We hold these truths to be self evident: every mother’s spaghetti tastes better than anybody else’s, and every hometown has a hot dog dive serving up the best hot dogs on the planet.
No argument on the spaghetti issue, although honestly? MY mama's spaghetti can beat YOUR mama's spaghetti. Also, the Dairy O hot dogs in Orangeburg, South Carolina, really ARE the best anywhere.
It’s only natural for folks to claim their hometown eatery to be better than anybody else’s because being loyal to hot dogs, apple pie and barbeque is the American way. Nowhere is that more true than south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
In Orangeburg back in the day, there were two hot dog dives, one with curb service and one without. The place on Broughton Street was truly famous for hot dogs served to you in your car. They were ugly dogs, but who cared? A Julius’s hot dog, even today, can resurrect saliva glands in a corpse.
In Babe’s Pennsylvania hometown, folks show up at Bailey’s when they crave a taste of yesterday. Nailed to the walls are hundreds of football, basketball and wrestling team pictures, some going back as far as the Forties. Bailey’s sells all manner of fast food, but their made-to-order hot dogs topped with their secret sauce, is what keeps people coming back for more.
Bailey’s puts out a pretty good dog, but … not as good as the ones served up at Orangeburg’s second most famous place: the Dairy O. It’s impossible for me to pass through the burg without stopping for one or two.
In Hendersonville it’s Hot Dog World, touted as one of the best restaurants in North Carolina. I know a fellow who, when on vacation in the mountains, heads for Hot Dog World before he unpacks his suitcase. There was even a couple that hosted their wedding reception at Hot Dog World. (I didn’t make that up.)
Close to Duke University in Durham, Pauly’s Dogs rule. Each one, created by Pauly himself, is named appropriately. The Southern Belle is the standard h.d. with mustard, catsup, onions and Pauly’s special sauce. Aunt Jamima is a breakfast hot dog topped with maple syrup, and Cap’t Crunch is topped with … you guessed it. I doubt he’s ever offered one named Fido.
St. Simons Island’s hot dog claim to fame is Hot Dog Alley. The owner set up his business on a corner fifteen years ago, a cart on wheels usually seen at flea markets. I call them Roach Coaches, but that’s just me. He eventually bought the building on that same corner next to an alley and voila! Hot Dog Alley was re-born. A pretty good dog, but not great. My opinion is obviously jaded due to past eating experiences at the good Dairy O in Orangeburg, SC.
Walterboro South Carolina has Dairyland and my kids, raised in that small lowcountry town, claim it to be the very best. Ehhh …
When I was a student at USC in Columbia, South Carolina, we used to go to the old Sears store in Five Points to gobble up the best slaw dog ever made. Sadly, the little annex hot dog joint hooked onto the big Sears building has been gone for more years than I want to count. Only the memory of that special taste is left. But oh, what a fine memory it is.
I am on a quest to find where the best hot dogs can be found. Next week, I am going to Hendersonville to chow down on a recommended dog from an appropriately named place: Piggies. I am told it is so good you won’t want to stop with just one. We’ll see.
In any case, as we approach the Fourth of July, America’s official National Hot Dog Day, I hope you’ll stop for a moment and think about that special dive you knew as a kid, the one that floods you with memories of days gone by. By all means, stick to the July 4th menu by cooking up a bunch of dogs. Serve them to your kids and grandkids while telling them about that special place in your old hometown that served the best hot dogs on the planet.
I dare you to name one of them FIDO.