Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What'll Ya Have


Magnet # 298: The Varsity Orange

Material: Plastic


Purchased By: Dad

Considering today is National Junk Food Day and National Hot Dog Day is coming up on the 23rd, you might want to have a hot dog. I think that would cover both bases pretty well. While these encased delights stem from German frankfurters, they were developed here in the United States on Coney Island in the late 1800s. They've gone on to become one of the most beloved fast foods in the nation - as a nation, we can put down as many as 20 billion hot dogs a year.

As I've mentioned on here before, I'm a big fan of the Travel Channel and I've seen their hour-long exploration of Hot Dog Paradise so many times I've practically memorized it. And, yes, the Georgia restaurant the Varsity is featured on the show, as it is the largest hot dog stand in the entire world. Around 15,000 hungry customers visit it each day but that number can double when the Georgia Tech Yellowjackets are playing a home game. The lines can be long, but they tend to move quickly and when customers get up to the counter, they're greeted with a "What'll ya have!" to hurry them along. It might not be a bad idea to decide what to order while you're in line. There's also a drive-in service that can accommodate as many as 600 vehicles. Some of the car hops have been there for decades, singing and dancing to entertain their customers. The Varsity was the creation of former Georgia Institute of Technology student Frank Gordy who, disgusted with cafeteria food, decided to give his fellow students another option and opened a hot dog stand, The Yellow Jacket, nearby. The concept caught on better that Gordy could have imagined. Soon, he was expanding into a whopping location that would span two city blocks and reopening under the name of the Varsity. It's gone on to become a part of Atlanta culture known all over the world. I've eaten there myself on a couple occasions, but I've never tried the Varsity Orange, which is featured on this magnet - it's one of their signature drinks. Maybe next time. I'm sure the Varsity will be around for quite some time, so I can try everything on their menu, if I'm so inclined.

There are a couple of places featured in Hot Dog Paradise that I haven't been to, but would really like to try one day. First off is Hot Doug's, a Chicago eatery that elevates hot dogs to an all new level. The owner is Doug Sohn who was inspired to open a hot dog restaurant when a friend of his complained that he'd had a bad hot dog. Sohn couldn't imagine what someone would have to do to make a bad hot dog, and I seriously doubt he's ever served one in his restaurant. Instead, he's expanded onto what a hot dog can be, offering game and gourmet meats in his sausages, while still including traditional choices like a Chicago Dog on his menu. A few examples of his wares are rattlesnake, bison, duck, and alligator. There's even a hot dog that is topped with foie gras. With so many incredible offerings, Sohn has amassed quite a following and the line to get one of his sausages can take as long as an hour and a half. Still, he doesn't take himself too seriously, always working at the counter and giving his hot dogs unusual names like The Salma Hayek, The Elvis, and The Game of the Week. Sounds like a great place - hope I make it there someday. And on the other end of the country in Miami is another innovative hot dog restaurant chain, Franktitude. This place was founded by Aru Wurmann, a Chilean native who started making hot dogs from salmon, as was done in his home country. Apparently, they're not fishy at all and are quite tasty, packed with omega-3s, and only have 90 calories apiece. They also offer hot dogs made with tofu, turkey, and 100% beef, so there's no excuse not to be healthy. Plus, they offer tons of toppings - over 50 in all, including hummus, sauerkraut, avocado spread, and potato strings. And if you're not feeling like having a bun for your hot dog, you can choose to put it on a panini, wrap, ciabatta, or even a salad. Franktitude is all about options. Best of all, if you really like the food, you might be able to open a Franktitude of your own - they are open to franchising and are looking to expand across the Southeast - maybe we'll get one in Savannah eventually.

Well, I guess it's a little obvious that I'm not really into more traditional hot dogs, but I think I might try to have a more unusual variety to celebrate, maybe a spicy chicken sausage that I like. But that's part of what makes hot dogs great - that they are so open to variations. So pick your favorite, top it with whatever you like best, and dig in. Even if you can't make it to a hot dog paradise like the Varsity, Hot Doug's, or Franktitude, that's no excuse not to join in!

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