Located in downtown Roanoke, smack in the middle of the incredible City Market—a permanent farmers market with local produce, country ham and crafts, open 7 days a week—is Roanoke Weiner Stand, a old-school hot dog joint that's been there since 1916. Different from the more diner-style southern hot dog spots complete with waitresses, this is your classic urban hot dog counter, optimized for speed with the dogs cooking on a flat top grill in the front window, and minimal seating in the form of a blue counter and stools along the wall.
Grill Man Johnny Liakos has been here 50 years, pulling warm buns out of the unique steaming trough and slathering them with mustard before adding the grilled dogs.
Topping selection is ultra minimal here. Chili, fresh diced onions, mustard. Being in Virginia it's surprising not to see slaw and hot sauce, but this isn't your standard Southern style dog—more of the Greek "Coney" style that spread across the country in the early 1900s. The fries are good too, not hand cut or anything but perfectly crisp and hot out of the fryer.
Nothing spectacular about the frankfurter itself, a beef and pork skinless dog, although it's better quality than some of the ultra-cheap bright red chicken and pork dogs—which I love, especially grilled to a crisp and covered with slaw—that you find in the south. The thick chili really makes the dogs here, well balanced and not over-spiced or burnt tasting like some versions of "Greek sauce" gone berserk.
Aside from the dogs, another reason to not miss this place is the incredible collection of hot dog art, including this crazy mural by local painter Eric Fitzpatrick, and framed watercolor paintings of the Weiner Stand, as well as various hot dog related cartoons cut from newspapers over the years.
Roanoke Weiner Stand is one of those places where you feel like you're stepping back in time but still feels like it's part of the modern world. Partly due to the location in the City Market, it's not a forgotten relic but still a vital part of Roanoke's downtown, where you can grab a dog or two (and even a beer) for a few bucks and enjoy the city.
Roanoke Weiner Stand
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/.
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