Thursday, May 31, 2012

Millie's Hot Dogs

After attending a funeral for a friend's mother in Selma, NC, I decided to see if there were any CarolinaHotDog style places in the area, and with a little help from Yelp, I stumbled upon Millie's Hot Dogs in Smithfield, near the corner of NC 39 and US 70.

The establishment is a small addition to a larger building, no seating, just a window for ordering and picking up. Luckily in the remnants of the  latest tropical storm, they do have a small awning under which three to four folks could stand, if they didn't mind being close.

The prices were good. Regular hot dogs are $1.50. All beef hot dogs and the Millie Dog are 2 bucks. The Millie Dog adds cheese and Texas Pete, along with all the normal toppings--and then some.

I opted for my standard dog: mustard, slaw, chili, and onions. It came in a Styrofoam "casket" of sorts. That packaging keeps things a little neater, but I missed some of the magic of peeling the greasy paper back and unrolling the dog--but I digress.

I found the dog to be respectable. It's not my favorite, but it wasn't bad. Of course I'm looking for the best, so not bad is definitely not what I crave. The slaw was probably homemade, but it had a little something that made me think it might not be. I'm not sure if there is a way to season fresh coleslaw and make it taste that way; if not, it was bought. I can't be sure. The chili seemed OK, but I didn't get much of it. In fact, the slaw appeared to be the main attraction, overpowering everything else.

My verdict. Three out of five weenies.*

*Oh yeah, I guess I should explain the ratings. It occurred to me that I didn't have a ratings system, so I've decided I'll award weenies--not like green weenies, these are the good kind of award. If I rate a hot dog one weenie, that means I really didn't like it. If I rate it five weenies, it's darn close to perfection.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Old King's Sandwich Shop

One of my first hot dog memories involved the old King's Sandwich Shop at the corner of Foster and Geer Streets in Durham. As I recall, we spent many Friday evenings, driving "to town" after my dad got home from work.

My mother's aunt and her daughter lived in apartments on Geer Street, and we often visited them. We would occasionally shop at the department stores in downtown Durham: Belk's, Thalhimer's, and Sears, but the most important part of going "to town" was Friday night supper at King's. The establishment has been named King's apparently since 1942, but we never called it that. Mom & Dad just called it the Ballpark or the Hot Dog Stand.

Hot dogs were 25 cents apiece back then. I could tell from the menu that King's sold more than just hot dogs, but we never ordered anything but hot dogs, fries, and Cokes. The menu was painted on a board above the awning, but sometime between the early 70s and the 80s, it was taken down and replaced with the current King's sign or one quite similar to it.

The taste of those King's hot dogs from the 60s and early 70s defined what a hot dog was for me. To this day, when I think of hot dogs, the original King's combo dog--mustard, slaw, onions, and chili--is what I think of.

When I was very, very young, I remember my parents taking me along when they went out for an evening with their square dancing club. Afterward, if my memory is correct, they went for a bite to eat at Honey's on Guess Road. I ordered a hot dog, and it came naked. I was appalled. I needed the chili and slaw, but I was hardly more than a toddler, and I recall pitching a fit wanting chili and "lettuce." I'm sure I made my parents proud that night. Honey's hot dogs were not the Ball Park's.

Later, my family lived in Godfrey, IL, for a few months while my dad was trained for work in Alton. I was about seven years old, and finding a real Carolina dog was impossible in IL. I was so happy when we returned to North Carolina and my old friend, King's Sandwich Shop.

At some point, my family stopped the Friday night suppers at King's, and for several years I remembered it fondly--without visiting. Some time in the 80s or early 90s I decided to drop back by to see if the dogs were as good as I remembered them. Almost. The only problem is that they stopped making their own slaw and started buying pre-made stuff. I really can't stand pre-packaged slaw. I'd just rather not have any if it's not freshly made, in-house. Still, I remained a fan until it closed, and I was terribly sad when it did.

(King's Sandwich Shop has been lovingly updated and re-opened. More about the new King's Sandwich Shop later.)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Introduction

I grew up in Bahama, NC, just outside Durham, during the 60s and 70s. My earliest foodie memories revolved around hot dogs, and while I was growing up, it wasn't a hot dog if it didn't have mustard, slaw, chili, and onions. I knew folks ate them other ways, but I was not interested in anything but what has come to be known as a Carolina-style hot dog.

My plan for this blog is to reminisce about great hot dogs I've known in the past and to review hot dogs as I encounter them today. Though I grew up with the Carolina-style dog, my tastes have expanded; I've tried some unique combinations, and I've tried dogs in several places in the US as well as one or two in France and Egypt.

I've also developed an affinity for Southwestern food: tacos, burritos, and most especially, the New Mexican Green Chile Cheeseburger. With that in mind, the occasional musing on Mexican food will be on topic.

Hope you'll join me in the quest for the perfect hot dog. And if you know of a hot dog I need to try, tell me about it...