We hit up Concord’s old-school hot dog stands

JON BODELL—Insider staff
Poison Pete’s owner John Whartenby prepares a dog at his stand in the Everett Arena parking lot last week. (JON BODELL / Insider staff)
JON BODELL / Insider staffPoison Pete’s owner John Whartenby prepares a dog at his stand in the Everett Arena parking lot last week. Since this day was pretty chilly, we opted for a chili dog with some chopped onions and celery salt.
Since this day was pretty chilly, we opted for a chili dog with some chopped onions and celery salt from Poison Pete's Hot Dogs. (JON BODELL / Insider staff)
JON BODELL—Insider staff
Puppy Love Hot Dogs owner Gretchen Peters fixes up a hot dog at her stand on the sidewalk of North Main Street last week. (JON BODELL / Insider staff)
JON BODELL / Insider staffPuppy Love Hot Dogs owner Gretchen Peters fixes up a hot dog at her stand on the sidewalk of North Main Street last week. We went with a pretty classic order: a hot dog with brown mustard, relish and onions.
We went with a pretty classic order from Puppy Love Hot Dogs: a hot dog with brown mustard, relish and onions. (JON BODELL / Insider staff)

There’s nothing quite like a good hot dog on a hot summer’s day.

The hot dog is basically synonymous with summer. It’s the official food of the Fourth of July and baseball games, and the standard at every beach party or cookout. It takes you back to the days of jumping through the sprinkler in the backyard and sprinting barefoot to the ice cream truck. It’s compact and easy to cook, customize, hold and eat.

So it only makes sense that we do a little something about everybody’s favorite tubular food in this issue. After all, there are two hot dog stands in Concord with big followings, and we’ve never been to either.

We’re talking, of course, about Puppy Love Hot Dogs on Main Street and Poision Pete’s in the Everett Arena parking lot. You’ve probably walked or driven by both of them once or twice, but because they’re small setups, you may have missed them.

We made a point of going to both of them to find out what each has to offer. Spoiler alert: hot dogs.

Puppy Love Hot Dogs

Puppy Love has a small, walk-in storefront at 50 N. Main St., but for the summer, the operation is run out of the distinctive red truck with the big orange umbrella overhead. You’ll see that umbrella on the sidewalk a few dozen yards away from the storefront from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day except Sunday.

Owner Gretchen Peters knows a thing or two about hot dogs – her parents started the business 40 years ago and moved it to Concord’s Main Street in 1978, where it’s been ever since.

“We have a lot of regulars,” Peters said.

It’s a pretty straightforward menu: hot dogs with a slew of toppings, plus chips, cookies and drinks. All you need, really, for a sidewalk snack.

There’s no official outdoor seating, as its inclusion in this issue might imply, but there are city-provided stone benches right across from the cart, so you can grab some dogs and grab a seat to eat them. Or you could just eat it on the go – that’s the beauty of a hot dog.

You can get these steamed, skinless dogs naked or with any combination of toppings and it’s all the same price: $2.50, cash or credit. We’re talking chili, cheese, onions, sauerkraut, relish, mustard, ketchup, BBQ sauce and celery salt – everything you’d ever want on a dog.

With offerings like that, it’s easy to see why Peters stays pretty busy all year long.

Her busiest three days of them all, she said, are Market Days, which starts June 23 this year. She’ll be out there churning out tasty dogs like nobody’s business, so keep an eye out for that orange umbrella.

Since we were over there checking the place out, we figured we should get one to get the full experience. You know, for science and stuff.

We went with a pretty classic order: one dog with brown mustard, relish and onions. Can’t go wrong with that.

It was as tasty as one could imagine. Good temperature, nice, juicy flavor, soft bun. It would have been nice to savor it, but it was gone in about four bites – what can you do, you know? It’s a hot dog.

If you plan on frequenting the place, you can get a club card – 10 stamps earns you a free dog. You can also get gift cards for any amount, so you can give the gift of hot dogs without risking the meat going bad sitting in a wrapped package in your trunk for a week.

Peters regularly posts updates and fun photos to Facebook and Instagram, so check those out. You can also go to the official website, puppylovehotdogs.com.

Poison Pete’s Hot Dogs

Poison Pete’s is the stand in the Everett Arena parking lot marked by the big flap-in-the-breeze signs that say “Hot Dogs.” You can’t miss it – unless you’re speeding, which you shouldn’t do.

Owner John Whartenby has been running the show for four summers now, and he’s out there weekdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feel free to make a pit stop as you’re driving along Loudon Road – there’s plenty of parking.

Whartenby, a former Monitor staffer, has made the smooth transition from journalism to hot dog sales – we’d love to know his secret. He offers hot dogs with all the fixin’s, chips and drinks – classic summer fare.

You can get a plain dog – but who wants to do that? – or one with chili, sauerkraut, onions, marinated sweet onions, relish, mustard, ketchup, BBQ sauce or celery salt – or all of the above!

There’s a small charge for chili, but it’s worth it. You can also take advantage of the specials – two dogs, a drink and chips for $6 or $6.50 depending on whether you get chili. Either one saves you 50 cents, which you can use for something special down the road.

Now let’s address the elephant in the room. You’re probably wondering about the name. Not many food vendors use “Poison” in their names, and the owner isn’t even named Pete. But it works for Whartenby, who has an explanation for it.

“Poison Pete goes back to my old neighborhood in New York City,” he said. “There was a hot dog guy called Poision Pete, and he had the best hot dogs I’ve ever tasted. So the name comes from him.”

There may be something to this whole “Poison” thing after all.

To get to the bottom of it, we figured we should try one, just to make sure they weren’t, in fact, poison.

Looking for a little spice, we went with a chili dog with onions and some celery salt. Whartenby handles the chili, but you get to do all the cold stuff yourself, so you can really load it up.

This dog really hit the spot. Not too spicy, but not bland. The chili wasn’t too runny or too thick, and the onions were a nice complement. The natural-casing dog provided some nice snap, too. We may have used a tad too much salt, but who cares – we wouldn’t be pounding chili dogs in parking lots if we were too worried about our sodium consumption.

There’s no website or anything, just a physical hot dog stand, so you’ll have to stop by to check it out – which you should.

Honorable mentions

So there are only two hot dog-specific street vendors around here, but there are a couple more that sell dogs as well as other food items, so we decided to give them a little shout-out.

Zac’s Snax just opened Friday on Route 3A in Bow. The business is run out of a big truck parked on a hill next to North Country Golf Car. They’re open every day from 5:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., so you can get your breakfast, lunch and dinner there.

They have quarter-pound dogs that you can customize any way you want, so you’ll be both full and fully satisfied.

Call 219-5717 or email zacssnaxx@gmail.com for more info.

The Rolling Grill 2 is a food truck stationed in the parking lot of Home Depot in Concord. You may have seen a Food Snob featuring it last week.

This operation does hot dogs, chili and cheese dogs, sauerkraut dogs and sausages, as well as things like burgers and fries.

The Rolling Grill 2 is open every day at 10 a.m.

Author: Jon Bodell

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