I cannot stress how much I wanted to love Teo’s. With the 28 glowing Yelp reviews, the praise from Roadfood, and the promises reeking of nostalgia and meat sauce, I figured that spending $15 on gas for a three hour trip wasn’t the worst I could do. And with photos like this, how could I not check it out? The frosted glass and wood-grained paper plates only added to my building gusto.
On the surface, it looked like a greasy, offbeat dive bar with wonderful local hot dogs. Teo’s is located in a neighborhood in the middle of the Berkshires similar to the one my mother grew up in, a blue-collar industrial town largely dominated by factories and farms. Drawn to such places and their respective eateries, I was immediately entranced by the comfortable, dank atmosphere of Teo’s with its grimy stained glass windows, lingering decades-old cigarette stench, and lottery machines in the corners of each dining room. This is a restaurant with obvious regulars. They sit at the bar and watch TV while eating their hot dogs, presumably on break from the local factory.
I ordered a classic combination per the recommendations of the internet- two hot dogs with everything, everything being meat sauce, mustard, and onions, and a root beer. I paid my $4.50 and sat down at a table. Waitresses brought steaming plates of hot dogs over to other patrons, and I waited. Ten minutes later, I noticed the waitress beckoning me from the corner of my eye, shouting, “Two everything. Two everything.” I came over and received a sad, greasy paper bag with two hot dogs crammed in wax paper and thrown in. When I told her that I wanted to eat in, she merely shoved the bag at me and raised her eyebrows. She was done helping, that much was true.
The hot dogs are around four inches long, hence my ordering two, and are gently nestled in New England-style hot dog buns about an inch longer than their contents. All the better to hold you with, my dear. The buns weren’t so much steamed as they were saturated and rendered mushy and pasty with the seepage from the sauce and mustard, and the outsides were smeared with a lethal combination of the two. Now, I understand that the whole experience of a dive is swift and unglamorous service, but this was unacceptable. Raising the little sausage to my lips, I felt as though I was embarking on some terrible, 2 girls 1 cup inspired version of Fear Factor. And to be honest, I might not have been able to tell the difference had these just been given to me on a plate.
The fully erect hot dog, positively referred to as “snappy,” seemed to be more in the realm of rubbery and turgid when I got it. The texture was purely Bubblicious, if Bubblicious came in a salty hot dog flavor. The casing was tough to rip through, so chewy that in the grip of my last bite, the hot dog gave up, squirted out the bun, and landed on the floor, leaving a dirty trail of condiments in its wake. Inside the casing is a chunky, beefy meat that tastes mainly of salt and fat. This hot dog is the epitome of the choking warning that every childhood and chain letter inevitably came with.
When ordering, I noticed a wide discrepancy of cooking levels on the hot dogs, ranging from pink and fleshy to burnt and crispy. I requested well-done and received undercooked. The insides were cool and tough, reminding me of my elementary school’s reviled boiled hot dogs as a child, though even those were preferable to these little suckers. I was not only tired and hungry from the car ride, but baffled as well. The teaspoon of meat sauce slopped onto my hot dogs was also salty, and with the one-noted flavors of the entire thing, the dominant taste was the mustard, and a weak, watery one at that. I’ve had better service and quality from a Bronx-based White Castle in the middle of the night. Although my portion was small, I was glad I had not ordered more as the resulting two left a slimy feeling in my mouth and an ache in my stomach later on.
Going to Teo’s, I felt pretty burnt, as I’d spent a good chunk of my day making the trip out and had been stiffed in the process. It was unfortunate to find that my money clearly wasn’t as good as that of the regulars. In an establishment such as this, I know I’m not the top dog, but the real charm in going to a restaurant is knowing that and still being treated as though you go there every day. Unless you can receive that, why bother going? At least it beats The Suburban.
Note to Eastern CT readers: Last week, a significant part of my grandmother’s property was broken into and trashed. I spent a good part of my childhood there and am greatly distressed. While I’d rather not reveal too much here, I’d love it if any locals could email me and give me any possible information they have on it to turn over to the police. Our family is quite upset and would appreciate any help.