It’s as if my whole reason for walking to Lyric Hot Dogs was wrong. I wanted a quick lunch — and a little adventure. Someplace I hadn’t been in all the years I have worked downtown. And in some hopeful breeze wafting through my ear, I heard something about it being national hot dog day.
Which it isn’t. Lies. All Lies.
So, here I am today, having visited an iconic hot dog stand* in Birmingham (on 3rd Ave. across from the Alabama Theater), availing myself on not just a hot dog but also giving their cheeseburger a try. And yes, I did have medicos standing by …
* Now, I do like a good hot dog, but for the most part … the most part … Birmingham’s hot dog history is more a story of successful Greek immigration to the area (follow the link to an interesting video by the Southern Food Alliance on hot dog stand history in Bham). It’s a better story than a dog, and today that story is quickly fading away as old hot dog stand** stalwarts like Pete’s and Tony’s Terrific downtown have gone the way of the bag phone. But for me, I prefer a real Chicago dog or even a Lucky Dog from Nawleans.
** And have you considered that in the lexicon of food, you visit a hot dog stand, but you visit a burger joint, not a burger stand. I’d posit that we use those words for good reason. A stand connotes a food of individuality. Have you ever watched people eat a hot dog? They hunch over, with that nervous look. Come on now, in your mind, is it a food that you enjoy with company around you, or is your natural inclination to find a corner and devour the tube steak in a inhalation of gluttony.
Let me leave you with this, brothers and sisters: a joint is something where two or more things come together … let your mind wander on that one.
What came together at the Lyric was a hot dog that is served at a nostalgic, downtown stand. At that stand, it keeps its bastard cousin, the cheeseburger, around for grins and giggles. It’s us outsiders who see that the burger is just not as loved and not as popular as the favored son.
To keep a lyrical theme, the burger there is the culinary equivalent of Darryl Hall and John Oates. Guess who gets second billing, and for good reason. Or lets put it this way, if the burger had a bushy mustache, they’d almost favor.
The burger was a pre-made patty (so is the hot dog, which on some level I kind of appreciate). But, I kid you not, I had to open the bun and look inside to make sure that there was a patty. Upon inspection, the burger was bathed in “special sauce,” the same type of special sauce that bathes countless dogs in the city. A sauce which has its roots in Greek food – a sweet and spicy (almost barbeque quality), almost tangy sauce that is good. But in this town, there must be some ordinance that any food including the aforementioned sauce must be drenched/bathed/baptized/rolling in it.
Oh, and a pickle slice that nearly covered the entire patty. While it’ll give you an idea of the size of the patty, the pickle was too big for comfort. I was kind of intimidated.
I’d rate this burger in line with what you’d get at Milo’s, but a bit better. A bit. If you’re looking for a great burger, it ain’t here. To borrow for John Oates greatest piece, check out the #7 song of the 80s according to VH1. I think this song speaks for how I feel.
Now, a few words from our sponsor, the noble hot dog. The Lyric is REALLY a hot dog stand. It’s a place to listen to the 700 Club and chat with others who work downtown. The hot dogs are good enough and for Birmingham, they are some of the more consistent and historic in town.
I prefer the special dog at the Lyric – no onion. That leaves it with mustard, meat sauce (which does give me pause, but if you’re hot dogging it in the first place, it’s best to check your fears and persnicketiness at the door) and that ever-present special sauce – that is special at Sneaky Petes, Jimmy’s, Gus’ and several other special locations around the city.
But sometimes, like when you’ve let yourself be convinced that its national hot dog day when it really isn’t … or you’ve been beating yourself up about goofy stuff and you just need some comfort food, then a hot dog can perk you up. It almost always makes me smile.
Ratings – I’m not going there for the burger at the Lyric. I hope you understand. It’s like kicking a puppy. If you want to go, get a hot dog.
But I will give special kudos to a very interesting website. If you want a quick primer about hot dog stands in Bham, read the history section.