My mother used to tell a story of how her very young daughter–already, shall we say, a voluptuary of sorts–ate so many hot dogs that she made herself viciously sick to such a degree that even today, more than three decades later, the thought of someone pulling a hot dog out of a bubbling cauldron of grease-slicked water and eating it is enough to cause shudders of revulsion.
You’ll think, then, that this is a post about overcoming my hot dog disgust in the face of Reading Terminal Market completism. You’ll imagine that I’m about to extol Franks-a-Lot as aversion therapy for the encased meat phobic. You’ll be wrong.
I’ll eat sausages, salumis, pepperonis and jerky, but never will a hot dog get past these lips. Lucky for me, Franks-a-Lot offers more than it’s name suggests. Luckier still is the fact that it’s the sides that steal the show.
With a menu that mostly focuses on boardwalk style goodies, I considered the italian sausage and peppers, but, perhaps in honor of my companion’s Polish roots, I opted for the kielbasa with sauerkraut, supplemented by more carbs than any one meal should include–two pierogies and a big hunk of cornbread. Skip the meat. The kielbasa was tepid, in temperature and taste, served on a lovely sarcone roll. The real affront was the sauerkraut, which was not sour in the least, making it more of a limpkraut or blandkraut instead.
But that was just the mediocre opening act. The pierogies were a revelation, pan fried so that the top and bottom was browned. With salt and pepper on top. Let me repeat that–potato and onion filled dough browned with salt and pepper. A party appetizer to make friends swoon.
We finished with a dessert course of cornbread. Who would’ve imagined that the best cornbread in Philadelphia is made at a hot dog stand in Reading Terminal Market? A huge serving, browned (again!) on the top, with enough sweetness to ward off the at-times bitter crunch of cornmeal. A few weeks ago, I saw a man get on a long line at Franks-a-Lot just to buy one hunk of cornbread. I understand why. You should find out too.
Recommended: cornbread! The pierogies. You can get them with sour cream, but that might make them soggy. Checking out my friend Casey’s blog, Buddies and Hot Dogs, about metaphysics and the relationship between justice and morality. Nah, it’s about two dudes eating hot dogs.