With July being National Hot Dog Month I thought I'd start off with the dog that gets my vote for the best in the country. Flo's Hot Dogs on Route 1 in Cape Neddick, Maine, is not only the best hot dog I've ever had, but an overall mind-blowing experience. Approaching the deteriorating red shack on the side of the road with hundreds of people lined up out the door, I knew I was in for something special.
The hot dogs are phenomenal—ultra snappy and spicy natural casing dogs, steamed to order, tucked into a soft New England-style bun, then slathered with mayonnaise, Flo's "relish", and sprinkled with celery salt. Ketchup is not available. The secret is in the incredible hot dogs and the relish that isn't really a relish it all, but more of a spicy and sweet onion/molasses/tamarind chutney. It goes great with an ice cold Moxie. The natural casing "snapper" dogs are available all over New England and Maine—in both regular and bright neon red varieties—but Flo's treatment of the hot dog is unlike anything else in the world.
Flo's is open four hours a day, and has a staff of one person: Gail Stacey, Flo's daughter in law, who inherited the business in 1973. She puts on a great show—furiously taking orders, steaming dogs, darting around the kitchen, all while ribbing tourists for ordering wrong and shootin' the breeze with locals.
Be ready with your order and don't ask for ketchup or you might have to go to the end of the line. Or at least be the subject of friendly ridicule from Gail and the locals at the counter. For someone who single-handedly serves the best hot dogs in the country to hundreds (thousands?) of people a day her demeanor is actually quite pleasant. And the fear of ordering wrong is all part of the fun.
Chips, soda, and hot coffee are also available, as well as t-shirts and jars of their special relish to go. There's a six-seated counter inside that's normally occupied, and a bunch of bright red picnic tables outside. I waited in line for two hours for my Flo's dogs, and every second was worth it.
There's a second Flo's in Kittery, Maine, that's open seasonally. Check the website for info and directions.
Flo's Hot Dogs
Hawk Krall is a Philadelphia-based illustrator who has a serious thing for hot dogs. Dig his dog drawings? Many of the illustrations he has created for Hot Dog of the Week are available for sale: hawkkrall.net/prints/.