The Hot Dog Days of Summer

By Paul Giorgio

What food says summer in Central New England better than hot dogs, the quintessential American food? Although hot dogs had their roots in German sausage, Americans adopted them so quickly and so completely that even President Franklin Roosevelt served them at a state dinner for the King and Queen of England during World War II. Today the dog is as American as apple pie and is served with much more than just mustard and relish. “The works” can include chopped onions, sauerkraut, hot peppers, cheese and barbecue sauce. So in honor of summertime, let’s take a tour of some of Central Massachusetts hot dog vendors.

Two preeminent hot dog emporiums are near and dear to the hearts of those of us in the greater Worcester area: George’s Coney Island Hot Dogs at 168 Southbridge Street in Worcester and Hot Dog Annie’s on Route 56 in Leicester.

Let’s start with Hot Dog Annie’s. Hot Dog Annie’s, which has been in business since the early 1950s (I remember when it was 4 dogs for a dollar), is different than most places. They grill their dogs and buns, a cooking method that gives both a nice crisp taste and makes the dogs snap when you bite into them. Dogs are $1.20 each and drinks are $1.10. The Wednesday special is 4 dogs for $4.

Coney Island has been around for longer than most of us have been alive. Located downtown in the city, Coney Island is Worcester. The gritty but charming turn-of-the-20thcentury eatery serves thousands of its famous hot dogs each week, many with yummy chili on top and most washed down with chocolate milk.

Now for those of you who prefer your dogs on the run, here are a few roadside stops that might be just the thing. The first is the familiar truck parked near Elm Park; the man inside sells a couple of dogs, a drink and a bag of chips for under $4. You can get the same meal for the same dough at the Wachusett Reservoir truck by asking for the Fisherman Special. If you’re in the Grafton Street neighborhood, head to the truck parked near the A & P fruit stand. Moe Biseglia serves dogs that are grilled, not steamed. Hot Dog Express on Park Ave. at the corner of Chandler Street is a sure bet on a summer afternoon, too.

But the best way by far to enjoy a dog is while watching a Worcester Tornadoes game under the lights at Hanover Field. Everyone knows that hot dogs always taste better at a ballpark, especially when you can wash them down with your favorite brew!

Alright, so there are some folks out there who aren’t too keen on the little bow wows ~ and that’s OK. You can find the best BBQ this side of Amarillo at Armadillo Depot, 413 Park Avenue in Worcester. Try the ribs and pulled pork combo platter with collard greens, corn bread and some potato salad, a meal that makes even us hot dog lovers salivate! Or head out to Ronnie’s in Auburn and crunch on the best fried clams around.

Whatever your summer food choice is, there are plenty of options in Central Massachusetts that won’t break the bank. And don’t forget to end that meal with some ice cream, the ultimate summer dessert!