Tift County Hot Dogs
Situated on the corner of Main Street and First Street in Tifton, right across from the white marble Bank of Tifton, was a local establishment that was a unique part of Tifton, GA. It was the Tift County Drug Store. Very rarely will one find such a drug store in today's world. As one entered the drug store, there was a magazine rack loaded with the best magazines of the day. Just beyond that rack there was a short row of two or three booths that were usually loaded down with teenagers after school every day. An eating counter was further into the store on the right. The ladies who worked there could make a number of delicious things to eat and they were usually very busy making various sandwiches, malts and Coca-Cola variations. The Tift County Drug Store was a fixture in Tifton. While there were other good drug store establishments, none of them had one special thing: the Tift County Hot dog! Man!!!, it was the best in the world. They used a wiener that was just your every day, red wiener. It wasn't one of the fancy blended wieners a person buys today. I just wonder what all was in those things. Doesn't matter. They were the main ingredient of the best hot dog in the world! There was a "special" chili that was very finely ground that was also added. It was the Tift County Drug Store's secret ingredient. No one knew the formula but those working there and they were sworn to secrecy. The bun was just a regular ole white bread bun, but it was toasted. The secret was in the way it was toasted. They had a toasting appliance that mashed the bun flat as it toasted it. It was warm, slightly browned and flat as a flitter when ready to serve. The bun was opened up, the wiener placed in the bun, the special chili added along with mustard, catsup and chopped unions if desired....(my favorite). Add a chocolate milk with ice cream in it, and a bag of potato chips and you were in business sitting on a bar stool at the counter, talking with the ladies serving the food and generally having a good time. Couldn't be beat!!
I was working in Rollins Men's Shop right next door to the drug store. One day, a reporter from the paper came around to people working in the stores and asked us for our New Year's resolution. I told him that I had two; first, I would read Snuffy Smith every day for a year, and that I would eat a Tift County Hot Dog every day for lunch for a year. He said I couldn't do it and others echoed the same sentiment. But, they were wrong. Every day for lunch I would go next door and order my standing order: Tift County Hot Dog, a chocolate milk with vanilla ice cream in it, and a bag of Lays Potato Chips. They knew what I wanted and usually had it under way when I came in. I sat on one special stool and enjoyed the most delicious hot dog in the world every working day of that year. Never got tired of it. Never was tempted to order anything else even though they also had the best egg salad in the world. I just wanted my Tift County Hot Dog.
All the naysayers finally admitted that they were wrong as I drew closer and closer to the end of the year. "You can't eat steak every day for a year Harrell, and you certainly can't eat a hot dog every day." Wrong!! Why? Because it was the world famous Tift County Hot Dog that I was eating. Years later, the owner of Tift County Drugs, who had retired, gave me the recipe for that great chili. It surprised me how simple it was. All that hype over it being some secret formulation was just that....hype. The main secret was that the meat was ground super fine. Then it was drenched with that secret chili. Mmmmmm, good! I told him as he gave me the recipe: "Do you mean that that's all there is to it?" I was astounded and so very proud of the fact that I now had the formulation for that delicious chili that went on The Tift County Hot Dog.
One of my high school buddies that went with us to the drug store often is a guy named Bobby White. Bobby is a very successful Bar-B-Que restaurant owner in the Atlanta area. He also has the recipe for the Tift County Hot Dog and guess what???, he has put it on the menu at his restaurant. Right up there with all the BBQ selections is listed the world famous and sinfully delicious....Tift County Hot Dog. I've ordered it before and it is a faithful edition of that world famous treat from years gone by. Eating it takes one right back to their teenage days with many of their friends all ganged up at the Tift County Drug Store eating that indescribably delicious Tift County Hot Dog.
William F. Harrell