It takes a lot of chutzpah to start a hotdog joint in the Capital Region.
We know our hotdogs, especially mini dogs. While other parts of the state have their own spins on hotdogs -- Plattsburgh: Michigans, Syracuse: white hots, New York City: dirty water dogs -- mini dogs are the exclusive claim of the Capital Region. Others try to replicate, but few meet the standards we find here.
And as it is, we already have enough mini dog eateries to keep us well-stocked. From Famous Lunch to Ted's Fish Fry, one doesn't have to look far to find a decent mini dog.
But now there is one more: Pete's Pups, in Rotterdam. And while it may be easy to overlook a new kid in preference for an experienced veteran, this underdog doesn't just bark, it bites with full force, too.
Schenectady proper is flush with hotdog stands (Mike's, Newest Lunch), but go outward in Schenectady County and the same quality of hotdog can be tough to find. But now in western Rotterdam, there is Pete's Pups, which relies on Helmbolds mini dogs and White Eagle sausages. Many of the toppings are made in-house, and that goes for the meat sauce, which is the icon accoutrement for Capital Region mini dogs.
The location of Pete's Pups is right next to a popular truck stop, at the junction between I-88 and I-90, and abuts a State Trooper outpost. Its presence is a smart marketing move, as hotdogs are quick and portable, and grabbing lunch or an easy dinner here is a good option when the only other prospect is a gas station Dunkin' Donuts next door, or something from the hot case of death so prevalent in convenience stores.
But none of that matters if the food doesn't measure up.
Pete's is smart in sourcing from a trusted local brand. Throwing one's hat into the hotdog ring is a surefire run though the gauntlet around these parts, but Pete's limits risk and potential criticism by relying on the same brands most other hotdog vendors here use. So if you've ever had a mini dog locally, Pete's tastes about the same (including that "snap" of the skin on each tube of meat).
The flourishes that each place employs are what set them apart from the competition. Pete's does this by way of meat sauce. Crumbled meat in a spiced tomato sauce is what you'll find here, but do not confuse "spiced" for "spicy." Pete's meat sauce is earthy and round with cumin, cinnamon, and paprika (almost a garam masala-meets-goulash taste), but lacks any discernible heat. Opt for pickled hot peppers atop your meat sauce if you need more kick.
I prefer my litter of pups with mustard, relish, and chopped white onion: A hard order to fudge.
By the name alone, Pete's Pups is most definitely a hotdog specialist. Do not overlook what else is on the menu. The sides are all excellent (especially the macaroni and cheese), and save room for a Creamsicle float.
Pete's is all about the deal, too, so you can get a filling meal (with drink and dessert) for less than $10.
1222 Duanesburg Road
Rotterdam, NY 12306
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