Forty years ago yesterday, on June 18, 1972, an article titled "Biting the Dog" appeared in the Los Angeles Times' West magazine. The piece was about hot dogs, and it was written by David Shaw. If you're not familiar with Shaw and his work, you should be. He wrote about food and wine, about film and the media, and he won a Pulitzer Prize in 1991 for criticism. And in 1972, he was writing about hot dogs.
Shaw's article is, arguably, as relevant to today's blogcentric universe as it was then. In it were photos of 20 servers, each holding hot dogs, framed by signage and storefronts. Below the photos, Shaw wrote a few lines and rated the hot dogs on a scale of 1 to 5 asterisks (1 being worst, 5 best). The following page gave an overview of the history of the hot dog and a focus on the dog Shaw rated highest.
The 20 places Shaw visited ranged from well-known chains and stands iconic even in 1972, to those long since dispatched to the memories of long time Angelenos. For good measure, he threw in a couple of wild cards: a hardware store and Dodger Stadium.
Much has changed in 40 years. It should come as no surprise that most of the places he reviewed are gone. Two made it into the Chowhound-Eater-Yelp era before finally shuttering. Perhaps more surprising, 10 have survived to sell hot dogs to this day.
We'll spare you the obvious: Der Wienerschnitzel, which Shaw gave the lowest rating to (calling it "der worst...") and Hot Dog on a Stick (which he liked), since it is, after all, a corn dog. Other survivors we won't be visiting: Orange Julius reinvented itself as a mall entity at the expense of its stand-alone locations and, of course, Dodger Stadium still stands despite Frank McCourt's best efforts, with Dodger Dogs still being sold and Vin Scully still calling the games.
What became the rest of the hot dog Class of '72? The following is a list with Shaw's 1972 rating in parenthesis:
Dog n' Suds, 12040 Riverside Drive, North Hollywood (**): Another chain that could have made our list of 9 Fast Food Franchises no longer here, Shaw reviewed the North Hollywood location. From Illinois roots, the chain expanded to nearly 600 restaurants in 38 states before the all-too-familiar sequence of new operators followed by a collapse. Basically, an A&W with hot dogs (please tell me I don't have to explain A&W). An independent operator regrouped and 17 operate today across the Midwest. Shaw recommended passing on the dogs and going with the root beer.
Dooley's Hardware, 5075 Long Beach Blvd., Long Beach (**): A fond memory for long time Long Beach residents, Dooley's was a three block long emporium that sold nearly everything, including hot dogs (which were 10 cents in 1972). Now an elementary school.
The Hot Dog Show, 745 E. Broadway, Long Beach (****): Another mini-chain, Shaw ranked it as best of the "gimmicky" dogs. Another location, Papoo's Hot Dog Show in Toluca Lake, survived through August 2011. The hot dog menu from the Long Beach location lives on at Tracy's Bar and Grill, while the location now sports a Japanese fusion/sushi restaurant.
The Hot Dog Store Co., 9527 Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills (**): Now Papa Jake's Sub Shop.
L'Internationale Char Broiler, 6750 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood (***): Lost to Hollywood redevelopment, char-broiled "international"-style hot dogs were the attraction. Shaw recommended the "Miss Denmark." Topped with melted cheese and a sprinkle of paprika, it must have seemed quite exotic by 1972 standards.
Pop's, 1000 S. La Brea Ave. (**): Now Bee's Donuts.
Tail o' The Pup, 311 N. La Cienega Blvd. (****): A true Los Angeles landmark, this classic example of roadside novelty architecture sat on La Cienega from 1946 until 1985, when construction of a hotel forced its relocation to 329 N. San Vicente. That spot, too, was redeveloped in 2005, forcing closure. Perhaps the saddest of all fates, the small, hot dog shaped building sits in a Torrance storage facility, with the family still hoping to re-open it someday at a new location. Known for hot dogs topped with nuts.
The Dog House, various locations (**): Another chain that done gone, the tiny buildings were shaped like dog houses and topped with a bright pink roof.
Toddy's, 4751 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood (**): Torn down to make way for expansion of adjacent Little Toni's restaurant, run by same family since the mid-1950s.
Wiener Factory, 14917 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks (****): Also known for its "Graffiti Wall," the beloved SFV spot closed Dec. 31, 2007, amidst much coverage. Site was slated to become a Pinkberry, but that fell through.