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.)

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