Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Hot Dog!

Written By: Lisa Collins Kight

Who knew that the humble hotdog would have grown in popularity so much that every city or town boasts about their claim to the “greatest dog”?  Sadly, most fall short.
I am a lover of hotdogs. I love hotdogs!  There, I said it! Not the ones made from chicken lips, but real hotdogs. There was a time this wasn’t the case.  Just hearing the word hotdog would bring a flush to my cheeks and I don’t blush.  My memories from my early years in high school are often filled with fun times in the marching band (yes, I was a band geek and proud of it!), my friends, all two of them, and my ability to drive it like I stole it…, but hotdogs, they were another story.
Okay, here goes. Our family was poor, okay…there never seemed to be any money even though both my parents worked. We were just poor.  No shame in that.  Unfortunately, I am a hungry girl.  I have always eaten more than most men I know.  I just like food; this has never changed since I was little.
I am 5 ft. 6 ½ in. tall, I weigh 120 lbs., and I wear size 9½ shoes.  My height and shoe size have not changed since I was in 6th grade.  I weighed about 90 lbs., yes; I looked like a praying mantis.  Long arms, long legs and big feet!  I used to get teased that everything went to my feet because I never gained a pound despite how much I ate. 
Anyway…due to my limited funds I volunteered to work in the cafeteria during high school. Hey, you got free lunch.  Tragic yes, but Mrs. Myles was the best cook.  Things were different then…real food, well except for the hotdogs.  I can’t remember how long I worked there but I do remember the dread of seeing hotdogs on the menu. I sigh just thinking about it.  Okay, here’s the deal.  I realize most of you that know me now would never guess, but I was painfully shy and insecure in high school.  My hunger overcame any deficit I had in the personality department, so the lunchroom won. 
So, as lunch approached on hotdog day the dread flooded my world with misery and doubt, but I had to suck it up. I had no choice.  I donned my hair net, plastic gloves, and had a slice of humble pie.  It’s not so bad if you don’t allow yourself to think about it.  As fate would have it I always got assigned to placing the hotdogs in the buns.  Yes, I know. This is a terrible thing for an impressionable young girl.  Really, why couldn’t I just put the buns on the tray?
These were not the hotdogs I eat today. These were those fluffy ones that when you bite into them they feel like they deflate because there was no real meat in them. I always remember the way they would puff up and split on the ends which added to my teenage angst.  To make matters worse, everyone ate in the cafeteria, in those days.  Even the seniors…yes, the large and beautiful football players wearing their letterman jackets would file through one by one.  Oh they were completely oblivious to my existence.  I was the stick figure who put the hotdogs in the buns, always making sure to avoid any eye contact with them.  One by one they filed through talking and laughing.  They were gods among us mortals and we all knew it. 
Every time I saw one of the immortals approaching all I could do was stare down at the cavernous vat of bilious dogs awaiting my retrieval.  My hands trembled as I reached for a dog and placed it neatly in the bun.  By the end of the lunch period, my usually limitless appetite had dissipated and I left without eating anything.  The experience had been too traumatizing. Funny what seems important when you are fourteen.   
Okay, let’s talk about some dogs. I have a point to make, I promise.  Any noteworthy dog someone brings to my attention I seek out and try immediately.  There was this place across from TJ Maxx in Mt Pleasant.  I got all excited when I saw it for the first time.  I hit the brakes, turned my car around and headed into the parking lot.  The exterior was soooo promising; unfortunately the best thing on the menu that day was the cute guys having their lunch. It was quite a disappointing moment, actually.
Then there was Perfectly Franks.  They were on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, a show on the Food Network with Guy Fieri.  Boy was I excited!  I was sure I had found the Holy Grail of hotdogs.  Not so much…Sadly, the service sucked and tragically, their dogs failed to live up to the status of the Holy Grail of hotdogs.  I know people rave about the place, but the bun was soggy. They had tons of toppings to offer, but it just wasn’t “it”.
I had to almost give up my quest for the ultimate dog when a local boy named George recommended to me Jack’s Cosmic Dogs!!!!!   I drove all the way down Hwy 17 past Boone Hall Plantation.  I was about to wonder if they were going to have to send out a search party to find me when I spotted the rocket ship and the sign out front for the “Intergalactic and Famous since 2000” Jack’s Cosmic Dogs!  Choruses of Mendelssohn’s Hallelujah broke out in my head… I had made it. 
Jack’s Cosmic Dogs is filled with more nostalgia than any place I have ever seen.  Loads of vintage reminders of a simpler, more carefree time when an RC Cola was all there was to quench your thirst. It is fantastic!  I was like a child when I walked through the door; my eyes examining the memorabilia wall-to-wall, allowing my soul to soak up the goodness.  
Hold on…back to business.  I walked over to read the board and decided to try the “Cosmic Dog”; it comes on a hoagie roll, not a bun and is served with blue cheese coleslaw and Jack’s Cosmic Dog’s own sweet potato mustard.  Don’t get nervous. Okay?  I know it sounds different, but dang it’s good.  I actually bought a jar to take home with me that day.  I did make a slight alteration to my order.  Blue cheese is not my friend so I asked for regular coleslaw.  The young man asked if I would have any fries with my dog and I said, “Absolutely”.  They use real potatoes that are cut super thin into shoestrings, and they rock! 
My order was ready in a flash. I grabbed a seat, took a moment and dug in.  It was divine!!!  The hotdogs are awesome!  I would eat one plain.  I had found the Holy Grail of hotdogs.  It was a moment for me.  I gobbled my world famous dog and fries down in a skinny minute and washed it down with my ice water. 
It is so worth the drive. While I was there I did happen to notice one of my favorite Food Network stars had eaten there.  Alton Brown, host of Good Eats and Iron Chef programs declared that Jack’s Cosmic Dogs was the “Best Thing I Ever Ate!”  How about that?  I salute him for the declaration.
Hey, really…Alton Brown and I, both of us hotdog aficionados, have given the thumbs up.  How can you doubt the fabulousness of Jack’sCosmic Dogs?
I know the Hwy 17 location sounds like a trudge, but it’s worth it.  The good news is since my first visit, they have opened two other locations.  One on Folly Road half way to the beach and one in West Ashley near St. Andrews Blvd.
Take an intergalactic journey to Jack’s Cosmic Dogs and enjoy a Cosmic Dog.  It’s out of this world!


Post a Comment