The Hot Dog Stand Tradition is Alive in NH
Local hot dog stands are keeping a cheap eats tradition alive in New Hampshire
Long before there were fast-food chains and drive-through burger joints, warm weather meant hot dog stands would open for business on the backroads and city centers of America. The US Hot Dog Council estimates 15 percent of the 10 billion hot dogs wolfed down by Americans last year were purchased from a hot dog stand or cart, with the most hot dogs consumed in the month of July, which just happens to be National Hot Dog Month.
Due to food-franchise sprawl, there are fewer than there used to be in New Hampshire, but there are still some favorites.
Their names are often pun-riddled — The Dog House in Milford, Downtown Dogs in Dover, Puppy Love in Concord, Joe’s Dog Café in Tamworth — you get the idea. And their offerings are still affordable for pretty much anybody. At Jean’s Express Dogs, a fixture at Nashua’s Greeley Park for the last 24 years, The Special is $4.75 and includes two dogs with all the fixings, including Jean’s trademark spicy onions, a bag of chips and a soda.
Jean, aka Eugenia Carbone, 59, says she started the business after she and her husband saw a hot dog cart while on vacation. “I had managed a Burger King, which, believe me, was pretty stressful. I thought I could deal with the amount of stress that could fit under a sun umbrella on a hot dog cart.”
Carbone, who arguably sports the best tan in southern New Hampshire, opens her cart on April 15 and closes on Columbus Day. That start date isn’t random. “I figured on tax day, the only thing everyone could afford is a hot dog,” she says.
And isn’t that the lure of a hot dog stand — it’s the great epicurean equalizer — entrepreneurship and dining on a micro level?
“I’ve sold hot dogs to everyone — Rico Petrocelli and John Edwards to people coming from the dump,” she says.
Double D Dogs, next to the House by the Side of the Road nursery at 340 Gibbons Highway/Rte. 101 in Wilton, is a free-standing hot dog shack with an enclosed overhang to keep customers cool and dry while ordering.
There’s even a tiny lunch bar and stools next to the window where owner Jon Brockelbank hands over the wieners — steamed or grilled — to loyal regulars. The retired bricklayer offers a pretty awe-inspiring combination of hot dogs to his customers. For $3.25, you can try the peanut butter and (grape) Jelly Poodle, The Boston Terrier with bacon and beans or a Reuben Rotweiller (sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and thousand island dressing) to name a few. But while Brockelbank has prospered in this second career, he’s selling the stand at the end of the season to spend more time with family.
“I really want someone to take over,” he says. “We have loyal customers and we have to keep the hot dog tradition going on our roads. It can’t all be chain-owned, fast-food places.”
Doug Greenlaw, owner of Greenie’s Hot Dogs on Rte. 3A in Bow, operates one of the few year-round hot dog stands. “I love what I do, so I come to work,” he says.
While the Bow stand has only been open for 18 months, the 63-year-old proprietor and Navy veteran is no stranger to the business. He ran a hot dog cart for 20 years in Haverhill, Mass. “Eighty people would fall on me at one time and I just didn’t have the help, so I moved the stand to Bow. I have a lot of regular customers because I talk to my customers — and I only cook what I would eat, and I’m very particular about what I eat.”