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.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Catching up

Where have we been? Good question. I guess I've been a little off pace during the first of the summer. I have my excuses, but I'll sum it up by saying; "Life is hard."

The lovely Caroline and I have had two different times of keeping two different two year old grandchildren for many days and nights. Wow, these kids are fun and touch the heart, but it's not always easy for some of us to take care of two-year-olds around the clock.

Then to follow that, Susie (our youngest daughter) gave birth to our sixth (count em) grandson.

Regardless, what about hot dogs? As I said in my previous post we have been making a few return visits as well as looking for some new places to visit.

A few days ago Robert and I started out to visit a new (for us) hot dog cart downtown. Robert had spotted it a week before and stopped by to talk with the guy. Unfortunately, the day we headed downtown to try his dogs there had been a weather forecast of rain around noon resulting in the guy not showing up.... (Wimp). So we decided to head for Homewood on our way back toward our respective offices.

The plan was to visit Mike's Chicago Dogs since there has recently been a change in ownership/management there. But, when we got there it was obvious that the new owners had not yet figured out how to serve on a timely basis. We saw numerous folks standing around waiting for their orders and watched the cashier take a very long time to review the order and finally poke the food out the window for one customer. We decided we would wait and try again at a later date. I hope these new owners can get this right.

So, when we left there we went a couple of blocks down the street to Salem's Diner. Actually I had been there on a Saturday about a week before but Robert had never been there. It was a good choice. Salem's is becoming one of my favorites!

On my previous visit I had a chili dog combo with a chili dog, a mix of fries and onion rings and a drink. The chili dog was one of those that needs to be eaten with a knife and fork. Being not terribly hungry, I was well fed with just one dog. On that day I opted for one of the Philly Cheese sandwiches which are the specialty of the house. Robert had a chili dog combo like I had eaten a few days before. He agreed with me that these dogs are among the best we have had. The option of a combo including their perfect onion rings also takes it up a notch.

Salem's is a must try place in the Birmingham area. Wayne Salem and his helper Ernie Dease will make you at home. I will give this advice; the place is small so you might need to wait for a seat. Then if you are at a table, watch the flow of people and try to finish up and be on your way if they are full.

Now here's another recent visit. We have gone back to G-Dogs a couple of times. Read about our previous visit Here. These revisits are fun. When we make our first visit we have a standard order of a hot dog all the way and a chili dog (also all the way). The revisits give us an opportunity to try more of the offerings. Below You can see our latest orders. I decided to try their sausage dog and a corn dog. Robert ordered a chili dog and some chili cheese fries.

I would say that between the two items I ordered I liked the sausage dog better. There is something about recipe used by whoever makes some of these previously frozen corn dogs that tastes a little too sweet for me. Nevertheless, G-Dogs remains a good choice for hot dogs in the Hoover area.