Tuesday, May 15, 2012

VJ's for Hot Dogs?

When I first started thinking about a Birmingham Hot Dog Tour I started trying to assemble a list of hot dog stands around Birmingham. The first place I went was to the internet where I did a lot of looking and making notes. I don't remember what site it came from but I definitely remember seeing VJ's on the Runway listed as having great hot dogs. This place has been on the list ever since but we have never gone there until this visit.

VJ's is known as a "meat-and-three" place, but the web referral I found also told of their great tamales so that gave another reasons to want to try them. So we finally decided to visit a long time Birmingham lunchtime server, VJ's on the Runway. VJ's has been around for decades out on the backside of the airport on Eastlake Boulevard. In all of my MANY years I have always heard good reports of this place and wanted to go there... some day. Well, the day finally arrived.
 Guess which one is the original location and which is the new location.

Robert and I went there recently planning on trying both the hot dogs and the tamales. Here's what we found. VJ's was once upon a time a pretty small place located literally near the end of the shorter runway of the Birmingham International(?) Airport. We knew they had moved and had a newer location so that was no surprise. When we went in for our usual late lunch the place was 3/4 full. It's a pretty big place so there were lots of people around. By the time we left at maybe 1:30-40 the place was almost deserted. This place has always been a lunchtime favorite of working people and it looks like those working people don't take late or long lunches. So if you want a leisurely lunch with nobody trying to hustle you out the door to make room, this is a good place.

What did we find? When we selected a table and sat down we discovered that the table was a little... no, a lot sticky, so we moved to another table. We commented to the waitress about the condition of the other table but she didn't seem concerned. I guess she thought we were late for lunch and should be happy to be seated. Apparently clean, non sticky tables are not always a high priority. So, here we were at a table that met our high(?) standards of acceptable cleanliness. We scoured the menu and found NO hot dogs... at all. OK. plan B, tamales. We had talked about it on the way and had planned on having some of both the dogs and the tamales. With no dogs on the menu went went for the tamales. We both ordered "Mexican chili" (4.99), and two tamales (hand rolled) 1.99 each. We found that there is a special for that combo that saves a dollar or two. Sorry, I don't remember the exact deal.

As far as we were concerned this was a good plan. Robert and I both love good tamales. In fact, we both remember growing up in Norwood where occasionally a "tamale man" would pass our house in the evening, selling tamales from his cart that was half bicycle/half cart. Our dad loved to get a few when he had the opportunity; so we grew up having hand rolled tamales on occasion.
How was it? Very good. The chili was obviously made from scratch and has never seen the inside of a can. It was a little mild to be called "Mexican" chili on the menu, but it was still good. The tamales were great! They are prepared with ample meat filling and a good flavorful sauce is provided. This was an excellent combo that would really be good on a cool day. But even on a hot day I bet this would be good.

I almost forgot; look at the biscuits in the picture above. VJ's serves great Mexican biscuits. These biscuits definitely contain peppers. Even without real butter (they have Country Crock - whatever that is) these are fantastic. Is real butter that expensive? I bet they save at least a dollar a day by serving something that came out of a chemical plant and doesn't even have a real food name like "yellow somewhat-greasy spreadable food product". On second thought, maybe Country Crock of Unknown Yellow Stuff is better.

Bottom line, in spite of the first table and the yellow food product, I'm glad I finally went to VJ's, and hope to return.