Since 1917, the fine folks at Chris’ Famous Hot Dogs, on “Goat Hill” (Dexter Avenue), two blocks form the State Capitol in Montgomery, have been peddling their version(s) of chili dogs to the public. Hard to believe, isn’t it? Empires come and go, huge corporations like Enron, Worldcom, and MCI tumble, but sell the world a hot dog, and you’re guaranteed longevity and (usually) not a hint of scandal. (Unless you include the various politician’s that have hung out at the eatery over the years, or the fact that this was Hank William’s favorite place.
There’s a geographically specific way to order dogs, and at Chris’s, or perhaps in “Bama, the phrase that pays is “gimme (quantity) all the way.” What is “all the way?” Did you think I wasn’t going to tell you? Pshaw. In Alabama, it means the hot dog is lain on a mustard slathered bun, piled with sauerkraut, “chili,” and chopped onion. “Chili” is in quotes, because I venture to say that in some parts of the country, Alabama chili wouldn’t be called “Chili” at all, but rather, perhaps, “hot dog sauce.” Chris’ is a smooth, meatless, beanless concoction, red in color, and tasting overwhelmingly of the subtle flavors of ketchup. You never thought you’d actually read an essay that discussed the nuances of hot dogs, did you? The frank was small, but most these days are (size does NOT matter). My benchmark for success is to be able to actually taste the wienie, which in this case, I couldn’t. It had no discernable flavor.