New Jersey is not known for its lush natural scenery. The view from one of its many New York City–bound highways is more likely to feature smokestacks and abandoned shipping containers than natural wonder. But flowing along the western edge of the state, the Delaware River’s bountiful natural beauty defies stereotypes. When the sun dapples the water and a warm breeze ruffles the trees from June to August, locals and nature-hungry city visitors alike don life jackets, grab blow-up plastic tubes, and spend relaxing afternoons idling down the river. And when they get hungry on the way, the Famous River Hot Dog Man is waiting for them.
In 1987, Greg Crance, the hot dog man himself, set up shop on a barge loaded with franks and burgers. A Pennsylvania local who had, like many area residents, been tubing on the river since he was a child, Crance set up the stand as a unique rest stop for the many independent boaters and tubers looking for a bite to eat on a lazy afternoon. Crance’s friend owned a tiny island in the middle of the river and pitched a business venture: Why not open a food stand on the island? The idea soon became the hot dog joint. Later, the joint relocated to a nearby floating barge, since the state health department wasn’t quite sure how to inspect and permit a river-island locale.
Today, the business has expanded to include a partnership with a local tubing company, which offers full-day tubing experiences to those without their own life jackets or transportation. Visitors reporting to a small storefront in the town of Milford will receive tubing gear, transportation in a repurposed blue school bus, and of course, a ticket for a meal from the Famous River Hot Dog Man. And if you have your own tubing equipment, you can simply float over to the stand and buy some grub yourself.
While the operation has grown, the core menu has stayed true to its founding commitment to bare-bones summer fun, including specialties such hot dogs, cheeseburgers, and veggie burgers, as well as an assortment of chips and sodas. Just make sure you wear your sunblock before setting out on your tube: Hot dogs are the only thing that should get cooked on the river.
In 2021, Crance died from COVID-19. His oldest son plans to continue running the business. True to his river-loving roots, Crance’s ashes were given a Viking-style funeral in a boat on the Delaware river.
Know Before You Go
Note the listed address is the starting point for tubing excursions and not the exact barge location. The Famous River Hot Dog Man is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. While the Delaware River can seem lazy, it's deceptively fast, with several patches of mostly light rapids that can still be tougher than they look. So do like the local mothers would tell you and don that life jacket. And remember to leave trash in specified containers: No one wants a floating Coke can ruining their experience.