Eric Stewart: Running Off At The Mouth

Mel’s Hot Dogs: Best Ever

by Eric Stewart on Aug.09, 2009, under Food, Life

Hot dog and friesMel’s Hot Dogs at one time was a staple of my diet.  Now I tend to limit myself to going once every other weekend, usually on Saturdays (a recommendation from my doctor).  Mel’s is closed on Sundays, and takes only cash.  There’s only one Mel’s: it’s at the corner of 42nd Street and Busch Boulevard in Tampa, just down the road from Busch Gardens.

Mel’s is run at the time of this review by Mel and Virginia Lohn since it’s opening in 1973.  Both are very outgoing, but be wary of Mel’s quick and often sarcastic wit!  While I of course go there for the food, it’s always a huge bonus to get some time to talk to Mel or Virginia, and the rest of the staff are always ready to spare a kind word or a quick smile as they hurry to prepare the perfect hot dogs.

Hot dog basketThe menu at Mel’s has a lot of choices on it (even chicken sandwiches or burgers … and the burgers have gotten high praise from the people I know who’ve had them), but the basis for most of Mel’s menu offerings is a 100% kosher Vienna Beef hot dog.  Toppings available include the greenest relish I’ve ever seen, grilled or ungrilled onions, bacon … pretty much everything you’d put on a hot dog (and probably quite a few things you wouldn’t).

All sandwiches can be made into a “basket”, which includes fries (again, my favorite of any restaurant I’ve been to) and usually coleslaw (but you can substitute baked beans if you want).  The coleslaw is made fresh every day from what I understand, and is the best coleslaw I’ve ever had (and it’s something I don’t usually like to eat).

I almost forgot to mention: my friends and I haven’t been able to figure out why the Coke at Mel’s tastes so much better than anywhere else.  Is it the cups?  The shaved ice?  Is Mel’s the only place that cleans out his soda hoses regularly?  Whatever it is, the Coke there just tastes better.

The decor includes pictures of people going all over the world with Mel’s Hot Dogs bumper stickers or t-shirts and having their photo taken (including yours truly, in two photos).

Usually if I have a choice, the choice isn’t a hot dog … unless it’s Mel’s.  Then, nothing else holds a candle.  Some of the more penny pinching folks I know balk big time at spending $8 for a hot dog (if you get a basket with certain toppings and drink), but most of the folks I know think it’s more than worth it.

Got $2.5 mil?  It comes with a restaurant.

Got $2.5 mil? It comes with a restaurant.

Alas, Mel has been interested in getting out of the hot dog business, and has been interested in selling the restaurant for a while.  Even if nothing changes when the place changes hands, it won’t be quite the same without Mel around to give me a hard time about not finishing my french fries.  I can only hope Mel and Virginia the best when they go, and that whoever takes the place over has the gravitas for hot dogs (and a compatible sense of humor) that Mel and Virgina have.

1 Trackback or Pingback for this entry

Hi! Did you get all the way down here and not find an answer to your question? The two preferred options for contacting me are:
  • Twitter: Just start your Twitter message with @BotFodder and I'll respond to it when I see it.
  • Reply to the post: Register (if you haven't already) on the site, submit your question as a comment to the blog post, and I'll reply as a comment.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.