Restaurant Reviews

Curse of the Bam-Beano

For the 43rd consecutive year, Arbetter's Hot Dogs will not be serving free baked beans "the day after the Boston Red Sox win the World Series." The Sox are an undeniably fine baseball team, and as of this writing have just steamrolled into the American League Championship Series, but anyone familiar with the "Curse of the Bambino" will surely share my prediction of pending beanlessness. The infamous hex was placed upon the Red Sox in 1918, when they won the World Series and owner Harry Frazee immediately thereafter sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees -- so he could fund the Broadway show No, No, Nanette. Boston has not won a championship since.

Beantown-bred Bob Arbetter first made the free bean pledge when he opened his original hot dog stand on Flagler Street in 1960; the business moved to its bright yellow present-day location in Westchester in 1972. I've considered calling Bob's son Ronnie, who runs the operation now, to suggest an upping of the ante. I mean how much incentive is a bowl of beans? Maybe throwing in a free hot dog as well could break that spell.

Inside, wooden plaques hang over the counter, each inscribed with an available hot dog or French fry variation: "hot dog with tangy relish" ($1.60); "kraut dog" with mustard and sauerkraut ($1.70); "chili onion dog" ($1.75); "all around dog" with mustard, onion, and relish ($1.45); "Miami dog" with mustard, onion, tomato, and cheese ($2); and the "West Virginia dog" with mustard, onion, chili, and slaw ($2.05). Corn dogs, too, though these are on my short list of foods I stay away from even at the expense of a well-informed public.

Arbetter's serves up a simple frank: The soft, light pink, mild, and mostly pork sausage gets boiled, plunked into a fluffy white bun, topped off, and next customer please. I imagine they are very similar to those served at Fenway Park.

Nothing fancy about the fries either, but they're crisp, clean, golden brown, and lightly salted -- a stellar preparation. I'm speaking of the "regular" fries ($1.45) -- topping these with chili or cheese ($2.35), and especially with chili and cheese ($2.85), mainly makes them soggy. Incidentally renaming French fries "freedom fries" is not a new wartime hysteria in this country -- during World War I, frankfurters and hamburgers, from Frankfurt and Hamburg, became, respectively, "hot dogs" and "Salisbury steak."

Arbetter's old slogan is "Our hot dogs ar-better." Well, not really, but they are just what they should be, meaning those in search of a good all-American frankfurter and solid side of fries won't be disappointed. I'm afraid, however, those hapless Red Sox fans hoping for a free plate of Boston baked beans will have to keep on waiting.

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Miami New Times' restaurant reviewer for the past decade, and the world's indisputable master of disguise.
Contact: Lee Klein