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Mar 17, 2003 06:47 AM

Southern Hot Dog Quest (SHDQ)

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I'm soliciting for all the good Southern hot dog places I can find. This Quest was somewhat prompted by a post by Tom-Fl (

To qualify, the places must have its own housemade chili or chili sauce and sweet chopped onion at least, with finely chopped slaw an almost essential. You can order a chili dog, a slaw dog or "all the way" with both, along with mustard and onions. In at least one place (Betty's, below), all hot dogs, except plain, come with chili, even the slaw dog; you can get a slaw-only dog there, but you must specify.

Most small Southern towns have at least one such local institution: usually a lunch counter, soda fountain or drive in; maybe only open Monday through Saturday for breakfast and lunch, closing by 2 or 3 PM (maybe closing at 1 PM on Wednesday or Saturday so the owner can make his tee time); usually with multi-generational customers including the mayor, the mechanic, a deputy or policeman, the farmer and his son or daughter in town for the day, the painter and the drywall guys, and an insurance agent, all of whom have wives who don't understand how they could eat that stuff; has been around for at least 40 years with the customers not letting the owner retire or the "kids" now running the place with the waitress who has been there for 22+ years; after breakfast, may only offer hot dogs, hamburgers (with or without gravy), country ham, sweet tea, RC and/or "Co-Cola" (maybe still in the little bottles, and never Pepsi) with fried pies on the counter next to the potato chip rack; may have burned down at least once and has been rebuilt; may still have the small segregation-era side entrance which anyone uses now especially for take-out that is much of the business; you get a check or you tell whoever's at the register what you had; it does not have a web presence and, if it's mentioned anywhere on the web, it's cited in that state's legislative body in the form of a commendation for its longevity; and it may or may not have a phone, but certainly not a fax.

The best I've ever had was at Wilkerson's (gone) in downtown Augusta with its hot mustard and the entire police force taking turns for lunch. Some operative notables are: Brad's and Dixie Club in Dothan, 4-Way Lunch in Cartersville (I've got a print of the place hanging in my kitchen and one of their black caps), Betty's in Marietta (current favorite), Dinglewood Pharmacy in Columbus, Nu-Way in Macon, Weaver's in London, Warren's in Greenville, Roast Grill and Snoopy's in Raleigh, Shorty's in Wake Forest, Kannon's in Zebulon, Frank's in Columbia, Georgia Street in Fountain Inn, Garo's in Knoxville, Moore's in Lynchburg, and Hometown in Clarksburg.

Please contribute to the list with your favorites. Double points if it's a pool hall.



Need NOT apply (in no particular order): Texas weiners or wieners, rippers and cremators, coneys of any ilk, white hots and red hots, NY System, Chicago-style, deep-fried, split and griddled, pig-in-blanket, Texas Tommy, Dirty Dog, char-broiled, gaggers, scrambled, all-beef (we like our assorted piggy parts), brats, Italian, Polish, Newark, Buffalo, Rhode Island-style (weird little dogs), Hummell, Sabrett, Schmalz, Miller, Schultz, Koegel, Best.

These may be fine examples in their own right and may have admirers, but they're not what I'm looking for.

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  1. Mankin's in Holden Beach has been making foot long hot dogs with chili, mustard, onions and slaw for years. See picture.

    RO's in Gastonia is best known for BBQ, but their hotdogs with their unique slaw are fantastic.



    1. Chris' Hot Dogs on Dexter Avenue just two blocks down from the State Capital(known locally as Goat Hill) and one block from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. You can see everybody from the governor to the street sweeper having lunch there. Been there for over 80 years.

      Haven't lived in Montgomery for almost 30 years but always stop at Chris' when I'm back.


      1. Sadly, Franks in Columbia is long gone and replaced by a diner. As a student, I had many a dog and the coldest beer in town at that place. The other choice in that town is Sandy's which is now a small chain. Though it remains good, It pales in comparison to a Frank's dog. But, it is all that is left.

        There used to be a bar in Columbia called Tally Ho that served a Chili Slaw dog that they called a Ho Dog. By my memory, it was mighty good. But, I was always mighty drunk when I was eating them. The 'Ho too has disappeared as a result of progress.

        There also used to be a place in downtown Augusta called Sunshine Bakery that served a dog with kraut, swiss and mustard on a soft dark rye roll. Different, but good. Don't know id its even around anymore.

        After a visit to Pinks in Los Angeles recently, I more convinced that a southern slaw dog is the finest of the species. Slaw wasn't even an option there though Pastrami and a tortilla was...go figure.

        1 Reply
        1. re: YourPalWill

          Some of the best dogs I've ever eaten, bar none, are at a little mom and pop bar inside a shopping mall in Gatlinburg, TN. It's called Ryan's Pub in the Mountain Mall. OK, it's in the middle of a major tourist mecca but the dogs are out of this world!

          Ryan's has Hell Dogs and Nuclear Dogs (Heat level one through five). They start with quarter pound Oscar Mayer beef franks slowly cooked. A Nuclear Dog has swiss cheese, several kinds of hot sauce, jalapeons and onions along with a sprinkle of pizza sauce. Nuclear Dog novices should start with #1 and have plenty of cold liquid handy because they're hot enough to blister porcelain. They are so delicious one of the first things I do when I get to Gatlinburg is have a Nuclear Dog. Hell Dogs are cheese dogs smothered with bottled Hell Sauce and onions...also very, very good! There are wash tubs full of iced longnecks inside, grab at least one if you're sampling the Nuclear or Hell Dogs (buttermilk puts out the fire even faster).

          No, it's not fancy but it's spicy hot dog eatin' at its best!

        2. What are you Hounds talking about? You've discounted some of the best quality dogs made in this country. Yet not once did you explain what your favorite dog is actually made of. All you keep telling us is they have slaw on them. What else, if anything, is on a "Southern" dog. What type of roll.

          Who manufacturers these dogs? I have no idea and been in Florida for 25 years. Is this "Southern" dog beef or all meat? A natural casing or skinless? Grilled, steamed, fried, char-broiled? What's the slaw like?

          WHAT ARE YOU PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT??? Correct me if I'm wrong. Doesn't a West Virginia dog come with slaw, too? I seem to remember a Hound extolling the virtues of West Virginia's hot dog several months ago.

          I'm use to a all beef natural casing dog that I can grill. Thankfully, I can get them at Publix - Nathan's Natural Casing All Beef or Boar's Head All Beef.

          When I am fortunate enough to get back to the homeland "NJ" (Capital of the World's Best Hot Dogs) it's a deep fried all meat, natural casing dog (Texas Weiner) or a Sabrette or Nathan's all beef, natural casing, grilled dog.

          How one discounts any of these is beyond my comprehension, but I'm all ears. Educate me.....

          4 Replies
          1. re: Chuck

            I don't think anyone is discounting other dogs,but looking for this particular experience.

            I also love all those you mentioned,as well as the great Chicago product.The "hot guts" of Tx with some mustard,japs,and onion are not to be missed.

            The image may come from small souhern towns where the ladies could go to the "tea room" for chicken or ham salad,pimento cheese,chips and a coke.

            The family would go to the local "diner" for about five versions of "meat & threes" and extra sweet iced tea.Might get homemade biscuits or cornbread,dependin' on the day of the week.Gravy came with everything.

            The men, and boys when they made the "right of passage "to young manhood,could go to the town pool hall.

            You could buy tobacco products and you could chew.

            You could discuss the ball teams,crops,fishin'and huntin' and politics.

            Many of these only had a simple boiled or steamed,what we would now consider skinless,hotdog.

            They came on a cheap,white hotdog roll[the way pulled pork comes on a cheap white hamburger bun].

            They would squirt some cheap yellow mustard on the bun,the dog,a little homemade meat sauce,a few bites of onion and maybe you could get slaw-when they had it.

            People could be seen with carryout orders in the dozens.

            If it was a wet county,this would be the place in town you could get a beer.If not it might be a Neehi or RC Cola.

            Sorry to be so long,but maybe this helps a little.

            1. re: Chuck

              Chuck, you raise some good points. Having grown up in the south and spent a number of years in both New York City burbs of New Jersey and now Chicago, I understand your devotion to the all beef Sabrett.

              On it's own or in a hotdog where it is showcased by only a little mustard or some onions in sauce, the Sabrett is a great dog. In fact, I've never really met a hotdog that I didn't like.

              To answer your question about the sloppy southern dawg, I think that a good quality pork frank is your best bet. Unlike those crispy delicious thin all beef dogs that you get at a place like Papaya King or Gray's in Manhattan, the southern dog is not the exclusive star of the show on the Carolina Slaw dawg bun.

              The southern dawg gets a good squirt of yellow mustard, a layer of creamy cole slaw, a thin layer of spicy chili and a sprinkle of minced onion. The beauty of the Carolina slaw dawg is the way that all of those things meld together into fat man's happiness. What you end up with is integrated layers of cold and hot, sweet and spicy that all just work together better than you could imagine.

              A beef dog from the streets of New York would be too bold in a sloppy Carolina slaw dog. It would throw off the natural balance of the melding of ingredients that goes on in a Carolina Slaw dog.

              Sadly for me, here in the Windy City, my only hope for a Carolina Slaw Dog comes out of my own kitchen. It's a labor love to make your own chili (god forbid, don't use that canned stuff)just for a stinking hot dog that you could get at nearly any service station back home.

              Next time, you're in Greenville, SC, try the HotDog King on Main. It ain't bad either.

              1. re: YourPalWill

                Ok! I now understand what's to be expected when one orders a "Southern Dog" I'd try one - It is just that I've always enjoyed the hot dog itself and considered the stuff that went on top of it as some "extra pleasure"

                Hey, to each his own. Thanks again for taking the time to educate me and anybody else who was unfamiliar with this type of hot dog - You learn something every day about food.

              2. re: Chuck

                Southern hot dog chili has "no beans". How about chili up North?

              3. For something that will make any hotdog good (even veggie dogs) you need to try some mustard chow chow. It is available locally around Charlotte.

                "Best thing on yer dawgs, 'cept your lips"


                1 Reply
                1. re: Raine

                  This comes from a top competition barbecue cook and all around chef, who should know good.