Friday, December 23, 2011

Another Visit to Salem's

This past weekend my wife and I were out on Saturday afternoon. We weren't doing Christmas shopping like many others, but were meeting a daughter and son-in-law for a non-holiday task. After we had finished, we all went to Salem's in Homewood for a late lunch since only one of the four of us had eaten.

We all piled into one car to make parking easier when we got there. Once at Salem's, despite the many shoppers who were out, we found a space close to the front door. Upon entering Salem's we discovered a nearly full house. We had to wait a couple of minutes for a table for four to open up. I was a little surprised, but pleased to see how busy they were after 2:00 on a Saturday afternoon.
We were immediately given a warm greeting and the assurance that we would be seated quickly. Once we were seated we were given menus so we could make our selection. This time I decided to try something other than a hot dog. The other guy in our group ordered a slaw dog, fries and a drink which he thought was very good. He even commented on the good fries. One of the ladies had a hamburger and drink, while another ordered a special that day, Santa Fe soup. This time I decided to try the Philly cheese steak sandwich with a side of fries and onion rings. The Philly cheese steak sandwich is something they take great pride in and can justifiably be called their specialty. I will join the voices of many others who praise that sandwich as prepared at Salem's. A word about the onion rings; I love onion rings when they are done right. These were perfect. They were fresh, firm and thick, served hot and make a great side. On their combos they offer fries, onion rings or some of both. With on my hot dog excursions I usually order chips; but since I decided to try a different sandwich it just seemed right. The the fries and rings are a good choice at Salem's; and next time I have a hot dog there I'll get them instead of chips.

Places like this where they that have decided to include a few other choices along with their dogs can be really good, especially when part of your group wants to branch out.

There were no complaints from anyone at our table. As we were finishing up I saw a little break in the business at the counter and took the opportunity to talk for a few minutes with Wayne Salem, the owner. He was really in his element having a good time interacting with a steady stream of customers while overseeing his efficient staff. Most of the customers seemed to be regulars which created a good atmosphere. When I told him about this blog he told me how proud he is to have such a high rating on the Urban Spoon website. We talked about his father's drive in's (Ed Salem's) and how many of the wall hangings came from there. He is quite proud to be the son of the famous football star, Ed Salem.
A few minutes later, Wayne appeared at our table with a sample for each of us of his home-made banana pudding. This treat doesn't even appear on the menu but seems to be there for the asking. Our samples were all quickly consumed and were the perfect end to our meal. I know I wouldn't have ordered it, but really enjoyed the small portion I had. When you go to Salem's be sure to look for the hand made signs offering items not on the printed menu and be sure to try the deserts.

I noticed that they serve breakfast starting at 6:30 and started wishing this place was somewhere convenient for me to stop for breakfast every now and then. Maybe I can do that soon anyway.

Below is a painting of the old Ed Salem's drive in that was on 26th Street North not far from the Neighborhood where I grew up.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Five Points

A couple of weeks ago Five Points Hot Dogs hit the news when they reopened. If you missed it I talked about it here. This week we didn't just talk about it; we went there. Yes, we are ack on the hot dog trail.

As we approached the Five Points South area we wondered how hard it might be to find a parking space, but it wasn't hard at all. We found more than one empty space on the street very close. Then we also saw that Raymond's Five Points Market and Five Points Hot Dogs have their own parking right in front. They seem to do a good job of keeping an eye on the lot to keep the spaces available for their customers. This became evident before we even walked in the door. We paused outside to take a few pictures and ended up with a picture of Raymond III standing in the window waving at us. (See below)

Then when inside as we prepared to order I took a picture of the menu and heard him comment; "You sure are taking alot of pictures."

So here we had another case of camera syndrome. That's what we call it when the camera attracts so much attention that we get questions. That's fine with us because we enjoy interacting with the management and owners. This week we were off to a good start. Both Raymond Jr. and Raymond III are nice outgoing guys who enjoy their business and their customers. They had a steady business, but not so much they couldn't talk. We heard about their business as well as their fondness for hot dogs.We also discovered a connection from years ago when Robert's wife had rented an apartment from Raymond Jr. before they were married.

The two Raymonds are the second and third generation of this family to run the Five Points Market and have been part of this community for a long time. It is interesting to see some of the old pictures on the wall. I didn't notice any of the usual Alabama and Auburn decor, but did see historic photos and flyers related to their business. They have a right to be proud to be continuing the family business and reopening the hot dog side that's been closed for years.

So, how are the dogs? We varied our usual order a little. We each had a hot do, then split a chili cheese dog and a special dog. They use their own sauce that is similar to other hot dog sauces yet different due to their unique mix of spices. They serve good basic hot dog stand fare, better than many and bigger than many. If you want some good hot dogs and find yourself in the area, this is your place, and there's plenty of parking.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

YaYa's Yet Again

I know there are a few folks who occasionally read this blog, Please forgive me for the lack of new posts during the last couple of months. It sure hasn't been because I didn't want to get back to hot dogs again. We have a couple of good excuses. One is the busy nature of our lives. We both work in northern Shelby County which makes some of our lunchtime hot dog excursions turn into a very long lunch time. The other reason is that both Robert and I decided we needed to loose weight. My decision was in part due to some input from my doctor.

The good news is that I have reached my weight goal after loosing about 20 pounds and Robert is closing in on his goal. So,hot dogs, in moderation, will become more common lunchtime fare.

Even so, I recently attended an all day meeting in the southern Alabaster area and needed a good protein lunch. I opted for one of the more unusual hot dog purveyors in our area, YaYa's. On our first visit, the owner, Tracy Hale, told us that YaYa's is the home of the "almost world famous Q-dog. The Q-dog is a hot dog topped with a generous portion of bar BQ.

Tracy continues to be one of the friendliest and most out going businessmen I have ever met. And the Q-dog continues to be a great and unique product. I limited myself to only one since I was dieting and skipped my usual coke as well. Actually it might be a while before I have a coke again since I want to keep the weight off. I did take home one of his outstanding fried pies for my wife to have that night; and it made it home intact. Caroline didn't know if she would like a fried pie filled with banana pudding, but later told me it was really good. (They also have more traditional fillings).

That Tuesday, down on 119 between Alabaster and Montevallo, at the trailer parked next to the Pit Stop gas station, I really enjoyed my lunch. YaYas always seems to have a steady stream of regular customers and occasional first timers who are all treated like friends by Tracy and his wife.

I still want to go by some weekend and pick up some of the ribs he does each Saturday. If they are anything like the Q-dogs they have to be good.

Friday, December 2, 2011

A New/Old Hot Stand in Five Points South

The Birmingham News today (Friday 12/2/11) had a story of interest on the front of the local section. I had been given a heads up about this story several weeks ago when one of my daughters sent me a couple of photos taken when she and her husband had observed some late night work at Five Points Hot Dogs.

The picture shows someone working inside preparing for the reopening of this Hot Dog stand after being closed for years. I had spotted the closed hot dog stand over a year ago and even peered in the window hoping to see some action. But until now there were no dogs being served. The article can be read online HERE; but I am also copying it below:

From The Birmingham News
by Russell Hubbard
photos by News staff

One of Birmingham's iconic hot dog spots has made a comeback, after a 10-year hiatus.

It is Five Points Hot Dogs, inside Five Points Market on 11th Avenue South. The market quietly started serving hot dogs and other quick-service fare about three weeks ago.

Owned by the Josof family, the market has been there since 1947, back when Five Points was mostly residential, and housewives crowded the aisles for fresh meat and vegitables.

The area slowly changed into a business and entertainment district and the family began serving hot dogs and breakfast sandwiches in 1989, stopping in 2001 as market founder Raymond Josof Sr. moved into his seventh decade at the store. The elder Josof died this year after working at his market pretty much seven days a week, with time off only for Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Now, it is a father-son combo again, with Raymond Josof III joining his father, Raymond Josef Jr.

Raymond Jr. first served hot dogs at Five Points while working with his father, the founder.

"Convenience store gas stations have gas to attract customers into the store," said Raymond Josof III,who is 25. "We don't have that, so we needed an attraction,away to draw in people who otherwise would just pass by."

The lunch counter and cooking area take up about half of the store; it had lain dormant since 2001. The equipment was all in great shape, te Josofs said, and all that was needed was new paint and seating.

"It's been 10 years and in between, people never stoped asking for hot dogs,
Raymond Josof III said. "Some people with their own hot dog locations around town even asked if they could lease the space."

Like most of Birmingham's hot dog spots,Five Points has its own sauce, a meaty concoction with some spice to it that Raymond Josof Sr. says must be eaten over a frank to be fully appreciated. He said he devised it in the 1980s with the aid of Bob Stephens, a longtime Birmingham restauranteur.

The spot also serves hamburgers and freshly made chicken and tuna salads, along with chicken fingers,french fries and the usual accouterments. The Josofs themselves prepare,cook and serve all the food.

On the market side,there is beer, wine, eggs, canned goods, lunch meat and other staples.

"People are always going to drink beer and smoke cigarettes," Raymond Josof III said, when asked about the economy.

"He means to say you have to work twice as hard these days to make half as much," said his father.

"Get to work, we need fries," came the reply, as a third generation begins its run at the old market on 11th Avenue South.