Hot dog restaurants and I, we have a history. In high school, I worked at W.C. Franks, the now-defunct hotdog franchise out of Nebraska. There were two locations in Fort Collins: in Campus West, where Jim’s Wings is now, and on Harvard Street, which currently houses Nyala Ethiopian Cuisine. I worked most often at Harvard Street.
Our uniform was khaki pants, a disco-slick polyester shirt in a mottled terra-cotta brown, and a Styrofoam boater hat. (I so wish I had a picture.) We served regular, foot-long, and ¼ pound hot dogs, and polish sausage, any of which could be doctored up with onion, relish, kraut, chili, and/or cheese. The aforementioned meat tubes heated on a rolling grill like this one. We also had sodas and soft-serve ice cream, complete with hot fudge. (The ice cream was a mixed bag because we could eat it, but we also had to clean out the machine.)
I don’t know how long I worked there—maybe one year (that felt like five). After every shift, I went home reeking of hot dogs, with canned orange cheese dried on my disco shirt. All-you-can-eat footlong nights were especially awful, as they attracted every male student-athlete from miles around, all eager to eat an insane amount of hotdogs for one low price. Besides cheap eats, the other draw was the arcade. Centipede, Joust, Galaga, Star Wars…we had all the good ones. Of course, when I was working, I could only watch the other kids playing them.
Now, I eat about one hot dog a year, usually at a ball game. But in the spirit of today’s letter “K,” I convinced my family that we should have lunch downtown at King Weenie.
When we arrived, I was surprised to learn that King Weenie is not a restaurant but a store-front food window. I guess I've never looked that closely as I've passed by. At first, I was a bit disappointed—no chance of finding a video game there—but I changed my mind when it dawned on me that my hair wouldn’t be absorbing any hot dog smell. There was only one employee working, and she was friendly but too busy to form a hot-dog-sister bond with me by discussing the finer points of food-service cans of chili.
King Weenie has soft serve, too, and we opted for it in drink form. My boys were happy with their dogs and chocolate shakes—so much so that they told me they were glad I’d suggested our outing. We enjoyed the beautiful weather while we ate at the sidewalk table and watched people passing by. I ordered a Chicago Dog, which had all the appropriate fixins—though the relish was not true Chicago acid-green. I have to say, the dog was pretty good, even without Wrigley Field around it.
King Weenie offers a lot of hot dog for a reasonable price…and, for me, a not-too-traumatizing trip down "mystery meat" memory lane.