Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hot Dog!

Hot dogs don’t seem to be a big menu item here in Oregon. They were big on the East Coast when I was growing up. Just about every town had a hot dog stand of one kind or another. I recall Johnny and Hange’s and Libby’s in Patterson New Jersey as giants of the industry from the early part of the 20th century. When going to Yankee or Shea stadium it seemed like everyone in the audience had at least one hot dog during the game. On the streets of New York there was always a Sabrett hot dog cart within sight.

In the town where I grew up there was a road side stand that looked like the building in the photo above. It was a long shack with shutters over the open air windows. When they were open the shutters were propped up creating a make-shift roof above the customers that came to the counter. There was no neon signs nor as I recall there weren't even any signs stating what sort of business it was. The place was called Herk’s and it was a hot dog stand. It was the home of the Texas Weiner, which was smothered in onions and some sort of saucy ground beef concoction.

This was the kind of place that deep fried their hot dogs. I know it sounds like a heart attack waiting to happen, but hey, these things were great before we all learned what hot dogs were made from.

Herk’s was a popular stand. My sister worked there and she would give me free cups of root beer when ever I visited her there.

With their success came some building modifications that enclosed the customer end. Outdoor picnic tables were replaced by indoor seating and Herk’s stayed open all year.

Eventually the owners retired and sold the business to someone with few business skills who ran it into the ground. It was again sold and reopened as Taco Jacks, which lasted for a year or so. Mexican food wasn’t big back then on the East Coast. In fact I don’t think I even sampled Mexican Food until I was in my late 20s.

I went for years without having that sort of hot dog again after Herk’s closed, but one night I found a hot dog stand on the shores of Lake Champlain. There they served Michigan Red Hots. These hot dogs were even better than anything I ever had at Herk’s. Usually the foods that are imprinted on you at an early age are the standard that makes anything tasted after the impression was made seem inferior. However, these Michigan Red Hots blew Herk’s out of the water. It still stands as the best in my mind, but now the competition is over because I can’t eat like that any more.

So hail to the old hot dog stands and to the time before cholesterol counts controlled our lives.


Blogger Donna said...

I've always loved hot dogs, but since a friend introduced me to Nathan's, I'm a hot-dog snob. I keep those expensive little dudes in the freezer, and about once a month, when Cliff's at work, I have a couple of Nathan's hot dogs. The sodium content is ridiculous. So is the percentage of saturated fat. But everybody is entitled to a guilty pleasure or two, right?

4:35 AM  
Blogger Auntie said...

Still chuckling at the term "Texas Weiner". Dunno why. Just hit my funny button this morning.

Hey, did you eat hotdogs in public?

5:57 AM  
Blogger darev2005 said...

I go through long jags of eating hot dogs and then get off of them for a month or two. I'm not real picky about the brand, because I've hardly ever had anything real good. But I drown my hot dogs in ketchup and mustard so the taste of the dog doesn't really matter. I haven't seen a "hot dog stand" in years.

6:32 AM  
Blogger weese said...

we have Super Duper Wienie and Swanky Franks.

6:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mmmmm...Nathan's and Hebrew National hot dogs are the BEST! Although I'm not a big dog eater, I do love a chili-dog now and then.

You struck a chord with your comment about some foods imprinting - it reminded me of a place we used to get Italian Sausage sandwiches in North Chicago-they called them Bombers. I've never found anything similar anywhere else I've ever lived, and I'm certain that place doesn't exist any longer since it was a little mom 'n pop and that was about 40 years ago.

8:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Astoria used to have a hotdog stand in front of Owl drugs a few years back. Good hotdogs too.
I wonder where they went. They always seemed to be busy.

10:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah Groovy Gary had his hotdog cart in front of the Owl or any where he thought a crowd might be gathered. I remember when he would set up late Friday and Saturday nights outside the "Temple of Doom" back in the 80's when they had lots of live music. The police used to keep a close eye on him because they seemed to think he might be selling something other than his advertised product. He never did though.
As a child I liked catchup on a dog after I hit 13 It's been mustard, relish and kraut when possible.

3:32 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

I know a place where hot dogs are extremely popular, especially with the low price that has been in place since 1983. It's the same place that is now selling gas for less than $3.

6:33 PM  
Blogger Auntie said...

Gee, wonder where that could be, Jeff.....hmmmm. Must you have a membership to get a weiner there?

7:15 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Nice shameless plug, Jeff. Too funny. And membership doesn't seem necessary.

I find it interesting that hot dogs hold such a place of honor in our American psyche. Going out for a hot dog is still very much a weekly event with my relatives that still live on the East Coast.

5:34 AM  

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