“I always wanted to own a hot dog stand, every since I was really young,” said Tony Gerbasio. Recently retired after 31 years at UPS, he leased the concession stand in the building adjacent to the ice skating rink in Buchmuller Park and set up Just Dogs as a family business.
After a soft opening in May, the Gerbasios cut the ribbon in an official ceremony with Mayor Michael Gonnelli and members of the Town Council on Saturday, June 13. The event was part of the Secaucus Family Funival, accompanied by a hot dog eating contest. Patrick Ambrosio won the contest, packing down nine dogs in three minutes.
Meanwhile patrons lined up across the park to taste the delectable treats on offer at Just Dogs.
The stand offers a variety of specialty dogs with gourmet toppings not found in roving hot dog carts.
“The Bacon Jack Dog is the most popular,” said Tony’s son Vinnie.
And with good reason. Stuffed with pepper jack cheese, the dog is wrapped in bacon and topped with avocado and chipotle mayonnaise, and it is heavenly.
Other offerings include the Reuben Dog; the B.L.T. Dog; the Mr. G., topped with peppers, onions, and potatoes; and the Chimichonga Dog, deep fried and wrapped in a flour tortilla topped with cheddar cheese, salsa, sour cream, and jalapenos.
Do-it-yourselfers can build their own meal, starting with a Hebrew National or Nathan’s dog and adding a selection of toppings, sauces, and cheeses, with four different flavors of fries on the side.
“Last week in the rain people came with umbrellas up to the window,” said Tony. “You put the right product out, they’ll come.”
Just Dogs also offers free delivery. Their full menu and hours of operation can be found at mmgkitchen.com.
A family business
Tony’s son Matt Gerbasio graduated from the Institute of Culinary Education in 2012 and worked in restaurants and country clubs in Connecticut and New York. With his dad eager to launch a hot dog stand, he brought his culinary skills home to Secaucus. “I put together the menu that I thought people would like,” he said.
Matt’s brother Vinnie handles much of the administrative work for the operation. “I make sure everything is stocked, run the register, run the counter,” said Vinnie. “I take deliveries as well.”
Just Dogs is open seven days a week, offering a variety of specialty dogs with gourmet toppings.
Why the switch to hot dogs? “I just wanted to be with my family,” he said.
Tony Gerbasio, in addition to working the stand, mans a concession stand during softball games in town. Debbie Gerbasio, a teacher at the high school, pitches in to help her husband and sons serve and greet customers. She also painted the stained glass windows at the stand.
“We are 100 percent family-run,” said Vinnie.
On a recent Sunday, families and clusters of friends headed into the park to load up on specialty dogs. Sitting at one of the picnic tables nearby were three local residents, enjoying a meal.
Jim Logan and Ken Snedeker were each chowing down on two dogs slathered in sauerkraut and mustard. “But you gotta try the Cutola,” insisted Logan, referring to a deep-fried bacon-wrapped Hebrew National topped with chili and Muenster cheese.
Sitting across from him, John Gerbasio – Tony’s brother – noshed on a Double Dog: two hot dogs stuffed with peppers and onions and topped with horseradish mustard. He also recommended the Mr. G and the Taylor Ham Dog.
“The Taylor Ham, it’s on Texas toast,” he said. “I went to the Board of Ed office and told them, ‘If you’re going for hot dogs, try their Taylor Ham.’ Next day, three women came in and said that was the best dog they ever had.”
“My father would take us for hot dogs all the time,” said Tony about the childhood inspiration to open his own stand. “We went everywhere. He loved to go to Coney Island and he would stop at Coney Island every chance he got. When we were kids we would go to a cart on Canal Street because my grandmother lived in Brooklyn. We had to stop for hot dogs first. That was a big part of our Sundays when we were younger.”
“It’s something that Secaucus was lacking,” said Debbie.
Not anymore. Just Dogs is open seven days a week from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. (till 2:30 p.m. on Mondays) and they plan to remain open year-round. They can be reached at (551) 800-2360 for free delivery.
As for future plans, “If he does well here, we’d love to expand,” said Tony about Chef Matt. “He’d love to own a place in town and break out from there. I would think he’d start out with dogs and eventually have salads, cheese steaks. He makes a hell of a meatball too.”
Art Schwartz may be reached at email@example.com.