Stan Linkowski hails from Buffalo, N.Y., and came to Boise to open his restaurant after 40 years of trying to secure the secret recipe for a hot dog sauce from a retired dog connoisseur on the East Coast. With the recipe in hand, Linkowski opened up Stan's Charbroiled Hot Dogs, nestled at the end of Vista Village Shopping Center.
Stan's is clean and to the point, just like the menu. A selection of charbroiled sausages includes Italian, Polish or white hot Bockwurst. Quarter-pound and half-pound burgers round out the menu's offerings. Deep-fried sides pair perfectly with the meats, which include fries or Stan's famous onion rings ($2.49) that are thick-cut and covered in an extra crunchy batter.
Hot dog novelties like a porcelain Dachshund dog wearing a hot dog bun share space with posters of Boise and Buffalo's finest landmarks. Pennants from area high schools and Boise State and professional ball posters grace the walls.
During our visit, my dinner date and I were acutely aware we were venturing outside our Hebrew National hot dog comfort zone. Stan's serves up Sahlen's Smokehouse hot dogs, the official hot dog of the Buffalo Bills. The company has been churning them out since 1869, so we figured they must know what they're doing.
We ordered a cheese dog ($3.05) and a quarter-pound jumbo all-beef hot dog ($4.25).
Lightning quick, the frankfurters were charred and dressed. For the cheese dog, I chose relish, chopped onions, ketchup and yellow mustard. I saw no hint of cheese, but then the employee ladled melted globs over the whole thing. The hot dog was blanketed in a creamy, orangey mess that, combined with the smoky meat and varied toppings, made a savory and sweet concoction.
The hot dogs, standing proud on their own, are very selective when it comes to sharing the spotlight, but Stan's offers two sauces: a basic, yet delicious fry sauce and his super-secret, coveted Bronco Sauce. Difficult to describe, the sauce is spicy and thick and the taste is reminiscent of an annoying new acquaintance who eventually grows on you. The sauce tempts the taste buds, silently but effectively daring them to try and stop placing descriptions on the unique flavor. I think it's a pasty mix of legumes and spices, but I don't really know. Only Linkowski and the man who taught him know for sure, and they aren't talking. Even the employees are not privy to the recipe and nary a batch is whipped up in front of them; ask them about it and they'll divulge nothing.
No venture into the food land where the Buffaloans roam is complete without dessert. Frozen custard was the perfect ending to such a calorie-intensive meal ($2.69). A regular swirl combo with chocolate and vanilla taught us that custard is a whole different level of cold treat.
The service at Stan's is fast and friendly. The grill workers are at the front line of the charbroiled experience. Walter, an employee at Stan's, shared that to learn to charbroil the hot dogs the right way, Linkowski brought a guy in from New York for two weeks to train the employees.
We asked Walter if he burned any franks during training and he replied, "Me? No, no. I'm from New York; I know how to cook a dog."
Indeed, he does. My date and I enjoyed our charred frankfurters served in split buns, all the condiments and, of course, the creamy frozen custard. Hebrew National allegiance aside, the barbecue in our back yard may sit cold the rest of the summer now that we've discovered Stan's. In all its charred glory, there's a new kind of dog in town and it comes complete with its own brand of Bronco sauce.
—Elaine Lacaillade once offered a million dollars for a secret sauce recipe.