Chris' Hot Dogs opened in 1917. Located in historic downtown Montgomery, Alabama.
Just 2 blocks down the street from the capital building.
I believe it is the history and family tradition that goes along with every last part of Chris’ Hot Dogs that makes it so special to me.
No one walking up Dexter Avenue can help but feeling both intrigued and invited by the little hole-in-the-wall store on the corner. The dome-shaped awning over the glass double-doors, that are stuck in the middle of a stone wall, completely stands out from the rest of the surrounding block.Through the doors is the original walkway set in red tiles that has been there since 1917, when it was used strictly as a place to make the dogs that were then delivered to customers waiting outside on the curb, when curbside service was still possible.
On the right is a news rack that is as diverse as it is outdated with month old newspapers and magazines. The news rack dates back to Chris’ original days as an actual newsstand on Dexter Avenue.
Past the news rack is a small counter topped by a cash register that was used by the late Uncle Chris when he became unable to do the more demanding work. He worked everyday from 1917 until he was unable in the late 80s. On the other side are the cigars and candy.
Further along down the walkway is a an opening on the right that leads into the “old school” game room with its classic tiled floor and wall to wall pinball machines.
On down is what I feel is the most important part of Chris’. Granted, the counter may not seem so important at first sight, being that it’s nothing but a long,
worn down piece of wood painted white with ten far too “experienced” stools in front of it. However, it’s not the appearance that makes it so special.
Instead, it’s the symbolism of equality that gives the counter so much meaning. It’s a place where a person’s race, creed, or social class has no meaning,
whether it be a “blue collar worker”, a Supreme Court Justice, or even the town Sheriff (one of the counter’s most frequent customers.)
From Hank to Martin Luther King, the counter is a place where everyone who sits down to eat is equal.
Behind the counter is a wavy wall of glass bricks that was built in the shape of a flag on a windy day . On the other side of the wall, past the “Rockola” jukebox, is the dining room that was added in the 1940s.
This room has seen a lot. I would buy pints of whiskey here beginning at age 16.
No matter how far away I have lived from Montgomery I always craved a Chris' Hot Dog.
This is where Bricktop and I had our first meal together when he came down to visit last spring.
From the 1940s to the late 60s, Chris’ Hot Dogs was the hottest late-night spot in downtown Montgomery, staying open twenty-four hours a day serving a
healthy combination of hotdogs and liquor to the likes of Hank Williams and most of everyone else in Montgomery.
Of course, Hank didn’t usually last the whole night before Uncle Chris kicked him out.
Chris' Hot Dogs means I am home. When I walk in the door I can still hear my grandfathers voice, " When I was a boy you could get 4 hot dogs and a coke for a quarter." That first dog is always for my Big Daddy.
It is a place where history hangs in the air and when everything else in the world around us changes, Chris' will stay the same no matter what.
That’s what makes me feel so wonderful and blessed to be there. Knowing that when I come back tomorrow, everything will be just as I left it.
The same as it has been for 97 years before, and as it will be for 97 years to come.