When I was a student at Arizona State, one of my favorite treats was to head to the Dash Inn, a greasy spoon serving nominal Mexican food. However, it was dirt cheap and, for a struggling student, I was happy to have it just a 15 minute walk from the center of campus. (I also won a contest there, but those details need only be discussed after several beers.)
One of my other favorite places to go for very little pocket money was Ted’s Hot Dogs on the corner of Broadway and McClintock in Tempe. It was a simple enough set up in a rather large stand alone building. One would enter the door, stand in line, and then tell the first person behind the counter what he or she wanted and then would watch as the dog or burger was placed on the hot charcoal grill and cooked until it was done. Then, the next worker would slather on the condiments and ring up the order.
I hadn’t been to Ted’s in quite some time. Well, that isn’t true. Madge and I tried to get into Ted’s one time, but the line was long and they only accepted cash (and we had only plastic). But, I vowed to return.
Since it was the Labor Day weekend, I couldn’t help but think that an excellent hot dog would be a great treat for a holiday weekend. So, after a quick car wash and stop at the ATM for cash, I headed to Tempe.
Pulling into the parking lot, I was not surprised to see the place fairly full, but luck would smile on me and I found a spot right up front. When I entered, I was immediately hit with the smell of smoke from the coal-fired grill. I took my place in line and waited only a few minutes before I was asked what I would like.
I already had my choices in mind: a White Hot Dog ($3.35), a Jumbo All-Beef Hot Dog ($3.20), an order of Onion Rings ($2.65), and a large Diet Dr. Pepper ($1.59). Like lightning, the cook skewered a white and an all-beef dog with the long cooking fork and got my franks on the grill. I watched as she methodically rolled them back and forth and pierced them all over.
Five minutes later, she stashed both dogs in buns and put them on a tray holding my onion rings and my drink. Before I could head to the register, I was asked what I wanted on my dogs. I am a simple guy when it comes to that and just asked for chopped onions, mustard and pickle relish. I then moved over a few feet and paid my bill. The total, with tax, was $11.66. (Oh, they now accept Visa and Mastercard.)
I stopped by the final station and secured a few mini-cups of ketchup, a straw, some napkins and a fork. I ventured into the large dining room and took a table in the back and set out my meal to enjoy.
My first bite went to the White Hot Dog. The menu indicated that this dog was a mixture of pork and veal. It was pasty white when it came out of the holding bin, but the cooking had given it a blackened char that was appealing and added depth to the visual aspect of the dog. I took my first bite and was, unfortunately, somewhat disappointed. The dog wasn’t bad. In fact, it was good. But it was missing something and that something was seasoning. The pork and veal combination desperately needed, perhaps, pepper or an herbal treatment that would perk up the flavor of both of those cuts of meat. The only thing I could really taste was the char and the condiments. It was thoroughly cooked and was substantial, but I could only wonder if the product wouldn’t have been much better with just a sprinkling of something in the meat mixture before it was packed into a casing.
The second dog, the Jumbo All-Beef Hot Dog, was exactly what I was hoping for. The frank had a great beef flavor that resonated through the condiments and the char on the outside. The mixture of all of the flavors gave me a big smile on my face. It was a great hot dog. I liked that it was actually hot on the inside (instead of the normal warmish temperature) and that it had been perfectly cooked just enough to toast the outside but keep the inside moist and juicy. I loved every bite of this dog and wish I would have gone with two of them instead of the white dog.
The Onion Rings were also a true highlight. A large, paper satchel was stuffed with plenty of onion rings that were hand breaded. The onion rings themselves were about a quarter-inch wide and were treated with a batter that had a stellar crunch and a flakiness that made these rings stand out. The serving portion was generous and the rings were not greasy. I did find it difficult to maneuver the rings into the mini-cups of ketchup, but it was a minor inconvenience. This was an outstanding side dish to get to accompany my dogs.
I polished off the food on the tray and deposited all of the empty wrappers on into the trash before heading back to my car. I walked to the doors facing Broadway and got one last whiff of the smoke from the grill. A quick smirk passed my lips and I pushed the door open heading out into the hot Tempe air.
Getting into the car, I turned on the radio and listened to my XM radio as I pulled out of the lot and headed for the 202 Loop and then back to Phoenix. It was a great holiday weekend with plenty of relaxation, lots of sunshine and a delicious lunch.
I need to make sure my next trip to Ted’s happens in the very near future.
Ted’s Hot Dogs
1755 East Broadway Road
Tempe, AZ 85282
Hours: Sunday through Thursday – 10 AM to 9 PM; Friday and Saturday – 10 AM to 10 PM.
Notes: On the southwest corner of Broadway and McClintock. Plenty of parking.
[Note: This review is dedicated to my friend Becky Mecuri, author of "The Great American Hot Dog Book."]