Friday, August 5, 2011

Gus' in Irondale

This week when we talked about a hot dog excursion, Robert told me he had discovered a hotdog place that we had previously missed. So, we went to Gus’ Hot Dogs in Irondale. Gus’ is located in the shopping center right across the road from Sam’s in Irondale. This shopping center was once the location of Walmart; but is now anchored by a salvage store and a garden store.

A note about “Gus’ Hot Dogs”; There are numerous hot dog stands with the name Gus’ in the Birmingham area. We have already visited two of them, one downtown and one in Helena. They are all individually owned and use their own recipes. Of the Gus’ we have visited, this one has been the best.

This Gus’ is owned and operated by John Musso (not of football fame). He bears a name, not unknown to folks around here, shared with his cousin known as Johnny Musso, the football player. A photo of Johnny (#22) is prominently displayed on the wall among several football photos. When we arrived we were surprised to find ourselves at the back of a long line. John definitely has a loyal following that makes their way to his line at lunchtime. The line moves a little slower than we would like, but; “Hey, it’s lunch, are you in a hurry to get back to your desk?” It wasn’t that slow, but helped get the apatite ready. We ordered our usual, a hot dog and a chili dog, both all the way. Robert ordered fries with his and I got chips (Golden Flake). I also ordered a corn dog that I split with Robert. We both love good corn dogs.

Now for some details; I have previously written about how some of the best dogs we have had have been the unexpected ones. This visit was a strange hybrid of the expected and the unexpected. I’ll try to explain. The hot dog (all the way) is very good, one of the best. The chili dog is different. They use a chili that you would never call “chili” at home if served in a bowl. It looks more like the beef sauce often served up on a “special dog”, only thicker. There appears to be no chili powder used, no red color or beans, BUT it is very good. It is well seasoned and is a great complement to a hot dog. The only question we had was; “What is the difference between a special dog and a chili dog at Gus’? I really want to return and order one of each, then try to figure out the difference.

This visit has caused me to rethink a couple of preconceptions. First, as we started this journey we thought one way to judge chili on a chili dog was to ask; “Would I eat a bowl of this?” We have realized that the chili on chili dogs isn’t always what you would want to eat a bowl of on a cold day. It’s a condiment. Take a closer look above; this doesn't look like what you usually think of as chili. Secondly, I have never been a fan of “special dogs”. The first one I ever had was at Pete's Famous Hot Dogs where the usual presentation included a runny, soupy, gray substance containing some beef, onions and a thin gravy. Lots of people like this; but it has never been something I would go out of my way for. Gus' has a chili without chili spices and seems to be the stuff that should be used on “special dogs” everywhere. This is good!

John is very friendly and works hard to make sure the meal you get is above average. It says a lot that he has a waiting line while being located in a shopping center that is less than 50% occupied.

Bottom line; this is the best Gus’ we have visited. It is also one of the best hot dog stands we have tried.