Saturday, November 9, 2013

What's Happening to Lyric Hot Dogs?

After many months of not posting on this blog I have suddenly been motivated to write again. Before I start I will confess that after doing a hot dog blog for three years I grew kind of tired of it. It didn't help that the last couple of places we visited back in the Spring were a little disappointing. (No I never wrote about them!)

So today I am writing about Lyric Hot Dogs. On Friday Robert and I visited Lyric Hot Dogs again. More about that later, but first I want to address the great tragedy happening in our city right now and how it involves Lyric Hot Dogs. The outfit that restored the Alabama Theatre and now owns the Lyric Theatre is in the process of destroying a piece of Birmingham history so they can add a much larger lobby to the “restored???” Lyric theatre. All of this is being done in the name of “restoration"; but they are moving way beyond restoration.

Regarding Lyric Hot Dogs, I was startled to read a story on the web site early this week. You can see that article by clicking the link here. The story is that apparently the social elite at the helm of Birmingham Landmarks, Inc. have decided that one Birmingham Landmark must be destroyed in order to make a more spacious lobby to the side of the original lobby of the “restored” Lyric theatre. Lyric Hot Dogs is one of Birmingham’s oldest hot dog stands doing business in a particular location. We have seen many others close for good through the years; but this time the owner isn’t choosing to close up shop. Andrew Collins, the owner of Lyric Hot Dogs, is being forced to shut his doors as he has been given until January 31, 2014 to vacate his space so that the “restoration” of the Lyric Theatre can include moving the original entrance and elevator for the office space in the Lyric Building. It doesn’t seem to bother the Birmingham Landmarks bunch that they are closing a long time Birmingham business, a landmark. It seems they really are not committed to historic continuity or the preservation of successful businesses in downtown Birmingham. The expansion of their lobby way beyond the original lobby is very important to them despite the historic nature of those being forced out. Their agenda seems to be set even though they could have easily drawn their plans to keep Lyric Hot Dogs open.

I have gone to the Birmingham Landmarks web site and found the floor-plan for the new bigger and improved Lyric Theater. I am sure it will be beautiful when they are finished, but at the cost of a Birmingham icon. Maybe they think that hot dogs are just a little beneath them and would rather not have them around.

Now regarding hot dogs… During the time I have been writing this blog I have been asked many times where to get the best hot dog in Birmingham. I have always given an answer that included my top five favorites at the time. I have enjoyed visiting almost every place we have visited and haven’t wanted to steer people away from most of them. I encourage people to try them all. But I must now admit that Lyric Hot Dogs has been on my list of the top five every since I first went there. This is the place to which I have taken family and friends for a visit to an authentic downtown Birmingham hot dog stand. It is a consistently good server of hot dogs as well as being one of the two remaining long time locations for hot dogs in downtown Birmingham. Lyric is on 3rd Avenue North between 18th and 19th Streets, right across the street from the Alabama Theater.

Please look back at my previous posts about Lyric:

This is the same hot dog stand where Pete, Sam and Jimmy Graphos grew up helping their father with his hot dog business. These guys went on to start their own restaurants (Sam's Super Samwichs in Homewood, Jimmy's on Southside and the Sneaky Pete’s chain). The current proprietor, Andrew Collins, is a member of their family who bought the restaurant from their father. Birmingham Landmarks sees no history here; they want a big lobby at their “restored” Lyric Theater. It doesn’t matter that in the theater’s entire history the lobby has never included this space. It’s even more tragic when one looks at the seemingly empty storefronts they own next to the Alabama theater.

On this visit I was very happy to see that the place was swamped with people. Compare the two pictures below. On an earlier visit we had a wide choices of seating options, but not this time. The word has gotten out that this place is closing soon so on this trip the place was almost full of people, like us, wanting to reinforce their memories while they can.  I will encourage the reader to visit the Lyric while you still can.

Andrew is planning on closing well before his drop-dead date of January 31st. He says his daughter might recycle the equipment to open a place in “the suburbs”. This will be a loss to Birmingham; but I guess we are all too accustomed to losses in Birmingham.

So here we were at Lyric again. We both opted for our usual order of a hot dog and a chili dog, both all the way. We sat on stools at the little counter facing the plate glass window looking out on 3rd Avenue and ate delicious hot dogs. In fact they were so good we went back for more. No weight watching that day.

I think we are going to be tracking down hot dogs again. Changes in the hot dog landscape continue. Places come and go, and some move. So we will be addressing some of this.