Saturday, November 9, 2013

What's Happening to Lyric Hot Dogs?

After many months of not posting on this blog I have suddenly been motivated to write again. Before I start I will confess that after doing a hot dog blog for three years I grew kind of tired of it. It didn't help that the last couple of places we visited back in the Spring were a little disappointing. (No I never wrote about them!)

So today I am writing about Lyric Hot Dogs. On Friday Robert and I visited Lyric Hot Dogs again. More about that later, but first I want to address the great tragedy happening in our city right now and how it involves Lyric Hot Dogs. The outfit that restored the Alabama Theatre and now owns the Lyric Theatre is in the process of destroying a piece of Birmingham history so they can add a much larger lobby to the “restored???” Lyric theatre. All of this is being done in the name of “restoration"; but they are moving way beyond restoration.

Regarding Lyric Hot Dogs, I was startled to read a story on the al.com web site early this week. You can see that article by clicking the link here. The story is that apparently the social elite at the helm of Birmingham Landmarks, Inc. have decided that one Birmingham Landmark must be destroyed in order to make a more spacious lobby to the side of the original lobby of the “restored” Lyric theatre. Lyric Hot Dogs is one of Birmingham’s oldest hot dog stands doing business in a particular location. We have seen many others close for good through the years; but this time the owner isn’t choosing to close up shop. Andrew Collins, the owner of Lyric Hot Dogs, is being forced to shut his doors as he has been given until January 31, 2014 to vacate his space so that the “restoration” of the Lyric Theatre can include moving the original entrance and elevator for the office space in the Lyric Building. It doesn’t seem to bother the Birmingham Landmarks bunch that they are closing a long time Birmingham business, a landmark. It seems they really are not committed to historic continuity or the preservation of successful businesses in downtown Birmingham. The expansion of their lobby way beyond the original lobby is very important to them despite the historic nature of those being forced out. Their agenda seems to be set even though they could have easily drawn their plans to keep Lyric Hot Dogs open.

I have gone to the Birmingham Landmarks web site and found the floor-plan for the new bigger and improved Lyric Theater. I am sure it will be beautiful when they are finished, but at the cost of a Birmingham icon. Maybe they think that hot dogs are just a little beneath them and would rather not have them around.

Now regarding hot dogs… During the time I have been writing this blog I have been asked many times where to get the best hot dog in Birmingham. I have always given an answer that included my top five favorites at the time. I have enjoyed visiting almost every place we have visited and haven’t wanted to steer people away from most of them. I encourage people to try them all. But I must now admit that Lyric Hot Dogs has been on my list of the top five every since I first went there. This is the place to which I have taken family and friends for a visit to an authentic downtown Birmingham hot dog stand. It is a consistently good server of hot dogs as well as being one of the two remaining long time locations for hot dogs in downtown Birmingham. Lyric is on 3rd Avenue North between 18th and 19th Streets, right across the street from the Alabama Theater.

Please look back at my previous posts about Lyric:

This is the same hot dog stand where Pete, Sam and Jimmy Graphos grew up helping their father with his hot dog business. These guys went on to start their own restaurants (Sam's Super Samwichs in Homewood, Jimmy's on Southside and the Sneaky Pete’s chain). The current proprietor, Andrew Collins, is a member of their family who bought the restaurant from their father. Birmingham Landmarks sees no history here; they want a big lobby at their “restored” Lyric Theater. It doesn’t matter that in the theater’s entire history the lobby has never included this space. It’s even more tragic when one looks at the seemingly empty storefronts they own next to the Alabama theater.


On this visit I was very happy to see that the place was swamped with people. Compare the two pictures below. On an earlier visit we had a wide choices of seating options, but not this time. The word has gotten out that this place is closing soon so on this trip the place was almost full of people, like us, wanting to reinforce their memories while they can.  I will encourage the reader to visit the Lyric while you still can.

Andrew is planning on closing well before his drop-dead date of January 31st. He says his daughter might recycle the equipment to open a place in “the suburbs”. This will be a loss to Birmingham; but I guess we are all too accustomed to losses in Birmingham.


So here we were at Lyric again. We both opted for our usual order of a hot dog and a chili dog, both all the way. We sat on stools at the little counter facing the plate glass window looking out on 3rd Avenue and ate delicious hot dogs. In fact they were so good we went back for more. No weight watching that day.

I think we are going to be tracking down hot dogs again. Changes in the hot dog landscape continue. Places come and go, and some move. So we will be addressing some of this.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

JoJo's Diner Again

You may remember our recent visit to JoJo's Diner in Homewood. The day we made that first visit Zelda was telling us about the slaw dog and explaining why they couldn't serve it that day. As she described their Lebanese slaw as vinegary, kind of sour with spices. We kept thinking about those slaw dogs and decided to go back in hopes of getting to try one.



On that second visit Robert and I were greeted with the news that not only could we get slaw dogs but we could also try a new dog recently added to the menu, a Reuben dog. Kind of makes you pause and think a little doesn't it? The Reuben dog is a hot dog topped with Swiss cheese, corned beef and kraut. On our previous visit Joe and Zelda had told us about how they were working on a recipe for this unique dog. So we were faced with wanting to try several different dogs. We both hoped to try a slaw dog and the previously untried by us chili dog. Then we also wanted to try the new Reuben dog. 

So faced with a choice, we finally each ordered a Reuben dog and ordered a chili dog and slaw dog to split between us and an order of the seasoned fries. That way we each got to have two full dogs but try three different ones. These are all memorable hot dogs. The slaw dog is the first slaw dog that I have ever really liked. The sour slaw is a much better topping than sweetened slaw. In fact I liked it so much that a few days later I was in the area and stopped for another. On that third visit Zelda told me how several customers had come in after reading about JoJo's on this blog. It's nice to know that it is read on occasion.

Pictured below are a Broadway dog and a slaw dog from my third visit.


The chili dog at JoJo's is topped with their own unique chili. Joe told us how he starts with bacon, then adds his own sausage and chunks of beef brisket. This ends up being the chunkiest, beefiest, meatiest chili you will find in a perfectly seasoned base. It's a chili dog unlike any that I have previously encountered.

Then almost lost between these was the Reuben dog. It has all the flavors of a Reuben sandwich on a hot dog. I thought it was better with the addition of some mustard; but I usually add mustard to a Reuben when I have one. I think Joe is on to something here. I wouldn't be surprised to find some other places trying to do this.
 Pictured below are a chili dog and Reuben dog from my second visit.


Finally, below is a poor picture of some of Zelda's "cake pops" proudly displayed up front. So far I haven't tried one of these, but the sure look sweet, tasty and not too big. Probably a perfect desert after eating a more restrained order than I tend to have.


I'll give two warnings. First, the place is small. There are 4 stools at the counter and four tables. Two of those tables only seat 2 people. So there is a grand total of indoor seating capacity of 16 people and out front an old church pew and couple of small tables. That looks like a nice place to eat on the right day. The other warning, if you get a dog be prepared for a little mess as you eat. These dogs are topped with juicy sauces and can get a little messy; but it's worth the mess. All in all I find that JoJo's will be highly recommended by me. I notice a word that keeps coming to me as I talk and write about JoJo's. That word is "unique". This place is unique and has some unique dogs and remains worth a trip.

There is also a nice story about JoJo's in the February 2013 issue of the Homewood Star. This seems to be a monthly local newspaper focused on Homewood. It's a good article, take a look. The whole February issue is Here.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Lets go to Alex City!



A few days ago we were celebrating the 7th birthday of one of our grandsons. He and his brother have always had a fascination for anything with wheels. They live in Auburn where their father is a professor; and we live in Birmingham. So what better place to meet on a Saturday than the Wellborn Muscle Car Museum in Alexander City. 

For those who are unacquainted with this museum, it is interesting to visit. Tim Wellborn has quite a collection of rare muscle cars. He owns so many that he must rotate the collection through this large museum. The museum is located in the heart of Alexander City in a building that once housed a Chevrolet dealership at 124 Broad Street, Alexander City, Alabama.


 




I am including a few pictures from the museum. We all had a good time playing “what if”, as in; “If you could have any one of these cars, which one would you want?’. This is a good place to go and dream For thoise of us who remember these cars on the street it is a trip down memory lane. It's also an opportunity to kick yourself for not having the insight to buy one of these cars back in the day. I must confess that as we palyed "what if" I would have a hard time choosing between the Pontiac GTO convertible and the former Alabama State Trooper AMC Javelin. I will assure you that a good time was had by all.

 
What does this have to do with hot dogs? Well, here we have it. Just up the street from the museum is the 99 year old Carlisle Drug Store complete with a full service old fashioned soda fountain complete with sandwiches, burgers and of course hot dogs. That was our choice of where to have lunch.



We arrived at Carlisle to find a choice of tables. Since we had a large group (7 of us) we selected one of the large tables and proceeded to look at the menu. The birthday boy quickly announced he wanted a cheeseburger. That was the choice for most of the table except for little sister and myself. We had hot dogs. I also ordered a burger but felt that due to my interest in dogs I had to try one. I’m glad I did. The little girl ordered what I call a “kids dog”, a plain hot dog with just ketchup (cheebot for some). Mine was a chili dog all the way.

 
If you look close you will see the corn curl she had dropped behind the 
hot dog and was hoping to find. Also notice the RED dog!

I had no idea what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised. The dogs were the ones loaded with red dye, maybe “red food dye 666”. I jest. But they were RED (look at the picture). Even so I really liked it. The chili was definitely mild, kind of like Wendy’s chili. But the overall effect of the toppings was to combine a sweet taste and a sour taste. I really enjoyed this dog. What more can I say. It really wasn’t anything outstanding or different, but it was good.I will order it again when I'm there.
 
I ate all of mine, but baby sister had only eaten half when she was distracted by the appearance of cupcakes for the birthday celebration. I was tempted to finish off her “kids dog”; but I restrained myself.

What about the burgers? They were also very good. They were surprisingly NOT greasy, with a good flavor. They were obviously freshly made patties rather than the thin frozen ones. The buns were steamed and not warmed on the grill in the hamburger grease. Hey, I know that can be good, but a more healthy burger can also be good. It leaves room for a chili dog, cup cake and who knows what else.

At Carlisle there are no fries. I guess that is consistent with the more healthy burgers. It also keeps from smelling up the 99 year old store with deep fat frying odors. They do have a large selection of chips. I would rather see my local favorite, Golden Flake, than the Lays; but they were well stocked.

Let me encourage the reader: If you are in the area, no… just plan a trip! Go to Alexander City and visit both of these treasures. It is also a great place to stop mid way between Auburn and Birmingham. I plan to make this stop on many more trips between Birmingham and the Educational center of the universe.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

JoJo's Diner

I knew it would take a few days to make this post so I put a teaser post a few days ago. But now here's the full report.Last week Birmingham had a minor snowfall on Thursday. The TV weather men kept down playing it but hedged their bets by saying it was really hard to predict. When it came it was one of those soon forgotten events for most people.

Robert and I along with a friend, Fred, risked our lives in the "blizzard" to venture to a new place in Homewood. Susie had passed on a coupon for hot dogs at JoJo's Diner in Homewood. That was all it took to raise my interest. Then we chose snow day for our visit. I must admit that we really enjoyed being out in the snowfall. It was pretty and invigorating.

We made our way to 903 Broadway looking for JoJo's. JoJo's is located in one of the small comercial buildings toward the southern end of Broadway in Homewood. For many years there was a little sandwich place called "Lag's Eatery" located either in this spot or nearby. I never tried their offerings before they retired and closed. Nevertheless, we now have JoJo's Diner.


I have said before that I tend to enjoy "the unexpected" on our hot dog excursions; and that's just what we found at JoJo's. This is a tiny little place with just a hand full of tables; but the taste is BIG. It didn't take long to encounter Joe (Jo Jo) Resha and his sister Zelda. Zelda waited on us and told about their unique dogs. The menu offered two basic dogs: a "Broadway Dog" and a "Slaw Dog". The Broadway dog is listed as an all beef dog with mustard, red onion, fresh Kraut, and downtown sauce, all for $1.99. The slaw dog is listed as an all beef dog with mustard, red onion, Lebanese slaw, and downtown sauce for $2.49.



We were trying to decide just what to order when Zelda informed us that our options were limited. That day there was no Lebanese slaw; so the slaw dog wasn't an option. So, Robert and I opted to have two Broadway Dogs and split a JoJo Burger and some fries between us. It was a good choice! Both items were outstanding.

The Broadway dog with the "downtown sauce" was familiar yet unique. The sauce starts with what I call "Birmingham hot dog sauce" that has been modified to make it thicker and spicier. It is different enough for me to consider it a unique hot  dog. For those who havent kept up, "Birmingham sauce" is the hot dog sauce that seems to be served at all of the Birmingham hot dog stands. Every vendor has a similar yet slightly different recipe. JoJo's also has their own unique recipe. It is thicker than most and has a nice spicy flavor. It is worth a special trip to sample.

JoJo and Zelda

We talked with Zelda about the Lebanese slaw. It is a sour vinegary slaw that sounds good. Any regular reader will know that I am not a fan of slaw dogs, but this one actually sounds pretty good to me. I must return and try it. Maybe I'll finally find a slaw dog that I like. Regardless, even if I don't care for the slaw dog, as long as I have a Broadway dog I'll be very happy.

I must mention the hamburger. It was also very good and also worth a trip. The fries also are different. It's subtle, but the spices added to the fries give them a special flavor. Zelda told us how JoJo makes his own corned beef which is the basis of a couple of their deli sandwiches. There's no grocery store  or factory made corned beef at JoJo's. It's all made right there. It makes me think of one of my favorite TV shows, Diners, Drive Inns and Dives (AKA: Triple D). They are also trying to develop a "Reuben Dog" made from a dog topped with the ingredients of a Reuben. It's not ready yet; but I look forward to trying one once JoJo thinks he has it right.

What can I say except; you need to try this place, even if it's not snowing.

.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

It's Ho Down!

This past Saturday I went to a client's establishment for a rare Saturday appearance. On the way there I noticed a Bar-BQ truck/trailer/vendor in a bright red truck and trailer on a vacant lot along Highway 11 just west of Dearfoot Parkway. I asked my clients who have a fixed base operation less than a mile away if they had ever tried it. They had not. Even so, I was hungry and thought I would stop and get some Bar-BQ. So I stopped at the red truck and trailer with a couple of guys sitting next to it in lawn chairs.



My experience is that these side of the road guys often have some really good offerings, which was the case here. Although I wasn't looking for dogs, I immediately noticed them on the menu. I was in the mood for Bar B Q so that had to be part of my order; but I also asked about the dogs.




I was told that their hot dogs have a special seasoning that brings people back asking for more. That was enough to get me to order one. I asked the guy at the window how he liked his dogs. The answer I got was far from creative; he likes catchup and mustard... that's it. I must say it kind of dampened my enthusiasm a little. I did finally order a dog with kraut, catchup and mustard. I tend to default to what the "house" thinks is good. Somehow I missed the optimal hot dog experience at Ho Down as mine was lukewarm and seemed to have no special seasoning. It was OK but nothing special as far as I was concerned. The menu offered dogs with chow chow or with slaw but there was no "signature dog" that they had decided was the way to serve a hot dog. Perhaps they should give this a little attention.


As I talked with these guys I learned that some customers have requested a hot dog topped with Bar-BQ (think Q-dog) or moon dog. It seems a shame that they haven't put enough creativity into their menu to push their own unique hot dog.

Now on the other side, the Bar-BQ is wonderful. You will not find better Bar-BQ anywhere. I like lots of different kinds of sauces, but when I find a bar BQ that tastes this good in a mild sauce like theirs, I know I have found the real thing. Even if they don't know how to market a hot dog, their Bar-BQ is good.



Now a little more about Ho Down: This trailer is an engineering marvel. If you are there ask about the trailer. The roof is covered with solar panels so that they have no need to connect to Alabama Power and pay no power bill. They cook meat 24/7 with the use of gas to heat the cooker supplemented by a wood chamber that provides smoke.I would like to see them figure out how to smoke the dogs before they serve 'em. And maybe serve them a little warmer. Regardless of the dogs, this rig is a real marvel.


So if stop at Ho Down (the red truck and trailer) try some Bar-BQ and tell them to warm you up a hot dog and pile on some Bar-BQ. I bet you will not be disappointed especially if they have started smoking the dogs.

I had a recent comment about Lulu's in Trussville. This a long trip for at lunch time; but we plan to visit Lulu's soon.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Mooyah!!!

There is a new burger joint at The Colonnade. Just down from Taziki's and Pablo's on the corner you will find Mooyah Burgers. I had spotted this place a few weeks ago and took the lovely Caroline there for a burger last week. While there I noticed the hot dogs on the menu and quickly realized I would be returning soon to try the dogs. It didn't take long to get back since I found myself in the area at lunchtime a few days later.


My first impression was; this place is kinda like Five Guys. Kinda like but not a clone. Mooyah is more polished and concentrates on service. They don't have the peanuts that Five Guys has, but I didn't miss 'em once I got my order. Who needs peanuts when you get servings like this?



On my first visit, Caroline and I had burgers and fries. The burgers were big, tasted great and the fries were served in massive quantities. On my second visit I was aiming for a dog or two. I started with one dog, a small order of fries, and a drink. I figured I could always order a second if I wanted one. When you order at Mooyah you check the boxes on a menu/order sheet to select your sandwich and it's components. I selected a fresh baked white bun and a hot dog topped with mustard, grilled onions and relish. The one topping I would have ordered if they had was kraut. I guess a restaurant that specializes in burgers doesn't have many calls for kraut. Once I started eating I didn't miss it. The toppings available include all of their various burger topping which make for some interesting options.

When my dog came I first had to find it in the bag. I had ordered a small order of fries which looked more like a jumbo order when it came. The fries had filled the fries container easily, then more had been dumped into my bag burying my hot dog under a heavy layer of fries. When I finally opened my dog it had been split down it's length and grilled.I was impressed that the fresh baked bun did not break open on the bottom like I have seen similar hot dogs do. I was really impressed with the flavor! I found out that they use an all beef, Hebrew National dog. when they split and grill it there is a wonderful flavor. I have said many times that as I try hot dogs I really appreciate the unusual. Mooyah has succeeded in blending the expected with the unexpected to make a unique hot dog.

I was alone on this visit since Robert is in Oregon for a couple of weeks for family visits and a wedding. I look forward to his return so I can take him to Mooyah for a dog. Next time I think we should split one small order of fries so we can get two dogs.

I can eat out of a bag and a wrapper with the best of ''em, but a paper plate would have been nice to have. Maybe they should make these available over by the drinks or somewhere. It would have made this old timer feel just a little more comfortable. Even so, I will return.


Before I left I was taking a few pictures and apparently attracted the attention of Josh Barrow one of the owners. I had a nice talk with him and heard of their plans to open several more of these places in the Birmingham area. His three man group has purchased the Alabama rights to open more of these restaurants. They want to have a high standard for service to the customer and they are off to a good start. Mooyah's opened first in Dallas and has their largest concentration of locations in Texas but is spreading across the country. We will probably be seeing more of Mooyah in the future.

Another Visit:

 

Here we are a couple of days after I posted the entry above. Today, Sunday, Caroline wanted to meet Susie and Aaron at Mooyah for lunch after church. So, there we were. I had raved about the hot dogs so she wanted to try one. (Listen folks, this is rare, that she is asking to try a hot dog). This was an unusually warm December day; so we ate outside.


We did have hot dogs, burgers and fries. Caroline and I each had our own dog and then split a "Mooyah Little Burger" and a small order of fries. This was enough to more than fill us. This time we had our dogs in fresh baked whole wheat buns which fit the split and grilled dog real well. We had different toppings than I had ordered the first time; and we both loved our hot dogs. The service continues to be good; and they still don't have plates (boo) but the food is good.

They were doing a brisk business and they still don't have platres, but the food is still good!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Takeout from Max's

I have been away from this blog too long. When I was making the post about the barkers at Riff Burgers recently I discovered the following entry I had written but never posted three months ago. So here it is with a new ending added.

Max's Deli at the Colonnade continues to be a high end deli. I recently picked up takeout for some family members, one of whom wanted the "1962 Dog".

The "1962 Dog" is a quarter pound kosher Dog with slaw, onions & BBQ sauce, served with a side of steak fries. This is a meal in itself.

I opted for the "Russian Reuben" which is: Pastrami on grilled rye with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing. This has come to be a favorite sandwich of mine. As I write this I consulted the online menu to verify the ingredients of this sandwich and find that the description on the menu lists slaw instead of kraut. Whenever I've had this sandwich it has come with kraut, as it did this time. I believe the menu used to list kraut rather than slaw as an ingredient. I'm going to have to ask about this. If it is slaw it must be a sour rather than sweet slaw.


You might remember that when we discussed Chicago style hot dogs a while back I concluded that Max's Chicago is the nearest thing to authentic that you will find in Birmingham. They clearly take pride in their hot dogs at Max's. My focus at Max's has been on the Chicago style dogs and I've never tried the "1962 Dog".

This is a BIG hot dog that to some degree dwarfs the fries served with it. The report I got from Aaron who ordered the "1962 Dog" was that it was outstanding. The red sauce on top is a sweet bar-b q sauce that perfectly compliments the sour slaw. I guess I need to try one myself. As I write this I have decided to get one this week; so I might add to this entry before I post it.

I must stop and speak up for Steve Dubrinsky, the owner operator of Max's. A while back he was quoted in the Birmingham News as commenting on how Alabama's new immigration law has made even legal workers uncomfortable. After that many people who are passionate supporters of the law decided to twist his statement and accuse him of either hiring illegal aliens and much worse. All of these comments have been far from the truth. At the time of the article he had 9 LEGAL latinos working in his restaurant. If you click on the link above to Max's website the first thing you will see is a message from Steve in response.

Here's the afterthought added much later. I did try the 1962 dog at Max's just a couple of weeks after I saw Aaron eat his. My reaction was much like my reaction to the "Beale St. dog" at Riff Burger. I don't care for slaw on hot dogs, and don't want a sweet sauce on my hot dogs. That made two strikes for me on this dog. I like a little sweet relish if it is balanced with some good sour toppings like mustard and kraut. This was just too sweet for my taste. If you like this kind of thing like Aaron does, I say; "Help yourself". Just let me get one of their other dogs and I'll be very happy. Max's remains a favorite of mine.

As I look back over this I see I mentioned the Birmingham News when I wrote this back in the days when it was a local paper published daily. I still miss what was a pretty good paper for a city our size. Since it is now the print version of a news website for Alabama's four largest cities it seems to be quickly becoming irrelevant and uninteresting to me.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

"Barkers" at Riff Burgers

This week we cranked up the the hot dog tour again. I really appreciate my friends who tell me about the new dogs in town. In this case, Beverly told me about a recent trip to Riff Burgers the "new" burger seller in Hoover. Take a look at their web site and their link to a map. It will show you right where they are, near Taziki's, across Hwy. 31 from Hobby Lobby.

Riff Burgers is a burger place that seems to take great pride in their food. There are many choices for toppings along with an interesting variety of sides that are offered along with a good choice of beverages. Again, take a look at their web site and see the menu.

 This is clearly a burger restaurant, but we went because of the "barkers" (hot dogs) on the menu. This reminds me of our long time neighbors, the Barkers, who for many years had two dogs known to us as "the Barkers barkers". Riff Burgers' barkers are offered as chili dogs, Chicago dogs, Beale St. BBQ dogs, and plain dogs, all made with Hebrew National all beef hot dogs. I didn't ask but I would wager that you could order a dog made with any of their burger toppings and "build your own" creation. It was obvious that they want to please the customer.


On this visit Robert and I arrived toward the end of the noon to one lunch hour. There were still numerous tables occupied in the dining room, but we had our choice of places to eat. There is an interesting large multi-pane garage type door in the side wall facing the outdoor seating area. I would like to eat here some mild day when they have that open.




We were waited on by Eric Pilkinton the manager who was very helpful. The prices as stated on the menu are all for dogs served with a side. We wanted to try all three of the dogs listed on the menu but just get two sides. That was easily done and the price of the extra side was deducted from our total.

When the dogs came we immediately used the real metal knives and forks (not plastic) to cut all three dogs in half so we could each have some of all three dogs. I guess we were hungry and a little rusty in our hot dog tour skills. I had to run out to the car to get my forgotten camera after we had ordered. It has always been kind of a ritual to take pictures of the food before we start. It did dawn on us before we ate, but after we had cut the dogs up; that's why you see the picture with the dogs cut in half.

I have commented before about how we sometimes get immediate attention when we start taking pictures. Well, that didn't happen this time as we were in a back corner not easily observed. This day we tried to keep a low profile until we had eaten.

OK, the big question is; "How were the dogs?" Robert and I agreed that of the three we had the chili dog was the best. The chili is good and cooked to the perfect consistency to be a topping. The dog is full but not too full to be picked up and eaten. It was made in a freshly steamed bun as was the Beale St. dog.

The Chicago dog was very authentic. We found out that Eric agrees with my take on the infamous "sport pepper", that most of these are not very good. That's why they pickle their own at Riff Burgers. Their home-made pepper comes out on the mild side but definitely softer than the usual offering. Their Chicago dog seems to have all of the required ingredients in a dog that's fairly easy to eat. If you aren't familiar with Chicago dogs take some time and google them on the web or look back at some of my posts in early 2011. The Chicago style dog is different from what we usually see around here, the dog I have dubbed the "Birmingham dog".

The other dog we tried on this visit was the "Beale St. BBQ Dog. I spent a short time looking this up and Beale Street is in Memphis. I've never heard of this particular type of dog until now. They make if with a sweet BBQ sauce, pickled veggie relish and coarsely chopped slaw. If you like slaw and sweet BBQ sauce this dog is a good choice for you. It's not something I would personally go out of my way for; but I'm sure there are people who would like it.

On the way out we stopped and talked with Eric a couple of minutes. We told him about the blog and took a few pictures up front. He then wanted to make sure we tried something on the menu that he is really proud of. So he rushed back to the kitchen and brought us a sample of their "fried pickled veggies" with ranch dressing. He told us how they pickle the veggies themselves with a kind of "bread and butter" pickle recipe. They contain cucumbers and a little onion and red bell pepper, all battered and fried. I understand why he wanted us to try them because they are very good. This would be a good thing to start with while waiting on sandwiches.


One final factoid, this place used to be called Baha Burgers. They recently redecorated, came up with a new name and modified the menu. Eric told us how the old name actually kept some people from ever trying them since they didn't want a "tropical burger" whatever they think that is. I was a fairly regular customer of the old Baha Burger location at the Colonnade (now gone) and know they had good burgers, most of which were in no way "tropical".

Friday, August 10, 2012

Flat Nutrisystem Hot Dogs?

OK, as far as I'm concerned this is clearly in the category of weird.


I was humoring the lovely Caroline recently by shopping with her at Big Lots. I certainly didn't anticipate encountering a hot dog at Big Lots; but life is full of surprises.

Here it is... a turkey hot dog in a pretty flat little box no more than a half an inch thick. It's all ready to be microwaved and devoured for a satisfying (?) lunch. Please notice the picture that even shows a somewhat flat hot dog in a bun (not included). I thought this was so bizarre that I was really tempted to buy one just so I could open it up and see what it looked like. I restrained myself.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Tasty Dogs - Cart at Wildwood

A while back we visited another hot dog cart. The cart that goes by the name "Tasty Dogs" is a regular fixture outside the front door of Lowe's at Wildwood. I had spotted this guy one day when I had just eaten; so I made a note. We tried on another occasion to eat there but that day he wasn't at his regular station.

But we did finally connect.

Some of our past episodes have convinced us that eating at a hot dog cart can be a little bit of an adventure. You don't know quite what you'll get. It can range from the best hot dog you ever had (That really happened!) to a somewhat regrettable experience.

Tasty Dogs ranks toward the upper end of that spectrum for carts. This guy knows what he is doing. He's a musician in his other life,but makes a pretty good hot dog by day. His cart is right there with all the John Deeres and other equipment on display right in front of Lowes. But Lowe's also displays picnic tables at the other end of the covered front area; so one can actually sit down there rather than eating standing up or in the car.


This would be a good place to stop for a quick lunch if you find yourself in the Wildwood area.

Monday, August 6, 2012

A New (To Us) Cart

We are always on the lookout for hot dog servers that are new to us. So, when Robert spotted a new cart downtown we put it on our short list of places to visit (Unfortunately, the whole list is short since we have visited so many).

This visit was to Greg's Hot Dogs, the new cart in town. Greg Nuckolls likes to park his cart at the corner of 5th Avenue and 20th Street (southeast corner) where once upon a time the original Tutwiler Hotel stood. These days he is in front of a steel and glass office tower that is currently totally empty. There was talk of converting this building into a hotel but it remains empty.

So, this day we headed downtown to visit this hot dog cart. The weather has bee a little unpredictable lately due to the summer rains and storms; but this day was beautiful. A perfect day to dine alfresco (I think that means outside).

Greg has a "cart"; but it's hard to call it a cart. It is pulled as a trailer into location daily with lots of other coolers and equipment carried in the tow vehicle. These cart guys definitely work hard to make their sales. Set-up and take-down every time they work. Add to that licenses, health inspections and the mandated commissary where the cart/trailer is cleaned and prepared every time. They also deal with weather and the various whims of the city government.


Let's talk about dogs! Greg has good hot dogs. It's hard to maintain the standards one would have in FBO (fixed base operation) from a cart, but Greg does a pretty good job. We had our usual first visit order of a hot dog and a chilli dog. Actually Greg doesn't have a standard "hot dog all the way" or "chili dog all the way". He prefers for the customer to tell him exactly what to put on the dog. The dogs we ordered and ate were outstanding (not just out standing on the sidewalk) but outstanding food. I don't think you can go wrong at Greg's. We were so busy eating these good hot dogs we almost forgot to stop and take pictures. We did manage the picture below of a custom chili cheese dog.


My only complaint, if it is a complaint, is that he has way more topping than he reveals on his menu. Only after talking with him a while did we learn that he has a few specialty dogs up his sleeve. One of these sounds like it's worth a special trip. He told us about a blue cheese dog. He like to add sauteed onions, kraut, a little Tabasco chipotle sauce and blue cheese to a dog. My mouth waters just writing this.
Of note also, take a look at his health inspection rating below. It doesn't get any better.

Greg has a history in the food service industry and chose a hot dog cart for his operation when he returned to Birmingham. I was particularly encouraged to find that he had read much of this blog as he was making up his mind about what he should do in Birmingham. When I started telling him about the blog he stopped me and told me he had read most of it already and was glad we had come for a visit.

Lastly, I couldn't help but think about Steve Malone who used to park his cart just one block north of this location. Look back Here and Here. Steve served the best hot dog I have ever eaten prior to his early death from pancreatic cancer. He left his mark in this world and his life continues to remind me that we are all a breath away from eternity. We need to live our lives accordingly.