Dyer's is a retro counter joint located on Memphis' historic Beale Street, famous for their deep fried hamburgers cooked in 100-year old grease. But I came for the hot dogs, also prepared in Dyer's "heirloom grease" that they've been using since 1912. It's filtered, strained and replenished daily but never changed.
Dyer's has changed locations several times, and even had multiple branches at one point (still does if you're a devotee of the "other" Dyer's in Colliersville). Yet the holy fryer oil has always been the same, supposedly transported by police escort from one location to another. Both the dogs and burgers arrive wrapped in parchment paper translucent and soaked in oil, a good sign of things to come.
The dogs are split before going into the deep fryer, all-beef, bright red and pretty big. They're served on Wonder Bread burger buns that have been dunked in the famous grease. The split dog crisps up nicely from its trip through the deep fryer but not the the point of exploding.
The simple but holy trinity of raw white onion, pickles and yellow mustard (the standard garnish on everything from pulled pork to hot chicken in these parts) really takes it to the next level. The bun-coating grease gets all over your hands, and there's an awesome play of textures and flavors going on that's just completely unique to Dyer's.
Of course I couldn't leave without trying the famous burger, also served with the standard garnish and grease dunked white buns. The burger patty was hammered by the deep fryer, no chance of medium rare but with a crust like you've never seen and that extra saltiness you get from non-battered deep fried stuff (or maybe that's what 100-year-old-burger-and-dog-infused-oil tastes like) then smoothed out a bit with a melting slice of yellow American cheese.
Though it was good, I definitely had burger envy watching the cook stack up a "Triple Triple" (three burger patties, three slices of cheese, one bun).
205 Beale St, Memphis, TN 38103-3128 (map)
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/.