Hot dogs, cold reception

So The Famous Hot Weiner has apparently changed hot dogs.

That’s been news – or at least the word on the confused lips of locals – for a few weeks now.

But the reception as I’ve tried to officially confirm that switch for The Evening Sun’s print paper has been, in a word, cold.

Luckily, here on the blog I can tell anyone interested what I think of this whole Hanover hot dog hullabaloo.

I grew up on hometown hot dogs.

I know that sound, a heavy plate scraping across the table in front of you. Two dogs steaming in soft buns loaded down with chili. That squirt of mustard. The dusting of white onions.

But I always got my hot dogs at Harry’s Main Street in Westminster. Those are the ones I grew up on. The place mom took me early, so I’d know how to order them properly.

So if you’ll indulge briefly a Carroll County boy – one of those transplants from below the border – I’ll give you a bit of history.

That little restaurant in Westminster has been a Main Street staple since 1946, if my knowledge of local history remains correct. And early on, the place got a reputation for good hot dogs. The Coney Island-style dog caught on quickly, after owner Harry Sirinakis introduced it all those decades ago.

Harry's Main Street, in Westminster, Md., was my regular hot dog haunt in younger years.

I’d sit in that downtown shop, and mom would tell me how her dad would bring her there as a little girl. She could remember standing out on the sidewalk wide-eyed, watching through the just-washed window as a man with a half-dozen buns balanced on one arm used the other one to slather on the mustard, then pluck hot dogs from the steaming grill.

I can’t remember how many times I heard that story.

And I thought of it again recently, with all this whispered talk about The Famous, a place just as, well, famous for hot dogs here as Harry’s is in my hometown.

The news I’ve heard countless times over the past month-plus is ownership at the beloved Hanover hot dog joint – or three Hanover-area joints, to be more precise – has switched from its traditional Kunzler dogs to ones from Berks.

Big news for sure, when we’re talking local tradition.

But no one wanted to talk about it, at least not on the record. Officials and friends spoke to me in hushed tones about the switch – how they don’t like the new dogs – and I got emails and calls on it for a while. It appeared on what’s apparently a blog about Hanover, and our managing editor, Travis Lau, brought it up to me, too.

Now the obvious move was to call management to talk about the reasoning for the change. But when I did, they were having none of it.

If people want to know so bad, they can come and ask us, one owner said. We don’t see any need to broadcast it in The Evening Sun, he said, that’s for sure.

Honestly, I was disappointed.

And that feeling only grew last week, when Travis grabbed his coat one day and whisked me from the newsroom to Dart Drive for some dogs. I hadn’t been there for years.

If you’re smart, Travis said, you’ll get yours with everything – mustard, chili and onion – and maybe a plate of fries. So I did.

While we waited, Travis spoke about the regulars he and his wife have seen there so many times. He explained how he brought his boys there for a two-for-one-deal a few weeks back. He remembered stopping by years ago, with his dad.

And before long there was lunch— loaded up with chili, and sprinkled with fresh coat of white onions. Crispy fries. And a squirt bottle of sweet ketchup.

Yeah, they were good. Real good.

The only bad taste left in my mouth was what’s been increasingly inevitable over the past few weeks: there’s no way to write a feel-good Hanover hot dog story in the paper, if the hot dog folks don’t want it written.

Now, there are likely plenty of people who’ll look at that as a blessing. Who wants to listen to some Marylander wax literary about wieners for 900 words? Fair enough.

But for those who’ve stuck around online this long, I’ll say this.

While I was sitting there with Travis I was reminded of another Harry’s story.

Mom was in a cramped booth with my daughter and I, telling stories again. She told of sizzling dogs balanced on servers’ arms, and of standing on the street in her hometown at lunchtime, holding her dad’s hand.

Her dad, my grandfather, was an engineer on the railroad who had three boys first, and then the baby. He worked the graveyard shift because his family needed the money, and he died awfully young, of a heart attack.

I was 3. And I can’t remember him.

But once upon a time, my mom says, he’d lift his grandson in strong arms, anxious to show off a little piece of home, over along Main Street. Mom’s admittedly a pretty good storyteller, and my daughter giggled all the way through that silly hot dog tale.

She didn’t even notice those couple tears.

And they were probably just from all the onions, anyway.

For me the point, I guess, is how it doesn’t matter if you’re talking about Hanover, or Westminster, or Walla Walla, Washington (Big Jerry’s Hot Dogs Cart out there sounds pretty good), there’s something special about that good old American lunch treat. Something comfortingly universal.

Seems hot dogs just have a way of bringing people together.

Well, most people.

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12 Responses to Hot dogs, cold reception

  1. Gregory says:

    Well the thing i don’t like about the Famous is that they don’t serve Cole Slaw. I moved out of the area yrs. ago and when i come back into town and go to the Famous i always forget that they don’t serve it. I just don’t understand why. I try to remember to go to the Hot dog shop down town. I like that better any way and they serve potato salad Cole slaw, and mac salad you get the picture. I love a side of Cole slaw with me dogs. Okay i finally got that out. Greg

  2. tammy says:

    They said they went up 40%my husband loves harrys lunch

  3. Patti says:

    had hot dogs from the famous and noticed right away that they tasted different. i liked the old ones bettter. was told by many that the Texas lunch still has the same hot dogs. guess i will have to try there.

  4. Bert Elsner II says:

    The Famous still has the best fast food in town. Period.

  5. Sherry Wicks says:

    There is no hullabaloo! The Famous’ hot dogs are still delicious. For me and many others it was never the hot dog itself, it was the Famous chili and those delicious fresh onions. I know people, including myself, who buy quarts of the onions and chili to take home for their own back yard hot-dog parties. You could put those Famous condiments on any frank and taste the ol fashion tradition of Hanover’s Famous Weiner. Thier dogs are still number 1 in York County. Many Hanoverians who have moved away to all kinds of places across the country continue to order the Famous dog. And what about those Cheeseburgers? Those delicious egg sandwhichs with everythin?. It’s the chili and the onions that make the dog, and those Famous boys know how to dress their weiners. I will go back again, and again. Keep up the good work boys, keep your customers happy with taste and good prices in these economic times. What does it say about the Evening Sun when the only controversy that is newsworthy happens to be a change in your brand of weiners?

  6. Krista says:

    So does that mean that every time a restaurant, store, manufacturer, etc changes a supplier it is news worthy? I, like others that have commented, don’t understand why this was even written. Suppliers change, whether it is service or cost or a combination of the two. I think the “unnamed” owners were trying to tell you that they had no comment about it because it isn’t news worthy. If customers don’t like the change, they will complain to their server, who will, in turn, notify management. If they determine the change is not worth the complaints, they will change it back. If the complaints are minimal, they will keep the change in place. 

    If you have ever been in a situation where you have had to deal with costs and customer satisfaction you would know this. Likewise, if there are enough complaints does that mean you will change the way this newspaper reports the news?

  7. Sherry Wicks says:

    There is no hullabaloo! The Famous’ hot dogs are still delicious. For me and many others it was never the hot dog itself, it was the Famous chili and those delicious fresh onions. I know people, including myself, who buy quarts of the onions and chili to take home for their own back yard hot-dog parties. You could put those Famous condiments on any frank and taste the ol fashion tradition of Hanover’s Famous Weiner. Thier dogs are still number 1 in York County. Many Hanoverians who have moved away to all kinds of places across the country continue to order the Famous dog. And what about those Cheeseburgers? Those delicious egg sandwhichs with everythin?. It’s the chili and the onions that make the dog, and those Famous boys know how to dress their weiners. I will go back again, and again. Keep up the good work boys, keep your customers happy with taste and good prices in these economic times. What does it say about the Evening Sun when the only controversy that is newsworthy happens to be a change in your brand of weiners?

  8. Pam says:

    I work across the street from Harry’s. Got to say no comparison to Famous. It’s famous all the way! i have been going to Famous on York St for over 40 years. Even tell everyone around you can’t be a Hanovarian if you don’t like Famous, its a legend! I told everyone in Westminster about our daogs and took a group down to taste test. Famous won!

  9. Doug says:

    Is this guy for real? It’s no wonder newspapers are going out of business when the people writing articles chase issues that aren’t even news. Mr Stonesifer, did you call Burger King when they changed their fries, after all you probably went there as a kid? Did you try and call the board at board at GM when they decided to stop making Pontiac brand cars because your dad drove a T1000 in the 70’s? Did JCP (JcPenny) consult with your paper since they are changing their go-to-market strategy beginning this month? I didn’t think so!

    Instead of writing negative articles about local restaurants that you don’t know anything about, try taking the time to get to know your local business owners. The guys that own the famous are very hard working guys. Maybe the decision to change suppliers was out of their control. Maybe they got a price increase that wasn’t something they could pass on. Maybe Kunzler stopped making the product they had before. Maybe you should spend your time on helping local business thrive before this town is full of chain restaurants that make us look like every other town in the country.

    It is businesses like the Famous that have been a staple in Hanover long before some of these chains have come to town and it’s the people at the Famous that make Hanover a great place to be!

  10. Steve says:

    I am a picky eater. I eat my hotdogs plain, sorry,but that is how it is. There is another hotdog shop in Gettysburg, in the 70’s, and early 80’s I woulg go there once a week, The owner then was Mr Karanis, his father started the business and now his son owns it. Mr Karanis chaned from the Kuntzler texas weiner, and asked my opinion of them, I told him I didn’t care for them and probably woudn’t be back. Before this you couldn’t buy them in a store, they only sold to restauants and they woudn’t tell you the brand. Before I left, he told me to come back, that he woulg go back to the Kuntler’s., which he did.
    I was in about 3 months ago and his son has changed brands, I didn’t say anything, but I will not be back. The Kuntzlers are the best fried hotdog, and the best cooked hotdog was the ones made in Westminster at William F Myers and sons. I really wish you couls still get them.

  11. Corine says:

    What’s up, I read your blog daily. Your writing style is
    witty, keep doing what you’re doing!

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