Sam’s Hot Dog Stand is more than just meat in a bun

The non-descript little space is a bit cluttered, and 1970s TV shows play on a small set in one corner. At the counter at Sam’s Hot Dog Stand is smiling manager Sandra, who welcomes all comers. To those she can’t identify as a regular, she offers up menu highlights, touts hot dog specials like the spicy J.C. Dog and adds, “I can make boneless catfish for you if you want.”

The little eatery at 1991 Brownsboro Road is part of a small chain, but it sure doesn’t feel that way. Sandra and a cohort prepare homemade chili sauce, soup and other dishes daily to feed their customers. And they do it with pleasure.

“God gives me the strength to work every day,” we overheard Sandra tell one customer. “So I’m cool.”

And the food’s pretty cool, too. My girlfriend Cynthia and I stopped in on a recent Saturday afternoon and, frankly, had a tough time choosing. There are all-beef dogs, turkey dogs, quarter-pound “Big Dogs,” hot links, polishes sausages and even pork BBQ sandwiches and tacos.

There are toppings galore. There are specials and combos. Every Wednesday, there’s a blue plate special featuring some sort of southern comfort food (recently, it was meatloaf, kale greens and mac and cheese).

The aforementioned J.C. Dog packs every spicy ingredient on the menu onto a hot link; the Derby Dog tops an all-beef dog with cheddar and bacon; the Loaded Potato Dog features bacon, sour cream, cheddar and potato sticks. You can’t make this stuff up.

I ordered an all-beef dog with spicy chili sauce (you can also choose mild), along with onions, shredded cheddar and spicy mustard, along with a hot link topped with sauerkraut, onions and spicy mustard. Meanwhile, Cynthia ordered a pork barbecue sandwich topped with slaw, along with a side of — get this — hush puppies. Anything goes at Sam’s Hot Dog Stand, and Sandra is happy to help.

The chili dog was quite tasty, I have to admit. It was slathered in chili, and quickly got messy, which is sort of what you want from a chili dog if you stop to think about it. The onion nuggets were crisp and fresh, the cheese was plentiful and it was drizzled with a brown mustard, all of it nestled into a white bun (you can also get wheat).

The meat itself is firm with a slight snap in the casing, revealing meat that is tinted red. It’s quality stuff. And while the chili wasn’t as spicy as I had hoped, the dog was only two bucks. TWO BUCKS.

The hot link, at just $3, is a much bigger specimen with a thick casing and dense, juicy meat inside with plenty of flavor and spice. This thing would be delicious on its own, but blended with a heaping pile of kraut, plus the onions and mustard, it really stood forth. About four bites in, the spicy quality to this monstrosity began to build, ultimately leaving a nice burn.

Meanwhile, Cynthia’s sandwich was solid — the pork had a bit of tasty bark and was soaked in a tangy-sweet red sauce. Meanwhile, the cornmeal-covered hush puppies were quite tasty, with a nice flavorful blend and bits of green onion everywhere. She got six, and I’m pretty sure Sandra only charged her for a small side ($1.60).

Cynthia being Cynthia, she topped off lunch with a piece of homemade pound cake with caramel icing. The first-bite experience went something like this:

Cynthia: “Oh my stars.”

Me: “Is it good?”

Cynthia: “That is church-picnic good.”

Fair enough. And the whole lunch, all that food along with two soft drinks, cost us a few pennies over $15. Blue plate specials every Wednesday are just seven bucks. Combos top out at $6.50. Most toppings, like chili, mustard, relish, kraut, et cetera, are free, while the “premium” toppings such as cheese, bacon bits, spicy pickles, fajita vegetables, banana peppers and such are 30 cents each.

All that, friendly service and deliciousness to boot? I’m cool.