Saturday, September 24, 2011

Bama Fans and Lyric Again

Today I made a return visit to Lyric Hot Dogs downtown. I had a great excuse since I was the driver for an excursion to the Mcwane Center for the entertainment of two of my grandsons. Lyric, being just a block away was the logical choice for lunch. Of course I don't really need an excuse to go back to Lyric since it ranks as one of my all time favorites.

The guys were decked out in their Bama shirts in honor of a big game day. Then, as we walked over to Lyric we saw the rig shown here parked at the curb. I've seen motorcycles with sidecars but never a scooter. This one was even more spectacular due to being prominently decorated by a Bama supporter. We had to stop and gawk and take some pictures. I must say this is one of the most unique rides I have seen.

We finally arrived at Lyric. The orders were a little different from our usual hot dog excursions. I decided to branch out and try a chili cheese burger along with a corn dog. One of the boys had a cheese burger and the other had a grilled cheese. Their mother had a cheese burger. The guys were hungry; so when they saw my corn dog they decided they also needed one.

We were all well fed with very little waste even for the little guys. The smaller one (Luke) is very serious about eating.

I enjoyed the chili cheese burger and corn dog. I like all these offerings and found the burger to be a good alternative to the usual hot dogs. The corn dogs are bought frozen just like everybody else's. Even so, Lyric continues to be a great place to eat downtown.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Gus's in Hueytown

This week I took advantage of a rare get-together with a cousin who lives out in the western area to visit one of the hot dog places in Hueytown. I have been wanting to get to this area for a long time. The problem is that it is a very long way from my office on Valleydale Road in Shelby County. Last winter I visited some hot dog stands in Bessemer that I could finally visit when I was in Bessemer on business for a couple of days. As I remember those visits were part of my having hot dogs 5 out of 8 days in a row resulting in the lovely Caroline insisting that I slow down on the tube steaks for awhile.

This week I was in no danger of overdosing on hot dogs due to the recent slow pace of this hot dog tour; so I visited a fifth Gus's Hot Dogs. This one in Hueytown is another independently owned and operated hot dog stand that bears the name of Gus. I have found it interesting that they are so independent that there is a difference in how they spell the name. Three of them spell it "Gus's" while two spell it "Gus' ". I think I know which is correct English; but I'll leave it to some readers to weigh in on this. Maybe one of my English major daughters will offer an opinion.

This place is "Gus's" so that's what I'll call it. The first thing I noticed as I looked around Gus's was the reasonable prices. I think they have the best prices of any hot dog stand I have visited. Take a look at the menu.

Gus's is a free standing brick building on Brookline Drive. It is clean and comfortable. I like the layout of this place; it works well. The decor is heavy on family photographs... many small photographs put together in large frames. As one dines there is a sense of having an audience of hundreds / maybe thousands of unknown people. I don't think this is any worse or better than sitting there looking at various pictures and paraphernalia for a college football team that you don't really support. The usual decor in hot dog stands seems to have a heavy emphasis on football and Alabama or Auburn or both with the rare inclusion of another local favorite. It is always nice to find a different theme for the decor even if it is family pictures and hot rods.

So how was the food? It is good, much better than most. These hot dogs are basic good hot dogs. There is nothing surprising or unusual, which is a good thing. They are served hot and neatly put together (not messy). I also like it that they haven't tried to have an extensive menu; this makes it easier to concentrate on what is done best without trying to be all things to all people. They serve no Philly cheese, no pita wraps, no tacos and no fish sandwich; just basic hot dog stand offerings. This is the kind of place one can easily get into the habit of returning to over and over and over. Give 'em a try; you won't be disappointed.

Post Script:

I've been doing some research on the "Gus' " or "Gus's" question as well as discussing it with a couple of English majors. I have concluded that either form is acceptable. The more traditional form would by "Gus' " but there are those today who actually teach that the other form is preferable.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Colonel Dixie

Here's an entry written by my brother Robert who has been my companion on almost all of these visits. It looks like our joint excursions might not happen for a while. I'll miss him but will try to carry on.

We have occasionally included a place that's not in the Birmingham area, so let's hear from him about hot dogs in Mobile.

Some 28 years ago, a co-worker and I flew to Mobile for a meeting one day. When our meeting was done, before we headed to the airport for the flight back to Birmingham, Paul, who was from Mobile said: “We have to get a Colonel Dixie Dog!”. I had never heard of a Colonel Dixie Dog, but Paul was a good judge of food and was so excited about it, I knew it would be good. In all fairness, I don’t remember much about the Dixie Dog 28 years later, but I do remember that I enjoyed it. Although I have been to Mobile many times since then, I have only thought about Colonel Dixie once or twice until recently, and have never gone back to Colonel Dixie until last week.

Ever since Karl and I started the Hot Dog tour, I have wondered what became of Colonel Dixie and his dogs. I’ve wondered how the Dixie Dog compared to some of the tubular culinary delights we have found in Birmingham. Last week I was in Dauphin Island with some members of my family and some friends and we were to depart for our drive back to Birmingham around lunch time. We decided we would eat lunch in Mobile before departing for home. I did a Google search to see if I could find Colonel Dixie, and was delighted to find that it is still there. My curiosity about his dogs would soon be satisfied.

Colonel Dixie is located just a few blocks off I-65. at the intersection of Government Blvd and Pleasant Valley Rd. Upon our arrival, I noted that the exterior of the building is not very well maintained, but most hot dog destinations are somewhat low-budget operations, so I didn’t dwell on it. Later, a visit to the rest room (which one access from outside, not from the dining area) revealed the need for a new faucet as the one on the sink was somewhat deteriorated. Colonel Dixie has four tables outside on a covered patio area and 6 booths inside. One of the outside tables was in need of repair, and one of the booths inside had some stuff parked on it as though it functioned as the office for the restaurant.

As I entered, I noticed a sign taped to the door, stating “Sorry, No Public Phone”. After that warm welcome, I approached the counter to place my order, and saw another sign saying “No Cell Phones please refrain from using a cell phone while placing order so we can better assist you”. I’m thinking that is just common courtesy, but I suppose there are those who don’t. In case you miss the No Public Phone sign on the door, there is another prominently placed near where you place your order. I might as well mention the signs informing diners, “1 Free Refills on Large Tea and Lemonade Only” and “All Condiments Upon Request”. I found myself recalling a song from my teenage years, entitled “Signs, Signs” recorded by the Five Man Electrical Band. . . but, I digress.

As the lady working the counter was taking an order, I thought I would make the most of my time and take a couple of pictures. After I took the first two, the lady behind the counter (who I later learned was the manager) interrupted what she was doing to tell me that I was not allowed to take pictures of the menu. I’m not sure why she imposed that rule, but I complied and took no more photos of their menu. When it came my time to order, I asked how their regular dog was served and learned that it comes dressed only with ketchup and mustard, so I decided to pass on the regular dog and just get a Dixie Dog and fries. In case their hamburger is what keeps people coming back, I ordered a deluxe hamburger as well.

The Dixie Dog is topped with Chili, onions, kraut, mustard, ketchup, dill chips and sweet relish. The Dixie Dog was served hot and was appropriately described by my friends as “bursting with flavor”. The chili without beans is just right for a chili dog, but probably not something I would want a bowl of for lunch on a cold winter day. The bun appeared to have been steamed as it stuck to the aluminum foil on which the Dixie Dog was served. The Dixie Dog was so good that I went back and ordered another. Its $2.59 price makes it one of the pricier chili dogs we’ve seen on our tour, but it is good. I think everyone in our party who ordered a Dixie Dog enjoyed it. The crinkle-cut fries were crisp, hot, and had just the right amount of salt. One thing you will not find at Colonel Dixie is a bag of potato chips. There were none to be had. Oh, as for the hamburger, it was a disappointment. The bun was so stale that it came apart in my hand as I took my first bite, and the size of the meat patty revealed why they offer Giant Hamburgers and Double Meat Hamburgers. (Can you say, “Where’s the beef?”)

It is our goal, in doing the Hot Dog Tour, to be as positive as we can and to have fun with it. However, there are some places about which we have to be honest, even though it is not real positive. Colonel Dixie is one of those. The Dixie Dog was good, but the establishment itself has gone down-hill since my visit with Paul Rettig 28 years ago. I actually think this is a different location than the one we visited years ago, but this is the last remaining location of what started was a small chain some years back. I’m not sure of everything that has caused their demise, but the lack of cleanliness and the ill-repair of the building were enough to convince me not to return. Unless something changes soon, I fear the Dixie Dog will soon be only a memory.