I was sitting at a diner not long ago, and I happened to be in earshot of the short order cook. When the waitress went to pick up a plate, the cook said, “that’s a sloppy one, that’s the way I like them, and that’s the way to make them for the people.” At first, I replayed in my mind what I thought I heard and when I saw the waitress coming around the corner, I realized he was talking about the foot-long hot dog covered with chili, slaw, and onions on a plate with fries. This hot dog was for sure a multi-napkin dog.
That moment was all it took to get me started down the hot dog story road. There is no way I can remember all the hot dogs I have eaten over the years; however, I do recall some of the unique places. I tend to seek out cafes, and burger and hot dog place that has been around for a while and as it turns out I am by no means alone on this journey.
Allen Langley in Shelby enjoys a good hot dog so much that he drives to Anderson SC for his hot dog fix at Skins. Loyd “Skin” Thrasher started his hot dog journey in 1946. In the beginning, Skins had a few more items on the menu as well as a pool hall, but over time the pool tables were taken out at the hot dog ruled supreme on the menu. Allen tells me he loves the hot dogs because the buns are made fresh, they cut a V-shape in the top of the bun, then put in a great dog with mustard, onions, fantastic chili and slaw. “It’s well worth the hour and a half drive; they have other locations, I just love going to the original place.”
I have friends in Lenoir NC who recommended City Café for a great all beef hot dog. The café was initially opened in 1966. Kelly Vought is the current owner, she has been the owner for nine years, and before that she worked for Mavis Teff the previous owner. The building has not changed much over the years. The café has a counter with stools and booth tables along the front windows. The ceiling has its original tin covering. The back part of the building features a pool hall that has just as much nostalgia and stories as the Café.
The menu has several offerings, but the all-beef hot dogs are highly celebrated. The buns are toasted, and the hot dog is grilled or if you need and more crispy option you can have your dog deep fried. The chili is tasty, and the freshly made slaw is outstanding. I enjoyed hearing Kelly share her stories and sampling the hot dogs and onion rings was a great, pleasure. On that visit, I was traveling with singer/songwriter Wayne Taylor. I ask how’s your dog, Wayne? He replied. It may be the best I’ve ever had. Well, I have no idea if Wayne is going to write a song about it, but he sure did have a smile on this face.
Here is what I have noticed about the Great Hot Dog Journey. Yes, It’s about the hot dog, but it’s about more than that. I’ve seen that the nostalgic places bring people together and it seems to feel like family. Kelly shared just about as many hugs with the patrons at City Café as they served meals and I think that’s just wonderful.
The hot dog journey is not over, so don’t be surprised if we bump into each other at your favorite hot dog place.
Pardon the chili stains; it’s all in the line of duty.