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Mudville: November 28, 2020 3:15 pm PDT
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Hot Diggity Dog

“When brothers agree, no fortress is so strong as their common life.” – Antisthenes

This is what we would normally start referring to as “the dog days of summer”, when baseball is in full swing, vacations are all the rage and children are squeezing in every last drop of sunlight as they start to hear conversations of school from worn out parents.

In any other year, this would be par for the course and I’d probably be doing my reviews from a stadium, with real ballpark food and meeting real Yankees fans from around the country.

It’s almost August and at this point I believe we’ve all accepted the fact that this isn’t a normal year, none of us even know what normal is anymore and life as we know it will most likely be forever changed.

That doesn’t mean the BallNine family was going to let a little Covid-19 pandemic stop us from allowing everyone’s favorite self-proclaimed hot dog expert to do what we do best- make great baseball and food content.

As the first National Anthem played before the first official game of the 2020 MLB season, I made just enough time to seek out the next great hot dog.

This time I stayed home, right here in Sarasota, Florida (travel isn’t exactly recommended right now) and researched some of the best, oldest and most well-known hot dog sands in my little beach town as close to heaven as I’ve ever been.

And what did you find, my food dude?

It’s #thefoodguy, thank you.

It’s not that all the other names aren’t cool, but I have to stick to one if it’s going to catch on.

Now let’s get to the meat and buns of this story as I know how you get when I don’t jump right into the food. In my search for a great hot dog,

I usually do what you do when you’re hungry. I pick up my phone and I start searching the internet.

I read reviews, I dig into the history and the area and I see if it will make for a good story.

Hot Diggity Dog checked off all of the boxes and for the first time I was able to make contact with who at the time,

I thought was the owner – Dave – and tried to incorporate him into the visit.

The food is great and I’m sure you love the stories I tell if you’re still reading them, but I could never tell you the story like “Dave” could.

This hot dog stand had just turned fifty in January and as much as I’d love to pretend what a half decade of hotdogs was like, David lived it and I’m here for his stories and my lunch.

Sadly, after connecting with David over email and then on the phone he disappeared, and I wasn’t able to touch base again before the visit.

Ha! I should’ve known you would blow this.

Your unwavering support is the motivation that keeps me going and I don’t know how I will ever be able to thank you in a single lifetime. So, with wounded pride and a job to do the wife and I headed out to Sarasota to find “Hot Diggity Dog” and the next great hot dog on our journey across America. We wanted to go to the beach, and we had planned our day around it so Dave or no Dave we didn’t have a plan B. We pulled into a strip mall along a busy street where a giant Elvis statue, wearing a mask, greeted us. The bright red, hot dog on top of the building let us know we were in the right place so we parked and got ready to eat. “Closed” read the sign on the window and a quick pull of the door confirmed our worst fears. Was this another Covid victim? Did Dave stop responding because there are no more “diggity dogs” to sell? And as we almost gave up hope and hopped back in the still-unparked car a hand reached up and turned the sign, “Open” and just like that the mission was back on!

At least you got something right kid.

You truly are obnoxious sometimes and the people will eventually get tired of you; and when they do, I will be hearing writing hot dog stories as golden as the mustard that graces the buns. So, we walk in and we are greeted by a tall, friendly gentleman standing in a small open kitchen.

“Are you David?” I ask.

“No, I’m Robert- David is my brother.”

Jackpot. I proceed to tell him about me reaching out to his brother, BallNine and what I do. I’m not sure if he cares at first, but he listens, and I appreciated that. I listen to him and what comes next is a mix between sad and interesting.

You see, Robert has been working here as long as they’ve been in business and now a days it’s just not happening anymore in a Covid world.

The lines just aren’t what they used to be with no spring breakers. Kids love cheap eats and being a short ride from some of the country’s most beautiful beaches surely helped business.

The spring training crowds were cut short too, and cities down here along Florida’s west coast and the restaurant industry in general have suffered.

For those of you who know me, you know I too am in the industry and have seen the devastation the Covid lock down has wreaked on my hospitality friends first-hand. Next are the snowbirds, who are fleeing Florida in droves and returning to the north earlier this year to get away from one of the worst hit states in the nation.

Add to the fact that the median age in Sarasota is 70 years old and people in general just aren’t coming in like they used to. And that stinks.

As he lays some fresh wieners on a flat top, I realized we are the only people here and I tell him a little more about me and BallNine and he tells me a little more about himself, his brother David and Hot Diggity Dog.

He recommended the Coney Island Dog with mustard, meatless chili and chopped onions. I order one of those, a plain traditional and some fries. I ask him who else works here and he tells me, “You’re looking at him.” Dave was working their part time too, but between the sales drop and the pandemic he can’t afford to pay him right now and he hasn’t come in the last couple of weeks.

I didn’t pry too much and I’m pretty sure Dave came in when we were eating, but I didn’t bother him. I’m writing hot dog stories – not curing cancer – and he didn’t want to chat for a reason, and I respect that.

Are we writing a Hallmark movie or a hot dog story?

Both.

Places like Hot Diggity Dog are important to the overall balance of chain restaurants and up and coming food trucks.

They are community staples. They are where your parents take you every year after a long, hot day at the beach.

Where you grab your lunch week in and week out for as long as you can remember. You grab a quick dog, a nice lunch or catch up with friends before or after a baseball game.

They have been in the same location for decades and they probably know more about the people who live in this town then the people who live in this town. We have an obligation to save these treasures before they’re overrun by another drive-thru, Starbucks or chicken joint.

They don’t make guys like Robert anymore.

Guys who have been coming to work 6 days a week for the last 40+ something years and having a hot dog for lunch because, “it’s quick, easy and doesn’t cut into the profits.” You can tell that Robert is an industry lifer who understands the grind of owning and running a restaurant.

I’ve eaten enough bowls of white rice with Sriracha in my day to understand that most food items are worth four times what I pay for them if I sell them to a customer.

Did you even eat at this place?

Of course I did and if you were paying attention to anything, I just said you would have caught that in the first paragraph.

You don’t come to HDD for the fancy things in life, you come for a good hot dog with classic toppings served in an outdated dining space with friendly service.

You eat here because you don’t care about the collection of expired and dusty hot sauce bottles or the beach – meets – golf – meets cheesy hot dog décor.

You eat at a place like HDD because you know just what you’re getting and when you get it- bang, it’s just what you expected.

We ordered two hot dogs – one with just ketchup and mustard, which was technically “Sarah’s,” but since I’m #thefoodguy I got to try it anyway.

The second one was Robert’s recommendation and topped with meatless chili, white raw onions and mustard.

The buns were soft, the hot dogs were cooked great and had a nice snap to melt in your mouth transition and the toppings were good. It wasn’t expensive either; this was old school pricing.

I think we walked away from this joint spending $17.00 for two hot dogs, two sodas and an order of fries. I tipped Robert $10.00 in hopes he would have a burger for lunch on this fine day, but I doubt he will, guys like that are creatures of habit anyway.

This one hit a little close to home. Being an industry lifer myself, I have seen firsthand how the Covid pandemic has torn my industry apart and sent countless numbers of my peers out of work or forced them to shut their doors permanently.

Spending time with Robert, as brief as it was, left me with a feeling of duty to make sure I tell his story and do my part to ensure the lines come back and the locals pick up the slack left behind by a lack of tourism.

Actions speak louder than words and I am going to work my ass off to get the word out about this place – because Robert and Sarasota are better with HDD on Swift Road. So, come on by and enjoy a good old fashion “ballpark dog” – a stone’s throw from the beach – and tell Robert #thefoodguy sent you.

Let’s make sure Hot Diggity Dog is a Sarasota staple for another 50 years!

Wait! Wait! Wait!

Yes?

What about the new ratings system?

Oh yeah. What better time to break out the new rating system then today? El Jefe has requested that I get a little more creative with the ratings and after spit balling a bunch of idea, I think we came to agreement on a system that works and will probably turn a few heads. (And offend a few people)

  1. Oscar Wiener (The Best – award winning)
  2. Best Supporting Meat (The Joe Pesci of hot dogs – never a star, but you need him)
  3. Nominated Dog (Hey – just getting your name called is a big deal)
  4. Honorable Mention (Average, Edible- No shame in the game – or bun)
  5. Drunk David Hasselhoff (You may be on the floor and incoherent after this one)

Bang. There it is. A new ranking system. And if you’re reading this than you can feel special knowing you are the first to see it. Never forget that I do this for you – the videos, the crazy dogs, the travel…all for you. Leave a comment and let #thefoodguy know you’re here for him too.

Stay tuned and Stay Hungry. #thefoodguy

  • Hot Diggity Dog: 5666 Swift Road Sarasota, FL 34231
  • Rating: Nominated Dog (Hey- just getting your name called is a big deal)
  • Major League Teams: The Tampa Bay Rays (About 45-55-minute drive)
  • Minor League Teams: GCL Orioles (Gulf Coast League)
  • Other Baseball: Spring Training home to the Orioles & Pirates (Bradenton)

Father, husband, runner, and food guy. Baseball traveler, stadium food connoisseur, and podcast fill-in. Just here for the hot dogs.

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