Wednesday, June 2, 2010

East of Downtown

There is a pretty good hot dog place way out from the eastern side of Birmingham. One needs to be willing to invest two and a half hours to get there; but after traveling 150 miles (one way) he can arrive at the Varsity Drive In. The Varsity is billed as the world’s largest drive in, a claim I have no reason to question. Their menu doesn’t contain much variety, but there is enough variety for me. My usual order is a couple of chili cheese dogs, onion rings and a drink. On this visit I had the usual which I thoroughly enjoyed. The occasion was a day when I was meeting a son-in-law and two grandsons for a visit to a special exhibition. This was the first visit to the Varsity for two grandsons (7 and 4 years old). Their orders were “naked hot dogs" (to which they added either ketchup or mustard, but not both) fries and lemonade. They seemed to enjoy their meals as they were in the clean plate club. The 7 year old even needed a second hot dog.

Some subjective observations:

  • I like eating at the Varsity. I like the atmosphere and the food and know of no other place like it. I consider it a treat when on occasion I am close enough to make a stop; but I don’t think it's worth a special trip just to eat at the Varsity.
  • The plan at the Varsity is to get people in and served, to keep things moving. The servers at the counter are quick to ask; "What'll you have?"; but they will allow one time to ponder the menu. It is easy to feel rushed but I've found there is no problem with standing back from the counter to consider the options.
  • The people who work there are polite and helpful. It would be very easy for a place like this to be very dirty; but they do a good job of keeping things clean.
  • The chili on the chili dogs is better than the average chili dog chili I have encountered and does taste like chili. My brother wanted to apply our new standard for chili and asked me; Would I want a bowl of it with crackers?" I must confess that I enjoyed the chili dogs so much I didn't think much about the chili itself. The chili dogs and chili cheese dogs are great products so the chili must be good.
  • Any possible criticism of The Varsity is offset, in my mind, by their unique offering of the “frozen orange” to finish off a meal.

This is the first stop on the hot dog tour where I have found a special counter for gift and memorabilia items. Jimmy’s does sell tee shirts on occasions (they were out of most sizes when we visited), but there isn’t a separate counter for buying these items. I invested in a bright orange “frozen orange” cap which I plan to wear with pride.

A final thought; I think someone should build a Varsity location in Auburn and Tuscaloosa as well as other SEC cities.