[audio mp3="https://www.ourstate.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Jul21-EH-Editors-Column-Easy-Does-It.mp3"][/audio] Nowadays, you can get a hot dog loaded with whatever you want: pimento cheese, bacon bits, jalapeño peppers, sauerkraut, barbecue (I’ve seen it), ketchup (if you must).
Nowadays, you can get a hot dog loaded with whatever you want: pimento cheese, bacon bits, jalapeño peppers, sauerkraut, barbecue (I’ve seen it), ketchup (if you must). For me, though, the one and only way to eat a hot dog is all the way — mustard, chili, slaw, and onions — exactly the way my dad made them.
We always had a package of hot dogs in the refrigerator: Bryan’s Juicy Jumbos that my dad bought wholesale to serve in his sandwich shop in Asheboro. At the restaurant, he grilled hot dogs on the flattop, but at home, for an easy summer lunch for just the two of us, he boiled them, two or three minutes in a saucepan. To fire up the charcoal grill would’ve taken way too long, and the key to a perfect hot dog, my dad believed, was its simplicity.
While our hot dogs boiled, he heated up a can of Patterson’s Beef Hot Dog Chili (still made in Sanford the same way since 1942) and opened a container of Ruth’s coleslaw (still made in Charlotte the same way since 1953). I didn’t realize it then, but my dad was creating a tradition, repeating the same elements every time, coming back to the same ingredients, the same method of preparation, serving our lunch on paper plates with a handful of Charles Chips and a cold Coke in a glass bottle. He handed his hot dog preferences down to me, and now, having eaten half a lifetime worth of hot dogs all over North Carolina, I can confirm that the classic style — simple, easy — endures.
Go inside The Dog House on Main Street in High Point, and you’ll see. Their way is “loaded,” and it’s been the same since 1942, grilled on that flattop by the window. It’s cash only here, always has been; no credit cards, no debit cards, no checks, and the waitress will ring you up on an antique brass cash register not quite original to the place but almost. You’ll get your hot dog brought to the booth or the counter on a square of wax paper, no plate, easy to clean up when you finish. Simplicity at its best.
That same tradition holds at Yum Yum’s in Greensboro, too, going on 115 years now, and at Pulliams in Winston- Salem, open since 1910. You’ll find it at Dick’s Hot Dog Stand in Wilson, 100 years old this year, and at Green’s Lunch in Charlotte, close behind with its founding date of 1926, and at Zack’s in Burlington and Bill’s in Washington and Paul’s Place in Rocky Point, which all got their starts in 1928. So many of these places — Melvin’s in Elizabethtown, since 1938, and The Roast Grill in Raleigh, making the same style of hot dog since 1940 — are, simply, unchanged. And that’s why we love them so.
Mustard, chili, slaw, and onions. The method becomes a ritual. The ritual grows into a tradition. The tradition turns into legacy. Simple, easy, and everlasting.
Editor in Chief