With Memorial Day upon us, hot dog season is here.
Before you light the grill, take some advice from Tony Palumbo who owns Tony’s Bayview Drive-In at 3804 Lakeshore Road in Blasdell. The self-taught restaurant owner has been grilling dogs for 34 years and has perfected the skill, which explains why so many customers tell him the food tastes better at Tony’s than at home – not to mention that you can wash it down with a milkshake of your choice from 30 flavors.
Palumbo shares some advice and welcomes you to stop in for a taste:
Question: First off, what is the trick to grilling the perfect hot dog?
Palumbo: Patience. People have to realize there’s no such thing as eating a raw hot dog because they’re smoked. We slice them three or four times on each side and cook them as slow as we can. If you cook them slow and they plump up and get a glaze on them, you’re doing it right. If they shrivel up, it means you’re cooking them too fast.
Q: I think I need more patience. How common is that?
A: It happens to the best of us. Especially at home, it’s hard because you light a fire and here we have a fire continuously going so it’s easier. It’s actually easier to cook here than at my own house.
Q: Customers are always lining up at Tony’s. How does the weather play a role?
A: A lot of that has to do with the sunshine. Sunny and 60 is better for us than cloudy and 70. Sunshine does something to people. It’s amazing. And after 34 years, I can regulate business by the weather.
Q: Have you had a record day or is there a certain time of year that’s busiest?
A: Usually early spring when people get summer fever. April and May are all our record days and that’s before beaches are open and before boats are out and before people have grills out so they come here. We’ve had bigger weeks, but days aren’t as crazy.
Q: How many hot dogs are we talking about?
A: We do anywhere from 100 to 1,000 hot dogs in a day. We’re located between two beaches so that helps us over the summer.
Q: You have a new, colorful menu behind the counter. How have you updated it?
A: Every year we tweak it. This year we are trying to get a little more health conscious with a veggie taco and a turkey burger, but our customers are into ice cream and hot dogs. I tried salads for years and we can’t even give them away. Perry’s and Sahlen’s - we’ve had both of those for 30-plus years. We also do a lot of sandwiches and curly Qs.
Q: After 34 years, have you seen the customers change?
A: We see a lot of new, young families which is nice. Kids from 30 years ago are bringing their kids in. That’s what makes it easy to be here 30 years. You have to like it if you want to put in 80 hours a week for 30 years. It’s just a different lifestyle. It’s a passion. Thirty-four years and customers have been great to us and my family thanks everybody.