Saturday, September 22, 2007

Lunch at Jack's

Jack's Hot Dog Stand, on Eagle Street in North Adams, is one of those rare places - a landmark, an institution, a tradition. The hot dog stand has been in business since 1917, in the same spot, owned and operated by the same family.

I'm a real hot dog afficianado - I could eat hot dogs three meals a day. They are the world's most perfect food. A great hot dog appeals to all of your senses. Taste and smell, obviously, but when you bite into a good hot dog, with a natural casing, you hear a satisfying "crack" as your mouth explodes with flavor. Don't put a good hot dog in those awful top-split hot dog rolls - use the side split 'frankfurter' rolls. They have more crust, and contribute more flavor to your hot dog experience.

Jack's dogs aren't natural casing, so they just can't qualify as the best I've ever had - but that's not why you go to Jack's, anyway. Don't get me wrong, the hot dogs are great, but you're there for the atmosphere and the history.

The place is little more than a hole in the wall - a slot with a counter running down the center, 10 seats on one side, and a galley-sized kitchen on the other. The menu is ultra-uncomplicated: hot dogs, cheese dogs, chili cheese dogs, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, fries, cheese fries, chili cheese fries... you get the idea. Fast food.

If you're sitting at the counter, you better not be the kind who can't eat with someone standing behind you - there will be several people standing along the inside wall, waiting for their take-out orders or waiting for a seat to open up. Jack is busy.

The place looks like it hasn't changed much since about 1950. I was there for lunch with my father, who said he hadn't been there in about 55 years. The biggest change, he said, was in the preparation. Apparently, 55 years ago, there was a hot dog cook with a certain flair. The condiments were applied with flat wooden sticks - tongue depressors. This particular cook applied the relish and mustard with one smooth, fast, stroke; dipping into the mustard, and almost throwing it into the bun with a flick of the wrist.

Quite a show. But even without the entertainment, Jack's Hot Dog Stand was a great experience. And I just found out there's another hot dog place in North Adams - the Hot Dog Ranch. Next week, yeehaww!


Anonymous said...

Hi Mike, I wanted to let you know (as I just read your plea for anyone reading to leave a comment :) that i enjoy looking at your site, especially the new pictures you have posted. I grew up in Wilmington, and it is nice to have a view into some of the beauty I have missed. Thanks.

Mike Eldred said...

Thanks for the comment - I really do appreciate the feedback. It lets me know f I'm on the right track or not.
One of my goals is to show what's great about living here; the things that you don't see if you're here for a weekend. I like to think I have a unique viewpoint: I didn't grow up here, but this is where my family is from. I think (hope) it allows me to look at things with the wonder of a visitor, but with the depth of knowledge of a local.

lori said...

Hi Mike,
You know I've am born & raised here in N. Adams. When you look around at all the changes that have taken place over the years there's still Jacks.
Did you look on the wall? In the past 10 years a hot dog has gone from $.65 to what $.89 cents. To be considered a hungry man in Jacks to eat $15.00 worth of food is a lot. And yet it's fun. It is a pillar of our community. There have been several considerations in finding a new home & yet it wouldn't be the same.
It is simply our home.
Enjoy!!! - The Hot Dog Ranch (unfortunately) has nothing on Jacks. They originate from Pittsfield.

Lori :)

Anonymous said...

I ate at Jack's , my Father ate at Jack's and my Grandfather ate at Jack's. My Father and I still eat "dogs" with "everything" there.
Nothing better than a dog from Jack's. Fast food places came and went but they have been around since 1917....My dad is 81 and I am 57....He would go there after school at Drury and I would go after school at St. Joe's.....

Anonymous said...

One more note...the guy with the flair for making "dogs" was Jack himself. He was fast and good. That's when my dad paid .05 for a dog....I paid .15 in the '60's.

Anonymous said...

One more note...the guy with the flair for making "dogs" was Jack himself. He was fast and good. That's when my dad paid .05 for a dog....I paid .15 in the '60's.