Ten quick questions for Gary Sable, owner and sole employee of That Hot Dog Place, 30 Monmouth Street (next to the Dublin House). Garys 54, married, lives in Hazlet and has two grown daughters.
Did you have another career before you started this business?
Yeah. Before this, I had bar & restaurant in Perth Amboy called The Triangle Café with my brother, Scott, for 23 years. It was a family business. My father bought it in 66, and then he started getting sick. I went in in73, and my brother came in two years later.
The bar business is good when youre young, but once you get past 35, you dont want to be in that business anymore. The hours will kill you. Absolutely kill you.
I came down here in April of 95, and started out doing hot dogs, burgers, chicken sandwiches, all that stuff. Then I started to make soups that fall, and they really took off. So I threw out the charcoal grill, threw out the burgers and fries, threw out the grilled chicken. Just concentrated on soups, a limited sandwich menu and the hot dogs. I dont look back on that one. Not at all.
That simplified your life?
Sure did. I started out seven days a week for the first years, for six years I did six days a week, and now Im down to five. Doesnt get any better than that.
How big is this space?
One-hundred-and-seventy square-feet, about the size of a jail cell. Not that Ive ever been in one. Ill tell you something, this time of year, the first couple of weeks when it starts getting cold, and that door is closed, I get a little claustrophobic until I get used to it.
You day starts when?
Depending on how much soup Ive gotta make, 6, 6:30. Sometimes 5:30. Every morning, I chop all my own vegetables, make the soups. Everything is fresh. Sure, you can get pre-cut carrots and onions and potatoes and everything, but they treat them with chemicals. I dont want that. I might use frozen or canned stuff if I cant get it fresh year-round, but I like the farm markets. Ive been using the same Italian sausage for 20 years. Its the best Italian sausage you can get.
I also make a vegan soup every day. There are a lot of vegetarians in Red Bank.
So is your day a flat-out sprint?
(Raises eyebrows, nods vigorously.) But I like it that way. When you have a day thats slow, it just drags. Youve gotta remember, Im here by myself. Whatll I do all day? Look at the clock? Listen to the radio?
Friday are my slowest days, especially in the summer. Everybodys off playing golf. So whatevers left, I put in into containers and we have it at home. My Friday soups are always something my family likes, just in case we get stuck with it.
This is a life you enjoy?
I do enjoy it. Its like I told my son-in-law, If you dont like what you do for a living, find another job. Youll be doing it a long time. Youd better like it. I love what I do.
Youve got a picture of Lou Reed hanging on the wall. Why Lou Reed?
The Velvet Undergroundthat should say it all right there. You gotta love his staying power.
Do you get insight into human nature from this job that you might not get as a bartender?
Well, the first thing you can see is whos patient and whos not, because if theres a line, you could be waiting 20 minutes out there. You can tell whos having a good day and whos not. You can actually just look and see if somebodys going to give you a hard time because theyre mad about waiting. But most of them are sweethearts.
I assume some people make an association between you and a certain character from ‘Seinfeld.’
Yes, I do get that occasionally. I get a kick out if. But I am not like that guy. Ive never thrown anybody out. Plus, hes got a half a dozen people behind him cooking. Ive got me.
Which is more important, good food or comfortable shoes?
(Pauses 14 seconds) Good food. Good food. If you dont have comfortable shoes, you can take them off. But anybody whos eating good food, they just get happy.