Ok - I know it’s not junk food Friday, but for some reason I am craving chili dogs with a crazy vengeance. It got me thinking about some really tasty and EXCELLENT specimens of junk food at its finest.
My home town, Americus, Georgia (don't ask), does not boast a wide range of sophisticated culinary establishments that draw people from far and wide. It’s a small town with a tradition of home eating. However, there is one institution that does have cult-like status... at least to those people who grew up with it, and those few outsiders lucky enough to be introduced to its fare.
I have traveled this world and have eaten with the enthusiasm of an explorer. My palette delights in the ethereal, the deep and dark, the exotic. I am also a fan of simplistic Americana (not even mentioning the realm of processed junk food - yes, Cheetos do deserve a place in the world).
Summertime in on its way and it is the season that makes me truly start to think of the food of red blooded Americans. Maybe it’s the Memorial Day and Fourth of July holidays that do it to me, but I start thinking of simple food for the soul, food you had as a kid. Baseball games and hotdogs.
I have hotdog cravings on a fairly regular basis, and I will make a wide variety in my kitchen - from crispy grilled with snappy casings topped with cheddar cheese, Chicago style, Buffalo style, basically if it’s in the fridge it has probably gone on a dog at some point in my house. However, there is a hotdog from my childhood that still has a prominent spot in my brain. I have found myself with cravings from time to time that result in an almost low grade fever state. Monroe’s is the place (and yep, they used my copyrighted image as their Facebook photo and didn't even ask. What's up with that??). Chili (and slaw) dogs are the goal.
Monroe’s is a pool hall that has been in business for eons. It can’t exactly be called a dive, but it is certainly not a white table cloth establishment. That my friends is not important. What you go to Monroe’s for are dogs, be they of the chili, slaw, or cheese variety - or any combination of the aforementioned.
To the uninitiated, they might not be much to look at. The wienies are neon pink (almost as pink as the mercurochrome we had applied to our scrapes as kids), cheep and not in the realm of anything artisanal. No natural casings here. The buns are soft, steamed and squishy. The chili is a soupy savory brown. The slaw is a homogeneous white. Scoffers be warned. You talk bad about Monroe’s and people will act like you said something about their mother (and then promptly cut you).
Sitting down with a red plastic tray covered with a sheet of parchment and laden with a sampler of dressed dogs is at once a nostalgic endeavor and a satisfying few minutes of junk food nirvana. It’s a short stint at table because these little babies go down faster than you will care to admit (think warm Krispy Kreme doughnuts). Luckily I don’t do this very often.
Maybe those cravings from childhood work in that ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ sort of way. Maybe those things that trigger memories of long days without care can season even the blandest of food. I think that can be the case in some instances. With Monroe’s though I will go ahead and say hell no. A great chilidog is a great chilidog no matter what.
If you happen for some weird reason to be traveling through the town of Americus and in the mood for some classic hotdogs, stop by Monroe’s for a few. You might need some Tums afterwards, but it will be worth it.
Monroe’s Hot Dogs & Billiards
318 West Lamar Street
Americus, Georgia 31709