Opened in 1976, Yesterdog is a funky hot dog joint in Grand Rapids, Michigan, serving up deliciously messy dogs that go completely against the grain of the current gourmet hot dog trend. Breaking several cardinal rules of hot doggery, including the use of cheap boiled hot dogs and plenty of ketchup—right in the middle of Coney country!—Yesterdog instead espouses a greasy comfort food overload approach that has earned them a huge following.
Along with being crowned the best hot dog in Grand Rapids for years, Yesterdog was also recognized by Esquire magazine's "Where Men Eat" feature in 2010 as well as our own SE/Rachel Ray 2011 hot dog bracket.
Yesterdog sort of looks like a cross between a flea market and a dive bar, filled with antique signs and covered in graffiti from 30 years of customers. Adding to the atmosphere is Yesterdog's "signature rudeness" and ordering rules, often a sign of delicious food to come.
These hot dogs are cheap ($1.80 to $2.30) and often ordered in large quantities. The dogs are built assembly-line style on a big wooden plank before being doled out to customers on wax papered cafeteria trays. The banner under the menu proclaiming that "Regular Hot Dogs Don't Exist" is not just a slogan—Yesterdog will actually not serve you a plain hot dog.
Popular dogs here include the self-explanatory Cheddardog and Krautdog, although many go for the Ultradog, a cheap boiled dog loaded with mustard, ketchup, finely chopped pickles, a few onions, and Yesterdog's delicious homemade chili sauce piled into a soft white bun.
There are no fries, no milkshakes; just hot dogs. Well, and chips, soda, and chicken noodle soup in the winter. Over the years customers have suggested adding hamburgers to the menu. Owner Bill Lewis suggests that they "go somewhere else".
They do offer a veggie dog option that might better be described as a "loose kraut sandwich"—basically just all the toppings (minus chili and dog) piled into a roll. It's quite similar to a 7-Eleven sandwich, the old trick where you buy a roll for 30 cents and load it up with all the free cheese and toppings at the 7-Eleven.
So despite breaking almost every rule of hot dogs in the middle of serious hot dog country, Yesterdog has lines out the door and a near-cult status. Not a place to miss if you like hot dogs, wild late night food joints packed with drunks, or crazy places full of cool old stuff.
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/.
Thanks to photographer and Yesterdog lover Mike Donk for the awesome photos this week. Check out his work at monitorpop.com.