A new hot dog place has come to New Paltz. H.D. Dick’s, which stands for Hot Diggity Dick’s, now occupies the space formerly used by Sweets at 15 1/2 N. Front Street.
While the shop is new, owners Jim Garofalo and LuLin Fong — a husband-and-wife team — have been serving up frankfurters since the late 1980s.
“About 25 years ago, we bought a hot dog truck. And it needed to be renovated. It was a clunker, I mean an old clunker. It’d been parked under some guy’s pine tree for years,” Garofalo said. “I bought it, I completely renovated it and called it ‘Hot Diggity Dogs.’”
The couple ran the truck out of Yorktown Heights, in Westchester County, serving curious hot dog mash-up recipes to hungry patrons for years.
Garofalo has always been an experimenter — not satisfied with standard ketchup and mustard, he started serving dogs topped with mashed potatoes and gravy, potato salad, macaroni and cheese, or scrambled eggs.
“We began to realize, wow, people were starting to eat our hot dogs like crazy,” he said. “It’s like, ‘Who would think to put potato salad on a grilled hot dog?’”
Luckily his wife is also an ingredient experimenter too. The genesis of the scrambled egg dog called the Finkel Finkel came from the couple’s son.
“After we got the hot dog truck rolling, my son who was about 4 years old and on his way home from nursery school one day — his mother asked him what he wanted for lunch. And he said, ‘I finkel have, I finkel have.’ And she was teasing him,” he explained.
Fong called her son Finkel Finkel, which ended up reducing the child to tears. The only thing that calmed him down was a hot dog topped with scrambled eggs and ketchup. “He liked it so much, he asked her to make a second plate — at 4 years old,” he said. “So that became our Finkel Finkel.”
For the couple, hot dogs have also been a big part of their life. When they have family or friends over, Garofalo and Fong throw parties serving up hot dogs and burgers topped with the strangest things. The dishes people like find their way onto the menu board.
When the couple’s daughter did her undergrad at SUNY New Paltz in the early 2000s, the twosome behind H.D. Dick’s fell in love with Ulster County. When they got to town, though, they noticed a lack of anything hot dog related.
“We were looking for a community that maybe had a need for this type of niche,” he said.
Careful readers might have noticed by now that the couple’s original business name changed. What once was Hot Diggity Dogs is now H.D. Dick’s. The change came to honor a late friend.
“An old friend of ours, his name is Richard but he goes by Dick, had made some comments about — I don’t remember which dog it was. And I said to him to him, that’s what we’ll do — we’ll call it ‘Dick’s’. We’ll call it Hot Diggity Dick’s — wait a minute that’s too long, we’ll call it H.D. Dick’s.”
When their old friend passed away, they renamed the business as a memorial to him. “He was just one of those guys that made such an impression on you that you just loved being around him,” he said. “It’s always a memory every time I see the name or think of it. It’s always a memory of his humor.”
At the shop, all the toppings are homemade from scratch. H.D. Dick’s focuses on using local, organic ingredients and making their food fresh. Their menu has vegetarian and gluten-free options. While primarily known for hot dogs, the restaurant also serves hamburgers much in the same vein.
For instance, the Hen Pecked is a burger topped with a fried egg and American cheese. The Cabbie is a burger topped with coleslaw.
Diners curious about H.D. Dick’s would be best served by picking something outside their comfort zone. It seems clear that a lot of Garofalo’s love and energy goes into making the wackiest of ingredient mash-ups. And as wise foodies and restaurant lovers already know, it’s often the chef’s favorite that’s the best on the menu. So go with something crazy — like a Devil Dog topped with egg salad, or the Mac Daddy topped with mac-and-cheese and gravy — and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
H.D. Dick’s delivers locally to addresses within 5 miles of the store on Front Street. Delivery hours are limited to 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. and from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Delivery orders must be $15 or more.
Store hours are as follows: noon till 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays; noon till 9 p.m. Fridays through Saturdays; and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. The couple hopes to expand those Sunday hours soon, so keep an eye on the store for any changes.
For more information, call 255-2224 or find the H.D. Dick’s by searching for them on Facebook.