hot dog feat img kermits
photograph by Jerry Wolford

Illustrations by Michael Korfhage.

JJ’s Red Hots • Charlotte

A table full of women flags down a guy in a JJ’s Red Hots trucker cap. “Excuse me, sir,” says Martha Barnette. “We want to know what a red hot is.”

“That’s the original name of the hot dog,” the fellow in the hat says. After he walks away from the table, the women high-five and giggle. All four are from different towns — Concord, Indian Trail, Charlotte, and Mint Hill. All four had been to Bible study up the street at Ascension Lutheran Church. All four have been here before. “Fourth time now,” Martha says. She points at Betty Treat. “She made us come.”

Betty’s granddaughter once offered to take her out to eat, and brought her here.

“They’ve got the best hot dogs, Memaw,” her granddaughter had said.

Hot dogs: grilled, not boiled. Chili. Onions. Mustard. Nothing else. JJ’s surprised Betty. So she keeps coming back with her friends.

Martha butts in. “Tell him what else you said.”

“I said, ‘Why are you taking me to JJ’s?’ ” Betty replies. “And she said, ‘Memaw, we gotta broaden your horizons.’”

• • •
 

This is how you know if a lunch spot in Charlotte is a hit: Stop in around 12:30. Look for the following people: women like Martha and Betty; 30-something men in blue shirtsleeves; a construction worker holding a hard hat; women in workout clothes; little boys and girls who only know one speed — run.

jjs red hots

A hefty lunch at JJ’s Red Hots should be followed by a nap — or a drum solo on one of these retro lamps. photograph by Travis Dove

The orders vary. The Chili Cheese Coney is just what it sounds like. The Sonoran is Mexican-style. The Char Heel has slaw. There’s a vegan option, too. The onion rings are crispy and light. The toppings are fresh. “JJ’s Famous Pickle Bar” looks good, even if calling yourself “famous” might be an overstatement. JJ’s serves craft beer, a k a millennial catnip. Get your order for here or to go.

In Charlotte, some restaurants have the life span of a sea monkey, and the newest hot place is quickly replaced by the next one. JJ’s opened in what had been a cursed location, the home of six restaurants in 10 years. It broke the curse.

JJ’s has an intentionally retro look, a mix of white and bright-red subway-tiled walls and booths beneath wide windows that look out over the always-busy East Boulevard in the leafy Dilworth neighborhood. A light fixture is fashioned from an old Kingston drum set, and an autographed guitar is mounted by the door. There’s rooftop seating, where bands occasionally play. The background music — classic rock — has been selected to reflect JJ’s “rich heritage” (ahem, JJ’s opened on July 4, 2012).

Matt Stevens, a local graphic designer, developed the “entire JJ’s visual identity.” The fonts. The graphics. The red-and-yellow motif. This place has been designed within an inch of its life. Everything feels clean. Shiny. It’s the Charlotte-iest hot dog place you could imagine. And it works.

The man who opened it, Jonathan Luther, has a local restaurant pedigree. He was a food critic in Charlotte. His father, Jon, was once the CEO of Dunkin’ Donuts. If you’re looking for two people who know how to turn hot dogs into A Thing, it’s the Luthers. They’ve already expanded into Charlotte’s Ballantyne neighborhood, the logical next step for local places that have found success in a trendier part of town. As for the original, it’d be easy to look around tony Dilworth and wonder how hot dogs could catch on here. So what did JJ’s do? It made hot dogs more gourmet.

As Martha and her friends walk out, a gaggle of young guys walk in.

“Can we get this to go?” says one.

“Yeah,” replies another, “but you’d be missing out.”

– Jeremy Markovich

JJ’s Red Hots
1514 East Boulevard
Charlotte, NC 28203
(980) 225-8880

15105 North John Delaney Drive, Suite J
Charlotte, NC 28277
(980) 335-0601


Bill’s Hot Dogs • Washington

bills hot dogsWhen I was growing up, my dad’s altar was a charcoal grill. I recall steaks being discussed with the pride generally reserved for one’s child. My dad cooked burgers that had been hand-shaped into forms more similar to baseballs than patties, grilled to pink-centered perfection and topped with layers of American cheese. How many hours did he spend in front of that grill, tweaking his technique, the seasoning, the temperature, in search of the ideal burger?

But when it comes to hot dogs, the grill is gone. I think of spending the Fourth of July in Bath, and my dad walking in the door, back at last from the 60-minute round-trip into Little Washington, holding two big, brown paper bags spotted with grease and stuffed with hot dogs from Bill’s.

My brother and I, followed by any number of neighborhood kids, would crash into the kitchen, swimsuits still dripping wet from the Pamlico River, stomachs grumbling after hours in the water.

Inside the bags: 50 nuclear-red, oil-fried hot dogs in steamed buns, each wrapped in thin, white paper. Twenty dogs “all the way” — that’s with spicy chili, onions, and mustard — plus 15 with mustard, and 15 with chili. Our M.O.: Grab a dog, unwrap a dog, stuff a dog into mouth. Repeat until uncomfortable.

How can a place be a hole-in-the-wall and still have a line out the door? Find Bill’s nondescript storefront, here since 1928, and you’ll find your answer. Bill’s is takeout only: no tables, no chairs, no fuss. There are no fancy condiments, only mustard, onions, and chili. Don’t even ask for ketchup. And Bill’s special spicy chili is so good, you won’t care that the temperature outside is 100 degrees in the shade. There are rumors of a handwritten recipe folded and kept in a wallet for 20 years. A select few claim to know the secret. If you’re wondering, no, they won’t tell you.

Ask people in this part of the state where to get a good hot dog, and they’re likely to answer with just one word. But they also might tell you about making 45-minute trips into town to buy enough hot dogs to last a week, enough for all the neighbors, enough for all the kids to grab three on their way out the door, enough to freeze for later. To this day, my dad still goes to Bill’s and buys at least 25 dogs. Someone will eat them.

— Katie Schanze

Bill’s Hot Dogs
109 Gladden Street
Washington, NC 27889
(252) 946-3343


Charlie Graingers

Charlie Graingers, the newest, oldest hot dog joint in Wilmington, is about to take over, if not the world, the Southeast. The tiny restaurant opened in 2013, a labor of love created by Louis North, run by himself and two employees, including his daughter. On the restaurant’s first day in business, a customer inquired where the “home office” was and whether North had plans to franchise, because he, the customer, wanted to buy in.

“I had no idea what he was talking about,” North says. He knew nothing about franchising. The home office didn’t exist.

Less than three years later, 250 new Charlie Graingers restaurants are preparing to open, in nine states, from Louisiana and Mississippi to Maryland, and Washington, D.C.

charlie graingers

Louis North and his daughter Morgan Cook run Charlie Graingers at the site of a former drive-in diner, Peacock Alley, where, North says, he felt “a magical presence.” photograph by Millie Holloman Photography

Which raises the question: What’s Louis North putting in these hot dogs? Actually, nothing. North uses Kahn’s dogs, which are a mix of pork and beef. They have no fillers, no nitrates or sulfates, are never frozen, never fried, never grilled. The Pepperidge Farm buns are white and soft, not toasted. The slaw is blessedly light on dressing. French fries aren’t on the menu, though if you absolutely require a fried potato near your dog, you can order the “Stetson,” which is topped with mayo, melted cheese, chili, and “crunchy fried potato stix.”

The trimmings and sides are made in-house: chili (no beans), pimento cheese, chicken salad, and sweet-hot molasses barbecue brisket that will bring you to your knees.

Charlie Graingers was magical from its beginnings back in the mid-1970s, when North was a teenager growing up in Wrightsville Beach. He snagged an after-school job with one B.C. Hedgpeth, whom he describes as the Willy Wonka of the restaurant business.

“He had visions,” North says. He watched Hedgpeth create the beloved Trolly Stop, and for three years, he helped with all aspects of the business — construction, roofing, painting, planning menus, and, of course, preparing and serving the dogs.

A decade later, North opened his own place, Louie’s Hot Dogs, half a block from Wilmington’s downtown courthouse, quickly amassing a devoted crowd of regulars: lawyers and judges, plaintiffs and defendants, the innocent and the guilty. The food was good and the location convenient, but most people came in for another reason — to talk. “It’s not really a hot dog business; it’s a relationship business,” North says. “Like being a bartender without the alcohol.”

The location was “sacred ground for hot dogs.”

North sold his restaurant in 1997 and went into the brick business. He had a family to support. And it wasn’t as though hot dogs were haunting him or anything. Then, in 2012, in a personal funk, he found himself driving through Wilmington’s once-vibrant Crescent Heights neighborhood. He landed at Peacock Alley, the city’s first drive-in diner. The building was vacant and crumbling, but he suddenly felt a “magical presence.” The location, he sensed, was “sacred ground for hot dogs.”

At this point, you’re probably wondering what sort of person Louis North is. Like his mentor, B.C. Hedgpeth, North is, as his wife, Lori, says, lowering her voice apologetically, “kind of a visionary.”

North spent 18 months demolishing and reincarnating Peacock Alley, building without a blueprint. The restaurant opened as Peacock Alley, but North had to change the name when he decided to franchise. So he honored local history by renaming the diner for its original owner, the late Charlie Grainger.

A narrow, high-ceilinged space — 900 square feet, with seating for 17 on old-fashioned counter stools — Charlie Graingers feels elegant and eclectic. The space is lit by recessed canister lights and hypnotic gas lamps. Warm red walls are covered with vintage photographs of Wilmington. Occasionally, a customer will exclaim, “That’s my daddy!”

You can order takeout or eat in. If you get your food to go, you might find a wrapped chunk of Dubble Bubble in your bag.

Customers from the courthouse days drop by, sometimes not realizing who’s behind the establishment until they hear North’s voice. “Is that you, Louie?” they ask.

Slowly, the neighborhood is coming back to life. “I intentionally set Charlie Graingers in one of the most depressed areas in Wilmington,” North says, “because I believe in our city, our people, and the product we serve.”

— Wendy Brenner

Charlie Graingers
702 South 17th Street
Wilmington, NC 28401
(910) 769-3720


Snoopy’s Famous Hot Dogs • Raleigh, Garner

Steve Webb used his last $6,000 to open Snoopy’s in a former service station on Wake Forest Road in Raleigh. “The first day we opened,” in 1978, “they lined up to the street,” Webb says, “and it’s been that way ever since.”

snoopys famous hot dogsIt seems as if everyone in Raleigh eventually stops by for a hot dog served eastern Carolina-style: mustard, onions, and chili, steamed in a bun. In the tiny parking lot of the original Snoopy’s — there are now five in Wake County — a businessman eats a late lunch in his Audi. He is parked next to an SUV, where a retirement-age couple digs into their meal. Two spots over, a mom and her daughter share french fries after school. In line, another half-dozen people, some in construction gear, others in business suits, will chow down soon.

“If you’re in Raleigh, it’s a rite of passage,” says Larry Cerilli, a business partner of Webb’s. “I think it’s just one of those things where it’s passed down.”

The style of hot dogs hasn’t changed from that of 38 years ago — “a beef-pork mixture, with no artificial coloring or MSG,” Sarah Webb, Steve’s wife, points out — and the chili recipe is the same, too.

“I think it starts off young. A child’s going there with their parents and having their favorite thing in the world — a hot dog, french fries, and a Coke, and as they grow up, they’re going to high school and coming after school,” Cerilli says. “Then maybe they go to State and they’ve got two friends on either side of them, and as they grow up and become this businessperson or whatever, they’re still coming to Snoopy’s.”

— Curt Fields

Snoopy’s Famous Hot Dogs
Raleigh
1931 Wake Forest Road • (919) 833-0992
600 Hillsborough Street • (919) 839-2176
3600 Hillsborough Street • (919) 755-9022
2431 Spring Forest Road • (919) 876-3775

Garner
82-101 Glen Road • (919) 779-2545


Kermit’s Hot Dog House • Winston-Salem

Run curb. Every blue-shirted employee at Kermit’s Hot Dog House knows that phrase.

Like Lauren Keith. She’s a “curb girl.” Every day she works, she’ll look for the car pulling into Kermit’s and flipping on its parking lights. She scoots past the neon “hot dogs” sign. She pulls a notepad from her jeans’ back pocket, where she also keeps her phone, and plucks a pen from her ponytail tucked underneath a baseball cap.

Pimento cheese dog. Foot-long. Slaw dog. Grilled. Deep-fried. People come to Kermit’s for a taste of nostalgia. They come for a hot dog that reminds them of home.

They meander into the south side of Winston-Salem, where generations have grown up, graduated from Parkland High, and stayed or returned. They long for the warm buns, the freshly chopped onions, the coleslaw, and the homemade pimento cheese. They drive up to the curb and flip their lights. Or they head past the Hot Dog Lover sign for one of the 11 stools and seven booths inside, where the sizzling grill is a constant soundtrack.

kermits hot dog house

Buster Williams (left) and Paul Church are hot dog royalty at Kermit’s in Winston-Salem, which has been open for 50 years. photograph by Jerry Wolford

They’re bound to see one of the two owners, Buster Williams and Paul Church — hot dog royalty.

On a Monday in January 1966, Williams’s dad opened Kermit’s. Yes, his name was Kermit. He convinced his only child to stay on for a year after graduating from Parkland High, class of ’67. Williams wanted to join the Marines. But when Kermit died, Williams, who was only 19, took over the restaurant to carry on his dad’s legacy.

In 1969, Williams moved Kermit’s from East Sprague Street about two blocks away, to a lot he first knew as a cornfield, where he’d played Army among the stalks as a child. But the cornfield had been blacktopped, and in the lot sat an empty restaurant. Williams reopened Kermit’s and started curb service.

Two years later, a 15-year-old, tired of hot, sticky days pulling tobacco, came in looking for a job, and Williams started him running curb. Williams called him “Ace” because he was so fast. In three years, Ace moved to the kitchen and became Williams’s most dependable worker. By 1975, Williams asked Ace if he wanted to buy into the business. He did. Ace is now known as Paul Church.

Today, Williams is 67; Church, 60. For 50 years now, Kermit’s has sold hot dogs — as many as 750 a day, including one to a patient at Forsyth Hospital. “The guy just had heart surgery, and he wanted one ‘all the way,’ and he told me, ‘I may die tomorrow, but I want a hot dog,’ ” Church says. “He’s still living.”

Lauren Keith slips an order into the kitchen’s carousel and hollers through the window, “Two foot-long specials! Cheese dog! Order of fries!”

The day’s light wanes; more cars come. A few flick their lights. The hot dog sign starts to glow.

— Jeri Rowe

Kermit’s Hot Dog House
2220 Thomasville Road
Winston-Salem, NC 27107
(336) 788-9945


Zach’s Hot Dogs • Burlington

“Clear!” a server at Zack’s Hot Dogs shouts to no one in particular. But someone must have been listening, because within seconds, a hot dog overflowing with chili appears in front of a customer who uses one hand to eat and the other to hold The Times-News.

zachs hot dogsBetween the Cheerwine served in glass bottles and customers ordering “the usual,” Zack’s feels like a step back in time. I claim the only open stool at the counter. My server waits a beat, expecting me to jump in with an order. I ask for a hot dog with cheese and onions. Ordering a dog without Zack’s chili, which is made from an original recipe, puts me in the hot seat. “Not even a little?” my server asks, concerned. I can sense my neighbor raising his eyebrows. I give in.

Zack’s Hot Dogs has been a Burlington fixture since Greek immigrant Zack Touloupas Sr. bought Alamance Hot Wienie Lunch, a downtown diner, in 1928. “We’re successful because we’re the same today as we were 20 years ago. And people like it,” says owner Zack Touloupas III. “It’s just about consistency.”

Soon, my hot dog appears on a little white plate. The cheese is American; the diced onions are extra-strong. The secret ingredient — hot sauce created by Touloupas Sr. — is delicious, sweet and spicy in that way only secret things can be.

“Clear!”

When I finish, my server catches my eye and tips his head toward the front of the restaurant. “Just tell ’em what you ordered,” he says. There are no order tickets at Zack’s; there never have been. Touloupas stands behind the counter, as he has since he took over in 1981. Off the top of his head, he tells me what I owe. Cash only. The way it’s always been.

— Katie Schanze

Zack’s Hot Dogs
201 West Davis Street
Burlington, NC 27215
(336) 226-4746


Yum Yum Better Ice Cream • Greensboro

Walk in. Breathe deeply.

The aroma hangs in the air like a perfume. Your mouth waters; the crowd grows. A server behind the counter stacks eight red hot dogs in paper-wrapped buns on his forearm and begins what looks like a choreographed dance.

He glides toward mustard and ketchup, coleslaw, onions, and chili; paints his dogs; wraps them in white waxed paper; then pivots, steps, and delivers them up front. A customer, two people in front, exclaims: “Best hot dogs in Greensboro!”

yum yum better ice creamSome customers come to Yum Yum Better Ice Cream for — you guessed it — the ice cream. It’s legendary. But so are the hot dogs, served seven ways in a warm bun, the boiled weenie as red as a Christmas tree light.

Customers bring cash, no credit cards allowed. They pass the 13 booths, line up at the cash register, and know what they want without looking at the plastic, black-lettered menu behind the counter.

They know the place by only one name: Yum Yum’s. A century ago, though, locals knew it as West End Ice Cream. The proprietor? Wisdom Aydelette, a common-sense businessman who went no further in school than the third grade. Everyone knew him as W.B.

In 1906, in downtown Greensboro, Aydelette sold ice cream, peanuts, and snacks, first from a pushcart and later from a horse-drawn wagon. Then the horse kicked him. In 1922, he moved to a building on what was then the city’s western edge, and beside the North Carolina College for Women.

When World War II started, Aydelette began selling red dogs because the nation’s sugar rationing curtailed his ability to make ice cream. He needed to sell something else to stay open year-round and provide for his family of nine.

Eventually, the North Carolina College for Women became Woman’s College, which later became the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. The college acquired the business’s property in 1974, forcing it to move two blocks down Spring Garden Street.

Yum Yum’s is still there, in the middle of campus, a red-brick, shotgun building where customers can eat a red dog and remember a time in college when responsibilities were few.

“This is not just a store. You’re representing my family.”

Yum Yum’s did try a brown beef frank once. But that didn’t go over well. So, Yum Yum’s sticks with a red dog made from 15 ingredients, created specifically for them. That’s what manager Mike Holt wanted. Six years ago, he sat down with Greensboro’s Curtis Packing Co., Yum Yum’s weenie maker, and talked to them about making the hot dogs just right in length, weight, spices, and, of course, the red color.

The new weenies worked. Yum Yum’s red dogs are never frozen, and their fresh taste coaxes customers to tell Holt, “They’re just as good as when I went to school.”

They smell good, too. That smell is the Aydelette family’s legacy — wrapped in white paper, selling as many as 1,000 hot dogs in a day.

W.B.’s son, Bernard, grew the business. Bernard’s sons, Clint and Rodger, continued it. Rodger retired in 2013, and today, Clint tells every new employee: “This is not just a store. You’re representing my family.”

— Jeri Rowe

Yum Yum Better Ice Cream
1219 Spring Garden Street
Greensboro, NC 27403
(336) 272-8284


Paul’s Place • Rocky Point

Edwin DeBose was in need of something comforting and familiar when he drove from his home in Virginia to Wilmington for his sister’s funeral. He found it at Paul’s Place, a hot dog haven in Rocky Point, in Pender County, that he first visited as a boy in the 1940s.

“We were over on I-40 and decided to cut in for a few hot dogs,” says DeBose, a Burgaw native who felt better after downing a few with his wife, Betty, who appeared equally restored. “Nothing has changed. It always was a good place to stop for a meal and to see people, and it still is.”

Customers at Paul’s Place sit at well-worn Formica tables. No one minds that there’s just one kind of hot dog, a pork-beef blend that’s typically topped with the diner’s signature barbecue relish. “Daddy came up with this when beef was rationed during World War II and he couldn’t make chili,” says third-generation owner Dave Paul, who glides across scuffed red-and-white checkerboard tiles, slapping backs and kissing babies like the hometown legend he is.

pauls place hot dogs

Dave Paul (center) is the third generation of his family to run this hot dog haven in Rocky Point. photograph by Millie Holloman Photography

The business started in 1928, when his grandfather A.A. “Archie” Paul opened a small country store with gas pumps. Dave’s father, Beverly Paul, told him that they started feeding customers soon after, when a local woman dropped by one day to ask if they’d be willing to sell her fried chicken. It was a hit, soon followed by whole-hog barbecue cooked in a pit out back.

The business really took off, however, when it started selling hot dogs in 1937. “Daddy told me they never intended to go into the hot dog business,” Dave says, adding that customers couldn’t resist the aroma of hot dogs being cooked for employee lunches. “He told people to take one and put a nickel in the cup. It wasn’t long before he was standing-room only.”

Hot dogs now cost $1.99 apiece, but the cooking method remains the same: Dogs are simmered in water just long enough to heat them through, then slipped into steamed buns.

Dave, who plans to celebrate his 70th birthday in October with a big party at Paul’s Place, says they’ll have to drag him out of the restaurant.

“What else would I do?” he says, pausing to serenade a table with a version of “This Magic Moment” that extols the virtue of his family’s magic hot dogs. “Why would you want to retire when you’re having fun?”

— Jill Warren Lucas

Paul’s Place
11725 U.S. Highway 117
Rocky Point, NC 28457
(910) 675-2345


The Roast Grill • Raleigh

For such a tiny place — squeezing in about a dozen customers when it’s full — The Roast Grill packs in 76 years’ worth of history. A bulletin board smothered in business cards (look for one from former Gov. James B. Hunt) forms an extensive, if disorganized, archive of past patrons. The cash register dates to the 1960s. Sometimes, the round keys make an authoritative cha-cha sound, followed by the ding of a bell.

The real story of The Roast Grill, though, stands behind the counter: “Hot Dog George” Poniros and his mother, Freeda. “We try to open no matter what, short of a wedding or a funeral,” George says.

Hot dogs, homemade baklava, and pound cake inspire customers’ loyalty in nearly equal measure. One man came in for 72 consecutive days. “He ate about six dogs each visit,” Freeda says.

the roast grill hot dogs

Freeda Poniros, who co-owns The Roast Grill with her son George, serves an array of hot dogs to the lunch crowd. Just don’t ask for ketchup. photograph by Lissa Gotwals

However, there are none of what George calls “show dogs,” the kind with exotic toppings. What brings everyone here are charred dogs — The Roast Grill’s motto is “We burn ’em for you” — topped with mustard, onions, chili, and homemade slaw.

The chili is made from a recipe used by George’s grandfather, and is the origin of The Roast Grill’s no-ketchup rule. “My grandmother spent so much time making this chili” — about a day and a half — “that she didn’t want people to miss the taste of it,” George says. “If you take a hot dog and put ketchup on top of it, you’re only going to taste the ketchup.”

So the no-ketchup rule was born. Also absent: cheese, kraut, relish, mayo, fries, and chips.

George’s grandfather opened the restaurant in 1940. The family lived upstairs; the restaurant was downstairs. Freeda grew up there. Over time, the restaurant became a local and national destination, its reputation boosted by a 2009 episode of Man v. Food in which host Adam Richman downed 17 dogs with chili in 30 minutes.

Otherwise, little has changed, except the price. In 1940, a hot dog cost a nickel. Now one will set you back $1.45. But the promise between George and Freeda and their customers remains the same: “Arrive as guests, leave as family.”

— Curt Fields

The Roast Grill
7 South West Street
Raleigh, NC 27603
(919) 832-8292


King’s Sandwich Shop • Durham

King’s is exactly where a hot dog stand should be: catty-corner from the old Durham Athletic Park, where Bull Durham was filmed.

“Stand,” though, might not be the right word. The concrete-block bunker that houses King’s Sandwich Shop has anchored the northwest corner of Foster and West Geer streets since the early days of World War II. “It used to be across the road,” says current owner T.J. McDermott, “until the shack got taken out by a Buick.”

kings sandwich shopThe property owners felt bad for the owner of the shop, then known as THE Hot Dog Stand, and built him another structure nearby, one that could withstand a car crash. Eventually, the High family took over the business and gave it its royal name. From the 1940s on, King’s sold hot dogs and fried-bologna sandwiches to baseball fans and the hungry tobacco farmers who streamed into and out of the city’s auction warehouses.

In a previous career, McDermott was a construction manager for the city of Durham, working closely with architects and preservationists. “We don’t have a lake; we don’t have a river,” McDermott says, sitting at a picnic table outside the sandwich shop. “What we have is old buildings.”

There’s usually a line of people at King’s, a strand of drivers do-si-do-ing for the shop’s four parking spots. They join the daily churn of customers sipping chai lattes nearby at Cocoa Cinnamon or those hanging out at Geer Street Garden restaurant.

But less than a decade ago, this intersection was dead, marked by boarded-up husks of abandoned gas stations. The High family, which had controlled King’s for 60-some years, decided to close it and let the lot lie fallow.

McDermott, however, knew the High family. “Everyone kept telling me I needed to do a gourmet hamburger stand. Nah! I’m a working guy. I want to provide a working man’s lunch!”

The Highs told McDermott he could call the place anything except King’s. But his enthusiasm finally won them over, and the Highs not only gave him the rights to the name, they also shared the family’s original chili recipe.

After repairing the building, McDermott and his wife, Maggie, reopened King’s in 2010. “These places — root beer stands, mom-and-pop sandwich shops — are disappearing,” he says. “There’s not a lot of places you can get fried bologna.”

• • •
 

“King’s has a special place in the heart of Durham.”

Vicki Kennedy works the small front window at King’s, calling out orders with a voice made husky from her job. “Oh my God, I love this,” Kennedy laughs. In addition to a half-dozen different hot dogs and sausages (some of which are split and grilled flat), the shrimp po’boy is popular. The pulled pork and slaw, both homemade, are key to the shop’s signature dog, The Cackalacky King: a brat topped with pulled pork and slaw, served on a hamburger bun, and drizzled with hot sauce.

McDermott has watched as four generations of a family pose for a photo in front of the King’s sign. He’s seen an elderly customer run her hands along the old wooden countertop and say, “I knew I was grown up when I could see over this.”

Nostalgia is why McDermott has turned down the many offers to buy the property: “King’s has a special place in the heart of Durham.”

— JP Trostle

King’s Sandwich Shop
701 Foster Street
Durham, NC 27701
(919) 682-0071



Keep EatingSurely you have more room to try these classic hot dogs.

Mike’s Chicago Dog and More • Asheboro
With a steamed poppy-seed bun; a Vienna beef wiener; and mustard, green relish, onions, tomatoes, peppers, and celery salt, plus a pickle, this dog will convert “all the way” enthusiasts.

103 North Fayetteville Street, (336) 610-6453

Green’s Lunch • Charlotte
A staple since 1926, this lunch counter serves hot dogs that attract regulars, including the Carolina Panthers’ Cam Newton.

309 West Fourth Street, (704) 332-1786

The Dog House • Durham
Try the Ol’ Yallow, which comes with mustard, cheese, and bacon bits, or the German Shepherd, topped with spicy mustard and sauerkraut. Enjoy them inside the doghouse-shaped restaurant.

3521 Hillsborough Road, (919) 383-7900

Hot Diggidy Dog, Inc. • Fayetteville
Try the famous bacon-wrapped hot dog served “all the way” with mustard, chili, onions, and homemade slaw.

106 Roxie Avenue, (910) 426-1300

Jack’s Barbecue • Gibsonville
Here, enjoy great hot dogs while admiring pictures of locals Torry and Terrence Holt — who went on to be football stars — plus historical images of Gibsonville.

213 West Main Street, (336) 449-6347

Sup Dogs • Greenville
East Carolina University students and alumni flock to this place on the edge of campus for the Old School Dog combo, or one of the 14 specialty styles, like the Hawaiian (with pineapple), the Taquito (with jalapeños), or the Ranchero (with ranch dressing).

213-B East Fifth Street, (252) 752-7682

Hot Dog World • Hendersonville
There’ll be a line, but it moves fast. Meanwhile, admire the wall of articles proclaiming that the hot dogs are out of this world.

226 Kanuga Road, (828) 697-0374

hot dog world 2

Hot Dog World, Hendersonville photograph by Tim Robison

The Dog House • High Point
There are rules here: 1. Cash only. 2. No singles in booths. 3. When you have finished your lunch, kindly relinquish your booth as soon as possible. Since 1942, The Dog House has relied on fast service and quick turnover — but let’s face it, hot dogs aren’t meant to be lingered over, anyway.

664 North Main Street, (336) 886-4953

Doss’ Old Fashion Ice Cream & Grill • Kernersville
For years, Windy and Tonya Doss, “The Weenie Slingers,” have been serving their famous foot-long hot dog specials to guests from Kernersville and beyond.

406 North Main Street, (336) 996-1930

Ma’s Hot Dog House • Kinston
This Kinston staple is nestled inside what was, until 2005, a working gas station, with tin signs on the walls and food served in paper bags.

2515 U.S. Highway 258 South, (252) 527-0511

Capt’n Franks • Kitty Hawk
In 1975, few businesses dotted the two-lane highway that split the dunes in Kitty Hawk — few except Capt’n Franks and its hot dogs. Forty years later, it’s still standing right where it’s always been.

3800 North Croatan Highway, (252) 261-9923

Jimmy’s Famous Hot Dogs • Mebane
Get your hot dog Jimmy’s Way: with mustard, onions, homemade slaw, and homemade chili. Choose from all-beef or even turkey.

901 Mebane Oaks Road, (919) 568-0727

Big League Hot Dog Company • Mooresville
Relax in one of the seats salvaged from Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium: Big League Hot Dog Company creates a big-league experience for your hot dog enjoyment.

235 Medical Park Road #102, (704) 799-6660

Tasty 8’s Gourmet Hot Dog Co. • Raleigh
Eight types of hot dogs, eight styles of beer, eight dipping sauces, and eight shakes equal many tasty combinations.
121 Fayetteville Street #108

(919) 307-8558

Lanes Ferry Dock & Grill • Rocky Point
Order a side of homemade potato chips with your Lanes Ferry River Dog in a low-key spot near the Northeast Cape Fear River.

11016 NC Highway 210, (910) 602-7110

Kings Hot Dogs • Rural Hall
Home to an assortment of hot dogs including the King Dog: a half-pound of all-beef hot dog, topped however you like it.

1009 Bethania-Rural Hall Road, (336) 969-4688

Hap’s Grill • Salisbury
Count on a packed room and a long line, but rest assured that the cheesy chili dog is worth the wait.

116 North Main Street, (704) 633-5872

Jay Bee’s • Statesville
John Baker (the “JB” in Jay Bee’s) treats his customers with famous foot-long hot dogs topped with chili and slaw.

320 Mocksville Highway, (704) 872-8033

Shorty’s Famous Hot Dogs • Wake Forest
Sip Coca-Cola from a glass bottle as you check out the tin signs and newspaper clippings covering the walls. Open since 1916, this local favorite is known for its old-fashioned hot dogs and freshly squeezed lemonade.

214 South White Street, (919) 556-8026

Dick’s Hotdog Stand • Wilson
A Wilson landmark, this family-run diner has been serving up dogs since 1921. Don’t leave this place without trying its famous chili, made from the same recipe for more than 90 years.

1500 West Nash Street, (252) 243-6313

J.S. Pulliam Barbeque • Winston-Salem
The menu says “Hot Dog: $2.25; Hot Dog with Cheese: $2.50.” There are no seats, so order at the counter, then grab a stump outside or lean on the hood of your car and enjoy a hot dog like generations have for 106 years.

4400 Old Walkertown Road, (336) 767-2211

Trolly Stop • Wrightsville Beach
It was the first stop on the trolley line to Wrightsville Beach, and, 40 years later, it’s still the first stop for beachgoers every summer.

94 South Lumina Avenue, (910) 256-3421

— Ellis Dyson

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