‘Symbol of Americana.’ News 12 celebrates National Hot Dog Day with Rawley’s Drive-In

There's a national day for just about everything and Wednesday put the spotlight on a summertime staple: the hot dog. It's estimated Americans eat 20 billion a year! News 12 celebrated with a trip to a local institution for hot dogs: Rawley’s Drive-In in Fairfield. It’s been serving up dogs since 1947.
Co-owner AJ Ruberti, who took over Rawley’s in March 2020, said they typically do close to 500 hot dogs a day—a number Ruberti expects to increase by a couple hundred Wednesday as people relished National Hot Dog Day.  
“Why do people like hot dogs? You know, I think it’s a symbol of Americana,” Ruberti told News 12. “They’re associated with birthday parties, baseball games, backyard picnics.”
“What is there not to love?” added customer Marisa Lambert, of Westport. 
Marisa Lambert’s young son recently discovered Rawley’s and quickly became a loyal patron. He said he’s been there five times in the last week or two. “It’s really good,” Chris Lambert explained.
Tom Dubrosky, of Fairfield, is also a regular. “I’ve been coming here for 50 years. Usually come every Monday with my grandson,” Dubrosky said.
Rawley’s is a family affair for Wayne Travis, also of Fairfield. “I’ve been coming here for over 40 years when my sons were little boys. Now I have my two grandsons with me,” Travis said.
Neil and Dean Cawthra made the drive from Shelton. “We’ve been coming here for probably over 20 years. It’s worth the ride,” Neil Cawthra explained. “The way they cook them here is amazing.”
Ruberti shared Rawley's recipe for the perfect dog. He said it starts with a New England-style bakery bun. “We butter and toast both sides, so the bun has a nice crunch, and we also use a Hummel hot dog, which are out of New Haven. But the trick is that the hot dog, for Rawley’s, is deep fried so it’s got a natural casing on it. It’s got a nice little crackle when you bite into it, and then there’s all our fresh toppings.”
Mustard, cheese, onions, sauerkraut, relish, ketchup on the side and “the works” were among the ways customers ordered their dogs Wednesdays. News 12’s Marissa Alter got hers plain. 
“The favorite hot dog here is the Hot Chihuahua,” said Ruberti. “Spicy deli mustard, our homemade red-hot relish, which is made by cooking red bell peppers and habaneros with a little bit of sugar, and then our chopped onions on top of that.”
Rawley’s has attracted some high-profile fans over the years, including Martha Stewart, whose love affair with its hot dogs is still going strong.
“She likes to have a Rawley’s hot dog when she ‘Feels like being bad’ is what she says,” Ruberti joked. 
Rawley’s also got some national attention recently. This month Ruberti appeared on the CBS talk show “The Talk” for a hot dog competition during their food face-off segment. Ruberti said it was great publicity. News 12 spoke with two people who said they stopped in Wednesday afternoon during their drive from New York to Niantic because they saw the episode.  
Some of the lunch crowd came specifically to celebrate the hot dog’s big day. Others called it a happy coincidence.
“Now I know, and I’m glad we’re having hot dogs. What’s better than that?” asked Neil Cawthra.