New York State hot dog cookery covers a broad stylistic swath, from the snapping, garlicky beef franks of “The City,” to the slashed, grilled-over-coals beef-and-pork beauties of Buffalo and Rochester. Virtually every city of any size will have one or more old-time hot dog shops, often passing the years with little or no attention, but with a steady, loyal clientele.
Tony’s Texas Hots is one such place, located in Johnson City, Binghamton’s neighbor to the west. Texas Hots is upstate New York lingo for what most of the country calls hot dogs, and just as often seems to refer to what most people call chili dogs.
Tony’s has been around for longer than anyone seems to remember. To locals, it’s just always been here. It’s a narrow luncheonette that’s been recently spiffed up a bit, a row of stools at the counter in front, and just a few tables in the scruffy back area. The thing to get is a chili dog with onions. This is not the sort of hot dog one would want to eat naked; it cries out for adornment, and the chili and mustard and onions together make it sing. And we do recommend you get the diced raw onions, which provide the necessary crunchy balance to what would otherwise be a rather pinguid sandwich.
We spoke with one gentleman dining at the counter, who told us he was a former Binghamtonian now living in Florida. He said he makes a point of coming back periodically for his Texas Hot fix. Nothing like it where he now lives. We can believe it, as there may be no place left in town more evocative of a Binghamton of decades past.