Buffalo has a few instantly recognizable smells: the fragrance of freshly baked Cheerios from the General Mills plant, the scent of wings just tossed in hot sauce, and the aroma of Sahlen’s Hot Dogs (who are celebrating 150 years in business in 2019) grilled over charcoal at Ted’s Hot Dogs.
Going to Ted’s with my dad was a late winter tradition growing up, a way of putting the cold and snow in the rear view mirror. We would be in good company as the customer line typically stretched to the door, full of patrons dressed in winter coats awaiting their first taste of summer. That chargrilled aroma greeted us as soon as we left the car and seemed to hang over the Sheridan Drive location we visited. Stepping inside was always a sensory overload: the sizzle of French fries and onion rings in the deep fryer, the orders shouted from the customers to the staff behind the grill and that irresistible smell of char-grilled fare.
I loved Ted’s, but never thought it was extraordinary growing up. It was only once I moved away and started trying other hot dog joints in comparison that I realized how unique this Buffalo institution was. Those boiled dogs sold at chains like Nathan’s can’t hold a candle to Ted’s.
The rest of the country is starting to notice too. USA TODAY Great American Bites columnist Larry Olmsted recently described the Ted’s as “Buffalo’s other classic food fave.” And Michael Stern, co-author of several books on America’s best regional foods, recently told me in an interview for our upcoming visitor guide that “nobody has those charcoal broiled dogs like you have at Ted’s… They get slapped around, they get poked, all of that creates more surface area to create that crunchy, sometimes verging on burnt flavor that I think make a hot dog so delicious.”
A few tips for your next Ted’s visit:
1. Try the footlong with the works. Ted’s homemade hot relish is out of this world; combine it with Buffalo’s own Weber’s mustard, pickles, onions and ketchup for the ideal dog.
2. Ask for your hot dog “extra charred.” Mary Roberts, executive director of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House Complex, offered columnist Larry Olmsted this advice while he was visiting. The extra minutes on the grill help seal in the flavor and make it extra crunchy.
3. Order the onion rings. Ted’s French fries are excellent, but the rings are a noticeable, delicious deviation from the restaurant standard – more of a pile of fried fresh onions than your typical ring. The difference brings out the onions’ flavor. And if you really can’t part with the fries, go for a “Split” – half rings, half fries.
Happy 92nd anniversary, Ted’s. Here’s to many more years as one of Buffalo’s all-time classic food joints!