Monday, May 23, 2011

Steve Malone - The Best Hot Dog

I have often been asked where to get the best hot dog in Birmingham. I usually don't give a direct answer but give the questioner to my current list of the top five. But, I have occasionally revealed my choice of the best. I will admit today that the best hot dog I have ever eaten came from a downtown street vendor named Steve Malone. See my post about him Here.

Steve wasn't in the hot dog business long, less than a year. I heard in March from a friend that his doctor suspected he had pancreatic cancer. This was later confirmed. Word came out today that he died this morning.

I will miss Steve, as will many. His life was not perfect, like the lives of many of us; but he left lasting fruit that was far deeper than hot dogs.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Yaya's and How Southern Can You Get?

Robert's daughter was home for a few days from Hawaii where she now lives and works as a journalist. Perhaps you, like me, have heard some Southerners pronounce the state of her abode as Ah-Wah-Ya. I'm tempted to attempt a reply; "fine, howa you?" Don't we live in a great place? Everybody else in the world seem to have accents but not around here.

So on this visit there was an effort made to help her remember her southern roots. There is no better place to do that than at YaYa's, the trailer parked next to the Pit Stop gas station between Alabaster and Montevallo. It is the home of the "almost world famous Qdawg." If you didn't read about our previous visits there take a look. This place is a one-of-a-kind. Here.

Robert wrote to me:
Whilst Katherine was here, I needed to take her on a true southern lunch experience. No better place than YaYa. The table is painted half Auburn colors with Auburn logo and half Alabama colors with Alabama logo. In the photo are a QDawg, a Nacho QDawg, an apple pie (in wrapper) and a cup of sweet tea. Katherine loved it. She enjoyed YaYa, (the owner) too.

The Q-dog is a hot dog topped with a generous portion of pork bar BQ and sauce. This is good stuff! Also on the menu is a nacho dog and a nacho Qdawg. His picture shows a Qdawg and a Nacho Qdawg. YaYa warns that this is difficult to eat without making a mess, but many customers like 'em. Also peeking out of the wrapper is a fried pie. They are rumored to be outstanding but I've never felt like having one after the dawgs. By the way, what is a good name for cheese that doesn't belong to you? Nacho cheese, of course.

YaYa's continues to be a great destination. The owner, who calls himself YaYa, is a delight to interact with.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

3rd Grade Hot Dog Day

Today I cooked hot dogs for my son-in-law's 3rd grade class and we had a great time. I bit off a little more than I expected when I offered to do this so I greatly appreciated the help of my friend Ed, my wife Caroline & her sister Nancy Paulina Meatballa Spaghetti (That name is an old family joke). The kids were well behaved, polite and appreciative; it doesn't get much better. Aaron was also happy to let his class have a special time out in the park.

This class is at Restoration Academy, an urban Christian school located in downtown Fairfield. Fortunately there is a beautiful park right across the street which provided a great place for hot dog day. I have a long relationship with Dr. Edwards from Hope Health Center located right next door to the school; so he came and brought along his entire staff. We also had numerous members of the school's administration. We did have quite a few customers, but with all the help things went pretty smooth. In the end we had one lone hot dog left over; but I made sure it didn't go to waste.

There's Aaron, my son in law with some students.

I was super impressed with the selection of toppings selected by the students. We had avaliable the following:
The remoulade sauce came from a book (The Great American Hot Dog Book) recently given to me by Josh, a young man I have known for decades. I had suspected that there must be a cajun tradition for serving hot dogs. In that book I found the "New Orleans Remoulade Dog" which I was eager to try. This was a totally different recipe for remoulade sauce than I had seen before so I wanted to try it. The cajun dog is simple; a grilled hot dog on a toasted bun topped with remoulade sauce.

Back to hot dog day: These kids tried just about every topping we had. About the only one neglected was the onion which is a shame. I had bought a purple onion and chopped it so we would have a mild onion. I had expected an endless parade of kids wanting ketchup, mustard or both... and nothing else. But instead they each piled on numerous toppings; it made me smile.

Today was a beautiful cool spring day, near the end of school; and we were under big old growth trees in the Fairfield City Park. It was the perfect setting. I regret that I have no pictures to post; I intended to take a camera but forgot. I guess that's just as well; things were jumping so I couldn't really have given photography much attention.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Sol's - Downtown

This week Robert and I found it a little easier to get together for hot dogs. We were in agreement that we needed to go to Sol's Deli in downtown Birmingham. If the viewer is paying attention he will remember our visits to another Sol's in Norwood. This is a totally different place that had somehow escaped our attention for a long time. Sol's downtown is not a hot dog stand, it's a deli that also serves "meat and three" at lunch. But they do serve very good hot dogs.

If you look at their address it is No. 2, 20th Street North Suite 120. The address assigned by the Postal Service is very misleading. They are located in the building named today "Two North Twentieth" but known to old-timers like me as "The Bank for Savings Building" facing Morris Avenue between 19th and 20th Streets. Their front door opens onto the sidewalk along Morris Avenue closer to 19th than 20th Street (See the arrow). Apparently this building, an icon of the 60s, has a 20th Street address even though it doesn't even have a door opening onto 20th Street. Go figure... We were glad to spot the sidewalk sign shown above; because with only the address in hand we would have had a hard time finding it.

Sol's is a downtown deli that is far more than a hot dog stand. They have something for everyone; from sandwiches the meat and three lunches as well as breakfast and catering.

So, how are the hot dogs? Very good! Robert ordered a "Sol dog" and a chilli dog while I ordered a "slaw dog" and a chilli dog. We cut the slaw dog and the "Sol dog" in half so we could both sample all the offerings. We found the dogs to be all beef franks served on toasted buns. The chilli dog was topped with chilli that is obviously home made and cheese. The Sol dog was loaded with kraut and mustard with a hint of something red (ketchup?). The slaw dog was loaded with a generous layer of a good slaw. The hot dogs are good and I would assume the rest of their food is just as good.
I was reminded again how we can attract attention by simply taking a few pictures. As usual I took several pictures of the food and the restaurant, but not unnoticed. As we were leaving I was approached by Jeff Bajalieh, one of the three brothers, the sons of the original Sol. He gave a special greeting which led to a short conversation.

A little background on Sol's: Sol Bajalieh arrived in the United States in 1965. His love of people and food inspired him to open Sol’s Sandwich Shop & Deli in 1968 in downtown Birmingham in the John Hand building, the old First National Bank building. Sol provided the downtown scene with delicious meals until 1995 when the building was closed for renovations. Thirteen years later Sol’s three sons: Jeff, Chris, and Jason revived the deli right down the street from the original location in honor of their late Father.