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Flo’s Hot Dogs

August 19, 2009
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Friends have been telling me for years that I need to eat at Flo’s Hot Dogs on Route 1 in Maine.  I didn’t know this until now, but there’s two locations, one in Kittery and the original, which I visited, in Cape Neddick.  I must have been lucky, because waits can be very long (2 hours in this Serious Eats review) but well worth it.

Flo, the original proprietor, was a little cranky–or so the story goes.  A quick New England wit with a razor-sharp tongue, Flo must have made many grown men ashamed that they ever thought to ask for ketchup on their hot dog.  All I can say is, good for her!

Gail Stacey, Flo’s daughter-in-law, keeps up the tradition but I found her to be as sweet as pie.  She’s the only one who works the stand, and regardless of how many orders that kept coming through the door she was willing to take the time out to talk to me.

What makes the dog a genuine Flo’s Hot Dog is the hot sauce relish.  It’s so popular that they’ve set up an eBay store so you can buy it online.

The inside of the stand has eight or so counter seats and room enough for ten people to wait.  The ceiling’s pretty low, as you can see in the picture, but for hobbits like us it felt like we were in our quaint little under-hill home, ready to smoke some good Halfling’s Leaf.

There’s two ways you can get your Flo’s dog:  loaded, with relish, mustard, and onions; or the special, which is most popular, with mayo, relish, celery salt, and mustard.  The dogs are steamed natural-casing Old Neighborhood franks which have a snub-nose rather than the tapered casing.  The buns are steamed split top New England-style, and the end product is wrapped up in a Flo’s napkin and placed in a cardboard container.

Making its debut appearance on The Hot Dog I Ate is our new Prius, which you can see over my right shoulder.  No dogs eaten in there yet but that’s sure to happen.  To the right of the Prius is one happy guy.  Flo’s relish is more remeniscent of chutney than relish, with a sweetness that is heightened by the mayonnaise; if you get it loaded, the relish tends to show off more of its spice with the combination of raw onions.

The cross-section of Flo’s loaded dog shows how compacted the whole thing gets in your hand–I’m guessing a competitive eater would appreciate that the dogs seem to collapse in on themselves while retaining all of the condiments with no spillage.

Some kinda good is right–I felt pretty lucky to have hit up the stand at just the right time, so Sam & I were able to get time to talk to Gail, grab a few dogs, and get a spot to sit and enjoy these New England favorites.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Matt permalink
    March 22, 2011 2:33 am

    I am 44 now, and I have a memory of Flo’s that will forever stick out in my mind. When I was a young boy, I lived in Cape Neddick on Pine Hill Road. My dad was a police officer in York. We moved to Tennessee when I was eleven, but I remember a lot of things from my early years. I remember a trip I took to Flo’s when I was about 5 years old. My dad was in his uniform and he brought me in to sit at the lunch counter. Back then, Flo’s was not yet a tourist attraction. I remember sitting down and Flo herself came up to me, smiled, and talked to me like I was her own child. I remember her as a very nice lady and I liked her very much. She asked me if everything was ok with my food, and before I left, she tussled my hair. When I read accounts of her being cranky or rude, I find it hard to believe as my memory of her is being a kind and gentle woman. I remember that trip like it was yesterday, and it’s one of my favorites of my dad. He had a hot dog and Flo brought him coffee that day. I miss her and wish I had had the chance now to tell her how special her memory is to me!

    • March 22, 2011 10:18 am

      Thanks for the great memory Matt. I have a feeling that Flo’s reputation as a cantankerous old woman was the result of the stand’s rising popularity, which made her such a busy woman that she couldn’t be bothered with out-of-towners waffling about what to order. After all there’s only one thing you can get there! While visiting Flo’s last year I watched a decidophobic acting like they’re being forced to choose from the Cheesecake Factory menu but it’s not like the current owner turned into the Soup Nazi and ran them out of the stand. In the end I think it’s all a ruse, a shtick to add a little to the experience, because someone who will put that much time and effort into running a stand all by themselves certainly aren’t doing it for the money or power.

      • May 31, 2012 11:38 am

        I think it’s a little of each – I never met her, but from what I’ve heard I’m sure she only dished it to those who could take it. My father grew up in York and frequented Flo’s through his childhood. After high school he left to join the Coast Guard and was gone for 4 years. When he returned home and stopped for a hot dog, the first thing Flo said to him was, “Where the hell have you been?”

        I was always scared to go there as a kid because my dad called them “sweat dogs” and claimed that Flo stuck the buns in her armpits to warm them while the dogs cooked. He now swears he never said that, but I don’t know…

        • June 26, 2012 6:56 am

          Oh man, this has to be one of the best replies we’ve had to our blog! Thanks to you, “sweat dogs” has entered my lexicon.

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