Every Fourth of July, a Rowan County restaurant serves hundreds of hot dogs.
Near the lone blinking light in the tiny town of Faith, the big, yellow sign outside Yosties restaurant reads: “The Hot Dog Place.”
Yosties, one of the town’s two restaurants, sits across from Faith Baptist Church. On the same short block, you can get a tan, a hairstyle, a mower blade, an orange slushy, and a TV repair.
At one time, the building was an automobile body shop and then an ice cream shop. Today, it’s a place that, according to the sign out front, has sold more than 100,000 hot dogs.
That short block smells a whole lot better now, especially on the Fourth of July. This Rowan County town of about 740 people holds a festival that covers eight days, draws thousands of people, and sponsors a big parade.
On July Fourth, Faith dresses up in red, white, and blue. Families come from everywhere. They line the street to see the parade, and when they do, they smell the faint aroma of hot dogs and chili.
They see the big, yellow sign outside Yosties, and when they walk in, they see owner Shelley Yost behind the antique counter that came from Friendly Cue, an old pool hall in downtown Salisbury. An Oscar Mayer peddle car sits on a shelf. A Mountain Dew sign screams the old slogan: “It’ll tickle yore innards.” Black-and-white pictures of boys in plaid shirts and girls in bobby socks from High Point’s Union Hill School, circa 1960, decorate the room.
Wherever you’re from, Yosties feels familiar.
One, maybe two
On the Fourth of July, Yost makes at least 800 hot dogs. On any other day, she makes at least a hundred.
Customers come to Yosties for all kinds of comfort food — from homemade cinnamon buns to homemade pepperoni rolls. But most people come for a hot dog. Those who are familiar with the place walk through the door and hold up one finger. Or two.
And Yost knows exactly what they want.
One hot dog. Or two.
She talks in the language of her kitchen.
ATW, for hot dog all the way. “Nekked” Dog, for a wiener in a bun. Dog Gone, for mustard, onion, chili, and no wiener.
“People are so passionate about finding the perfect hot dog,’’ Yost says. “It has a lot to do with their childhood. People just remember.”
Clarence Williams visits Yosties at least once a week. Everyone in Faith knows him as Marcelle. He lives down the street from Yosties. Often, neighbors see him walking North Main, well dressed, shoulders back, quick with a wave.
He knows the food business, and he knows Faith. He’s lived here his entire life. He and his brother Clifford used to run Williams Sandwich Shop downtown. Now, at age 90, Williams comes to Yosties for conversation — and a hot dog.
When he walks in, he holds up one finger. Without a word, Yost knows what he wants. One hot dog.
“You need a hot dog every once in a while,” Williams says. “I was one of eight, and right now, there’s only two of us left. Me and Darrell. He’s 85. And we need to keep our memories pretty clear. That’s why I come here. To sit back and remember.”
202 North Main Street
Faith, N.C. 28146
Ask regulars how long they’ll wait in line for a Hap’s hot dog, and you’ll hear, “Ever how long it takes.” Lucky for them the line moves fast.
For 25 years, Hap’s has peeked out from beneath a V-shaped, metal awning, a storefront shop not quite nine feet wide. It’s always standing room only at the lunch counter inside. Owner Greg Culp cooks burgers alongside the dogs and keeps a pot of his homemade chili warm beside them. You can get hot dogs with American cheese, but the all-the-way lineup of mustard, chili, and onions dominates. Fans testify to the power of the secret-recipe chili spiked with onions.
“If you want a Hap’s hot dog, nothing else will do,” says regular Michael Vinson, whose Saturday trip to the grill is a tradition. “It’s the chili and the onions.”
A bag of Tom’s potato chips and a bottle of Cheerwine, born right here in Salisbury, make it a meal. Of course, the dogs are just part of the experience. Regulars find reassurance in returning week after week, or in some cases day after day, to see Culp’s steady hand on the spatula. Culp keeps tabs on his customers, too.
“If I don’t come,” Vinson says, “he calls me.”
— Amber Nimocks
116½ North Main Street
Salisbury, N.C. 28144
Skippy’s Hot Dogs
At Skippy’s in Winston-Salem, the bun makes the dog. The buns are handmade, golden-brown pretzel rolls crafted from an Amish recipe from Pennsylvania. When he settled in the Carolina foothills, Skippy’s owner Mike Rothman brought with him fond remembrances of the baked goods of his youth. In 1997, Rothman bought a recipe from a pretzel guru in Pennsylvania who came to North Carolina to teach him the trade. Soon after, he paired the bun with an all-beef Nathan’s frank to create Skippy’s version of the hot dog.
Split down the middle and blistered on a griddle, the weenie fits just right into the oblong pretzel roll lightly toasted inside. The roll’s soft, puffy interior soaks in the meaty hot dog juices while its crunchy exterior offers a toothsome, buttery crunch.
“All the way” means mustard, chili, slaw, and onions; the bright crunch of the cabbage and onions offsets the rich, savory chili. But that’s just one option. The Reuben dog rests beneath sauerkraut, spicy mustard, and Swiss cheese. The Chicago dog piles on mustard, onion, sweet relish, dill pickle, tomato, banana peppers, and a dusting of celery salt.
— Amber Nimocks
Skippy’s Hot Dogs
624 West Fourth Street
Winston-Salem, N.C. 27101
The Roast Grill
Raleigh’s hot dog lovers flock to The Roast Grill, a monument to condiment austerity. Here, George Poniros sizzles — or “burns,” as he says — a hot dog for you on the flattop grill, searing the casing into a crispy, chewy layer around the soft, inner meat. He buries it beneath homemade chili; mustard; onions; and, if you ask for it, marinated slaw. His mother, Freeda, sets it on the chrome counter atop a square of wax paper, alongside an eight-ounce Coke in a glass bottle or a Budweiser.
Lunch is served. That’s all. Nothing more. And, no, you may not have ketchup.
Poniros is the third generation to man the grill in this skinny slip of a hot dog joint, formerly the family’s front porch, which his grandfather converted into a restaurant in 1940. The 100-year-old chili recipe is his grandfather’s. It’s an heirloom, and Poniros doesn’t like to see anyone muck it up with ketchup. He returns requests for the tomato-based topping with a firm glare from beneath his salt-and-pepper hair.
“Not today. Not tomorrow, either,” Poniros says.
Roast Grill regulars understand that here, less is more. But they still enjoy razzing Poniros about his one-track menu.
Poniros doesn’t miss a beat.
“The regular?” he asks, as he splits a bun along the seam and reaches for a burnt dog.
— Amber Nimocks
The Roast Grill
7 South West Street
Raleigh, N.C. 27603
Jeri Rowe, a Greensboro resident, is a staff columnist at the News & Record. His most recent story for Our State was “Remembering Glencoe” (May 2011).