As the weather gets colder and the leaves are falling more each day, the need for warm go-to comfort food seems to skyrocket around this time of year. Luckily, a Northern New Jersey staple has arrived in Essex County for hot dog lovers. Chris’ Red Hots, the family-owned business that has lasted over 50 years, opened its new location at 478 Bloomfield Avenue in Verona recently. From a classic menu filled with longtime favorites to new seasonal creations, even the occasional hot dog consumer won’t be able to resist trying at least two (let’s be real here) of an American foodie classic. Read on to find out how the new location came to be and get a glimpse of what new items are on the menu for this season.
About Chris’ Red Hots
Chris’ Red Hots originated in Newark and has been operated by the same family for the last 30 years. In 1995, Anthony’s father converted a 1983 GMC into a hot dog truck and the rest is history. The food truck sat at 248 Heller Parkway in Branch Brook Park before opening the Verona storefront. “I was driving on Bloomfield Avenue one day and saw the listing. I thought it would be a good idea if we had another location that’s different from where we’ve been,” said Anthony Rolandelli, who owns and operates Chris’ Red Hots with his wife, Lauren.
Photo Credit: Lauren Rolandelli
The family business has gained a pretty impressive following on social media: with over 46,000 followers on Instagram and another 320,000 on TikTok currently, the hot dogs are becoming a hit outside of its native Jersey roots. You can find Anthony quickly dressing a hot dog in their most popular TikTok video which has garnered over a quarter of a million views or making fresh mozzarella during an occasional livestream. Any video or post is for sure to leave visitors salivating for one of “NJ’s best dirty water dogs.”
The store has been in the works for a little over a year before its grand opening in October 2023, which had customers lining up the street even before the opening time; Verona residents and other locals have eagerly awaited its opening since the logo was put onto the building.
The storefront is a grab-and-go spot — the ideal treat for enjoying on a bench in Verona Park right across the street or alongside the neighboring fence that’s perfect for setting hot dogs and drinks. These were deliberate choices for the location. “I’m glad people are utilizing the fence how I wanted!” he told MG when we visited. A new food truck is also tucked away behind the fence ready to be used in Verona Park when weather permits.
The business is mostly known for its “red hots” (hot onions), mild meaty chili, and signature hot cherry pepper mashed potatoes — and yes, there is a selection on the menu where all three of these are topped on one single hot dog. “All [of our] toppings are scratch made! We changed the hot dog game by serving up flavor combinations you’ve never had before with our specialty dogs,” Lauren said.
The menu stays true to the one of the hot dog carts that originated in Newark. The menu is categorized into three different sections: hot dogs, combos, and signature dogs. Customers can enjoy classics such as cheese and chili dogs or opt for creations like the “BBQ Cruncher” (cheese, cowboy chili, potatoes, onions, barbeque sauce, and potato stix) or the “Frito Pie” (cream cheese, cheese, cowboy chili, barbeque beans, and Fritos).
While all toppings are scratch-made and a create-your-own-dog option is always up for grabs (MG ordered a hot dog with potato stix and ketchup), Chris’ also has seasonal specialty dogs to test the waters with visitors before adding to the menu. These change quarterly and are not advertised on socials so a visit to the store is essential for being in the know. This season’s specialty topping is homemade mozzarella that sits atop the “Pizza Dog” and “Jersey Dog,” a hot dog that resembles disco fries that feature fresh mozzarella and brown gravy. The storefront is open daily from 10AM to 6PM and has catering for private events.