Rutt’s Hut: NJ History

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Olivia Mistretta, Senior Staff Editor

Rutt’s Hut is arguably one of the most legendary restaurants in all of New Jersey. The restaurant is notorious for its famous hot dog, “The Ripper”, and has been rated the #1 place to get a hot dog in the country for three years. (They have an award to prove it!)  Right before the coronavirus pandemic shut down the state, I was incredibly lucky to have lunch there and interview Vasilios Chrisafinis, one of the owners.

My first question dealt with the menu. The restaurant is 92 years old, how has the menu changed over the years? The answer was surprising, “Pretty much [the same] for the most part. The core items here have been the same, the hot dog has been on the menu since 1928” Chrisafinis told me. 

So what’s the secret to the Ripper? What makes a Rutt’s Hut hot dog so special? “It’s a deep fried hot dog, specially made. A supermarket hot dog wouldn’t withstand our process, it would turn black. Our homemade relish is the secret of the house. You can’t get this anywhere else in the world,” At the counter I got a good look at the homemade relish. I have to admit, no store-bought relish could ever begin to taste so unique or delicious!

The success of the restaurant can also be attributed to the loyalty customers have to Rutt’s Hut.  They simply love the food, and they’ll always keep coming back. Chrisafinis told me that he’s seen people grow up coming to the restaurant, “We’re an old school business. Rutt’s Hut doesn’t change, people know it’s always gonna be the same. Some people have been coming here for 50, 60, 70, even 80 and 90 years! We’ve seen four generations of people show up, it’s a testament to the establishment.” This is certainly true and will probably remain so for decades to come. Never let it be said that New Jerseyans don’t enjoy a good Ripper!

Looking even deeper into the enigma of this restaurant, it is easy to see why the hot dogs became so renowned (and not just because they taste amazing!) A hot dog is a simple, comforting food to eat that anybody can enjoy. Chrisafinis put it best when describing the beauty of the hot dog, “Everybody eats a hot dog, [it] has no economic barrier.”

When asked about his favorite part in running the restaurant, Chrisafinis simply replied, “The customers, seeing the satisfaction when someone bites into a hot dog [and] seeing a smile on everyone’s face.”

All in all, I think it’s safe to say that if you’re looking to experience a piece of NJ history, have an amazing meal, and support a local business, Rutt’s Hut is a place to check out!