs. The first Italian Hot Dog was made in Newark and has spead to where ever folk from Newark and Essex County have settled through out New Jersey. Although you can get an Italian Hotdog in lots of pizza places in Jersey, they are all pale imitiatons of the authentic Jimmy Buffs dog.

What is so special about a Jimmy Buffs Italian Hotodog? There are two ingredients that are responsible for its uniqueness. The first if the bread, and the second is the grease. (Please be advised that when I use the word grease, I use it not in a pejorative way, but with intense appreciation and fondness for the flavors that can only be transmitted by high quality fat that has been seasoned by many uses.) When you go to Jimmy Buffs in West Orange, you enter this little stand with a tiny counter. The cook, (sometimes Jimmy, the boss, and son of the original Jimmy Buff or one of his sons), will take your order. If you order a double he will cut a loaf of Pizza bread in half. (Pizza bread is a round, flat, fat Italin Bread. Jimmy says it's short for "fat pita"). I don't know where Jimmy Buffs gets their bread, but it is very high quality. I am sure that it comes from one of the great Italian bakeries that had it's origins in the North Ward of Newark. Then the cook takes two hot dogs, (the kind with the skin on 'em so they split when they cook and snap when you bite into them) and deep fries them. Just a word about that grease. There is legend that the grease that is used is the same grease that Jimmy's father fried his first hot dogs in. As the grease evaporated, more was added. The legend goes that as Jimmy expanded, he took a portion of that grease to the new Jimmy Buffs store as a starter. I am sure this is just a legend, but it grows out the knowledge folks have that one of the secrets of Jimmy Buffs is how all the flavors blend together from cooking the hotdogs, pepper, onions, potatoes, sausage, etc. in that one big flat flyer.

While the dogs are frying the cook takes a portion of fresh cut potatoes, sliced onions and peppers and fries them in that same oil. Then he will put your condiments on the bread. I take mustard and ketchup on my Jimmy Buffs. Finally the dogs and vegetables are stuffed into the bread and it is wrapped up and packed to go. By the way, my 87 year old mother-in-law has been eating these things all her life and enjoyed one with us on Saturday. Maybe it is the secret to long life. What a great way to eat a hot dog!


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Anonymous said...

I was born in Newark, NJ and grew up there being introduced to Jimmy Buff hotdogs when I was fairly young. I still can not find anything as satisfying in the way of a hotdog!
My mother and father's first date concluded at Jimmy Buff's...where she ordered her first JB hotdog! The rest is history. They married in 1942 and had four kids. I'm the 3rd child and all my siblings still compare JB's hotdogs to other attempts at Italian hotdogs. Every trip home to Jersey includes a stop at Jimmy Buff's. My aunt used to buy them unassembled and bring them to PA where we lived after 1969.
Congrats on your 75th anniversary. I live in Baton Rouge, LA now and wish these folks down here, had a clue what JB's are like. DeAngelo's from Hoboken moved down here and they have several Italian restaurants that I enjoy eating at...but nothing beats a JB hotdog! Keep making them dogs....I plan to go to Jersey in the future and will look for you then!
Sincerely, Suzanne Gorencel Ambs formerly of Irvington, NJ

John A said...

I live in New Hampshire but received an email today from a friend in Florida who recalled our lunch meetings at Jimmy Buff's in, I believe, Hanover, years back.
However, my first JB's experience was in Newark while I worked at AT&T in William St.
Back in '65 a guy named Jimmy Hall would drive us over to Jimmy Buff's and (I think his name was 'Frank') waited on us. Boy, they were good!!!

John Diefenbach
Mason, NH

Anonymous said...

Jimmy Buff's... Love 'em.

I grew up in Orange and Jimmy was a local favorite. He had a little shop around the corner - I think it might have been om Mechanic Street. Anyway, I'd pass it every day on the way home from school (1950's-1960's) and it was one of my favorites (along with white castle sliders and nails.) In the mid 60's we moved to Whippany and a short while later Jimmy opened his shop in E. Hanover. It was great!

I saw his shop featured a while back on one of the Travel channel specials where they were counting down the top 10 hot dog joints in the country. His store in E Hanover was visited and he came in at no. 2.

I've lived north of Denver for the last 32 years and have tried in vain to find the pizza bread. It doesn't seem to be available here, but I am always on the lookout. Maybe I can visit a local bakery and ask them to whip up a couple of loaves of "fat pita" bread.

Thanks for the pictures and the memories!

Anonymous said...

I was born in Newark (in 1948), and lived there until I was 6. Jimmy Buff's was always my favorite. We went to the one near the reservoir tavern by the old Newark reservoir. We still went there after we moved to Hillside. I love them today! The one on Route 22 near Bowcraft, was my latter day place. Delicious! The story about the grease only being added to, never changed is legend! I believe!