Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Sam's Hot Dog Stand

Sam's Hot Dog Stand

I love an accidental discovery.

A gloomy Sunday at the beach made for a good time to drive to Wilmington.

As we drove in on Oleander, a man dressed as a hot dog caught my attention. I made a note to return and investigate.

An hour or so later, we headed back, keeping alert for a hot dog man. Sadly he was gone. Or maybe we missed him.

We turned around.

On the final pass, we saw the big hot dog sign and a sign for Sam's Hot Dog Stand just behind it.

It looked quiet and deserted. Afraid they were closed for the day, we investigated a little further and found they were open for a couple more hours. Let's do this!

Inside, an open kitchen looked out upon a handful of tables and numerous stools with the Sam's Hot Dog Stand logo encased in shiny varnish. Near the register, a menu board detailed their offerings: hot dogs and BBQ sandwiches in various combinations.  The menu board was surrounded by various cans of soft drink, including Sun-Drop and diet Sun-Drop. Score! A chalkboard on another wall detailed their daily deals.

After inquiring about their slaw, I ordered two with the signature Carolina Hot Dog toppings: mustard, slaw, chili, and onions--or as they call them, "All the Way," including their spicy chili.

The two dogs arrived nicely packaged in a Sam's Hot Dog Stand paper bag, along with my chips and diet Sun-Drop.
They looked great and tasted better. The slaw is clearly fresh and made on-site, a perfect blend of cabbage, mayo, and seasoning. 

The spicy chili added just a bit of kick. It was meaty and savory. Not sweet like so many lesser hot dog chilis, this was near perfect.

The mustard, onion, hot dog, and bun  each played their part to support the starring chili and slaw. Truly a great Carolina dog.

Before I left, I also sampled the mild chili and the BBQ. The mild chili was almost as good as the spicy--but without that little extra something. The BBQ, imported from Siler City, was smoky and delicious.

What a great find. I loved Sam's Hot Dog Stand. It is now my favorite hot dog in Wilmington, easily the best southeast of Raleigh, maybe further.

My verdict: 5 weenies

Thursday, June 18, 2015

L & D Grill

I first heard of L & D Grill at an impromptu family gathering on Boxing Day last year. My cousin’s cousin makes deliveries and gets the chance to grab lunch at a wide variety of eateries, and when he discovered my love for Carolina-style hot dogs, he said I had to try L & D’s dogs.

Not Abandoned!
Locating the business was a challenge, but finding them was a bit easier than finding them open.  My first attempt was New Year’s Day. I really didn’t think they would be open, and they weren’t. In fact, I really wasn’t sure I had found the place, at all. I drove southwest on Angier Avenue from Driver Street to Ellis Road, looking for something that looked like a hot dog stand.

I passed many old commercial buildings, some abandoned, some being used, a few rather impressive specimens of by-gone architecture. I couldn’t remember the name, but it wouldn’t have helped. The name is only clearly displayed INSIDE the building.

On New Year’s Day, most of Angier Avenue was deserted, and I noted what appeared to be an old abandoned gas station on the right. It really looked boarded up and out of business, but a sign off to the side caught my eye: “You’re in hot dog country.”

Order and Pick-up Here
I really did think the building was abandoned, and I was sad that I had missed this “Hot Dog Country.” But I thought I’d continue searching for the legendary eatery my cousin’s cousin had mentioned.

This abandoned place haunted me throughout the spring. I also did some research and found that it probably was the right place. And I tried to find out when it had gone out of business.

On Memorial Day, I decided to venture back down Angier Avenue. Maybe it just looked abandoned in the dead of winter. It still looked long deserted late that Monday afternoon.

A couple of weeks later, I had taken the morning off work. What the heck, I’d give it one more try--this time in the morning. I wasn’t expecting it to be open, and as I drove past, I noticed the window looked fresher. I could have sworn the windows had been boarded up… but these were real windows. And wait, an OPEN sign flashed!

Thrilled and excited, I hit the empty cement slab of a parking lot and pondered where and how folks parked there and went for it. Someone else parked close behind, and I followed him in.


Inside, there’s not much fancy ambiance. Two rooms: the grill and a room with a soft drink case and a bench where customers can “dine in.”

I’ve read glowing reviews of the fried chicken and chicken-fried steak, and the chicken looked amazing. But I was there for the dogs. I ordered two with mustard, slaw, chili, and onions and quicker than most other hot doggeries, my food was ready.

While I can’t say they are my favorite dogs in the Triangle, they are quite respectable. Their chili is tasty. It reminds me more of chili with tomatoes or tomato paste than the chili I grew up on at King’s Sandwich Shop and the Dog House. It has a definite chili-powder flavor. The slaw was very sweet. In fact, at first, I thought it might have been a very sweet chili, but I’m pretty sure it was the slaw. The onions were mild and tasty.
I enjoyed the hot dogs, and I’m thrilled I finally found this place isn’t just a legend. Their service is friendly and inviting, and if I can make it back when they are open, I’d love to have a dog or two again and explore other offerings on their menu. They have chuckwagon sandwiches, and I haven’t seen those since the Bavarian Inn at AppState.

My verdict: 4 weenies