The drive to Canada from New York is always the same. The ride goes well, is uneventful, traffic is thin. Then, about a mile from the border, we hit a wall of cars. Three lanes. Whichever lane we’re in is the slowest. And it doesn’t matter which direction we’re headed, the cars coming through the toll booth the other way are few and far between.
We’ve done this enough times now that we know to be prepared. Arrive with an empty bladder, a full tank of gas, and plenty of ice water. And if we’re heading north, from New York to Canada, stop at Gus’ Red Hots for a bite to eat.
Gus’ Red Hots, also known as Gus’ Famous Red Hots, is located at 5 Commodore Thomas MacDonough Highway in Plattsburgh, about 20 miles from the border. You can’t see the building from I87, but just follow the signs. Once you reach the intersection with Route 9, it’s straight ahead.
First step inside would indicate that Gus’ is just another diner. Opened in 1951, it’s undergone several renovations. Based on the current decor, the last one was probably in the late ’70s. The restaurant is clean but well-worn. There’s plenty of room–a mix of booths, tables, and counter stools, of course. Lighting comes from several sources. Big windows span the length of the building’s front, Tiffany-style pendant lights hang from above, and there are recessed fixtures, too.
Open seven days a week from 7:00am-8:00pm, Gus’ Red Hots serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s a traditional menu, with all the diner classics: breakfast all day, burgers, platters and baskets, pasta, steak and seafood.
Reliable food is what makes Gus’ special. Each time I bring someone new with me, I wonder, “I talk up this place so much, will this be the time that we’re horribly disappointed?” Yet everything I’ve ever ordered has arrived hot and even the garnishes are fresh. It is reliably just what I expect, and then just a little better. It’s hard to get any better than that.
If you’re looking for something else to do in the area and you appreciate the work of American painter, printmaker and illustrator Rockwell Kent, then you’re in luck. The State University of New York at Plattsburgh has the United States’ most complete collection of Kent’s work. Housed in the Plattsburgh State Art Museum, The Rockwell Kent Gallery is located on the second floor in the Feinberg Library Building. It’s a 10 minute drive from Gus’.