Driving across South Carolina last summer in search of delicious Southern hot dogs, I stumbled into Sandy's by accident pulling into a strip mall to make one of many U-turns. It wasn't on my list of stops and I wasn't sure I could possibly eat another hot dog that day—but sometimes the places you've never heard of turn out to be the best, and Sandy's awesome Pimento Cheese dog ended up being one of my favorites of the entire trip.
Sandy's Famous is a small hot dog and gourmet ice cream chain with five locations in the Columbia, South Carolina, area that goes back to 1979. The store has more of a clean fast-food and dairy bar vibe than a lot of the hot dog joints I visited across the South, many of which had an equally awesome neighborhood luncheonette feel with table service, collections of old junk lining the walls and old timers reading the paper with endless cups of coffee.
Another thing that really sets Sandy's apart are their big one-eighth and one-fourth a pound 100% all-beef hot dogs. After a few days of eating mild, neon-red pork and chicken wieners (the dog of choice in the South) it was a shock to taste a real, spicy, juicy, flavorful grilled-to-order beef frank.
What absolutely blew my mind was this dog covered with Sandy's own homemade pimento cheese. A line of mustard and a sprinkling of diced onions add a faint zip in the background, but it's all about the juicy dog and super creamy cheese. Fans of cream cheese dogs would be way into this, although Sandy's is a much more delicately built hot dog, some of the best hot dog presentation we saw in the South.
I didn't understand what all the pimento cheese fuss was about—until I ate this. You hear a lot about it being used on burgers (which Sandy's does also) but this should be the official hot dog of the South, or at least South Carolina.
The slaw dog was also delicious, with mild, slightly sweet chili and creamy slaw. But the Pimento Cheese dog is the one I can't stop thinking about almost a year later.
Another awesome touch is the top-split hot dog buns. It's not just a New England thing, you see them a lot in the South—fresh, not toasted, at least the four or five I had—particularly in South Carolina and Georgia, and it works perfectly in a sort of homey, Wonder Bread sort of way.
Sandy's also does pulled pork sandwiches, grilled cheese (including grilled pimento cheese) and a zillion flavors of ice cream, especially delicious made into a milkshake to wash down a few hot dogs.
Sandy's Famous 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/.