BY Keyser Saucey
As a local resident and longtime fan of Taco Viva, I anxiously awaited the opening of Matt’s Red Hots when they took over the building about a year ago. From the outside it was clear that they were giving the space a desperately needed facelift. The old school Dairy Queen building seemed to be given new life when painted in bright red and white once again, but this time a splash of canary yellow joined the party and Matt’s Red Hots was emblazoned on its façade.
Somehow, a year after its opening I still hadn’t tried it and this week seemed like the perfect time to rectify that. Everyone needs something a little more laid back during that time vortex that exists between Christmas and New Year’s.
The hotdog and hamburger joint is owned and operated by Buffalo native, Matt Syroczynski. He wanted to bring family friendly food and a bit of childhood nostalgia to the area, and Matt’s Red Hots does just that.
The menu also offers hand-cut fries, freshly battered onion rings, and homemade sauces as well as 24 flavors of Royal Scoop ice cream for dessert. The place had a steady flow of customers the entire time I was there, and it was apparent that it’s a neighborhood favorite.
The hot dogs are customizable, but I went with the classic chili cheese footlong. I’ve never had a Sahlen’s hot dog, so I had to see what all the fuss was about. With a natural casing, the hot dog is grilled with a nice char and snaps when you bite into it.
Both the cheese and the chili on the dog are a sauce. I felt like the cheese sauce got a little lost under the chili though. I love cheese sauce, so next time I might skip the chili altogether and go straight for the liquid gold.
I didn’t miss my chance to try the cheese sauce though. I opted to get the sauce flight with my fries and onion rings, choosing Matt’s Cheddar, Chipotle Ranch, and Coffee-Infused BBQ.
The cheddar was unsurprisingly my favorite of the three, with the Chipotle Ranch following for a close second. The ranch had just the right amount of heat and went perfectly with the onion rings.
The hand-battered onion rings were crunchy without being too oily and held up well. I personally can’t stand when you bite into an onion ring and all the onion pulls out leaving you chomping on cooked onion while you sadly look at the battered ring in your hand. Matt’s onion rings spared us that fate though, keeping the slightly sweet batter right where it should be.
The French fries were crispy and well-salted.
Lastly, I tried a single cheeseburger with the works. I enjoy modest burger-to-toppings ratio, so the thinner patty was the right choice for me. But if you’re the type that likes a heartier burger, I’d recommend getting a double or if your want to get crazy even a triple to up the ante.
For Matt’s Red Hots, I’d say 3/5 Sauceys. Their hot dogs, burgers, fries and onion rings are well done, but nothing I haven’t had before. I’d love to see some more unique topping choices and some additional cheese options to make it stand out. This basic menu is perfect for lunch or a family friendly dinner.
If you’re in the area or passing through San Carlos Park, give it a try. I know I’ll be back.
Keyser Saucey is a pseudonym for Naples Herald and Lee Herald’s food critic. Keyser’s trips to area restaurants are unannounced and anonymous, and are paid for by the company. Yes, the staff is very jealous.
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