Like being a Magic: The Gathering enthusiast or a Revolutionary War reenactor, identifying as a corn dog connoisseur isn't something most people advertise. Perhaps it's the carny connection or the general look of the thing, a phallic meat wand, that makes us corn dog lovers lower our heads in shame. I've certainly never gone public with my own corn dog love affair. Until now.
I'll start at the beginning. It's 1994 and I'm at the Washington State Fair. Still very much a 4-H pig show kind of operation, my county fair experience was ripped from the pages of Charlotte's Web — heavy on grange hall produce displays, low on carnival rides. But what it lacked in rusty roller coasters it more than made up for in food. I spent weeks anticipating Bloomin' Onions, Elephant Ears, and ice cream of the future, Dippin' Dots. But the concession stand highest on my must-eat list was Burger Palace, known for its foot-long corn dog. That's right, 12 inches of cornmeal-coated tube meat on a stick.
I can still recall the way the salty server handed me that first snack sabre. Top heavy, it took every ounce of my elementary ballet training to balance the lanky corn dog in one hand and my pop in the other, all while pumping long swirls of mustard atop the dog. Then, that first bite. Blisteringly hot, I cried out in pain, my shouts an echo of the whoops of the cowboys performing in the rodeo one stadium over. Inevitably the cornmeal casing gave way, a victim of the breathless appetite of a tubby 11-year-old girl. I nibbled down the stick's last bit of burnt batter in seconds.
Now, I don't know about your hometown, but Yakima, Wash. wasn't exactly brimming with corn dog eateries, so for nearly nine years, the fair was where my corn dog liasons stayed, a battered frank Brigadoon that occurred once every September. And after moving to Charleston, I assumed those halcyon days of corn dog consumption were over. I wasn't about to trek all the way to Columbia for the South Carolina State Fair just to get my hands on my favorite fair food. Besides that would require finding someone to go with me thus exposing my true motive for the journey.
Instead, each fall when the temperature finally dips below 75 and pumpkins begin showing up on doorsteps, I get a little misty-eyed thinking about corn dogs of yore. Or I did until I realized Charleston has a host of bars and restaurants selling corn dogs of all shapes and sizes. And corn dog lovers, great news. You're not alone. There are dozens of us pronto pup proponents. You've just got to go out and find them here:
Come to find out Folly Road's new Garage 75 (1175 Folly Road) is a strong corn dog supporter. The sports bar offers them as a starter — two mini corn dogs served for the pocketbook-friendly price of just $5. A traditional interpretation, the minis come in house batter and are painted with yellow mustard.
But Garage 75 isn't the only place as corny as Kansas in August. Over at Gene's Haufbrau (817 Savannah Hwy.), West Ashley's favorite dive has been slinging corn dogs for years and their price is even more appetizing. For $4.95, Gene's dishes up two regular size corn dogs in spicy mustard. We'd say something about doubling your pleasure but frankly that just won't read right.
For many of us corn dog lovers, it's the golden look of a dog that whets our appetite. Tattooed Moose (1137 Morrison Drive & 3328 Maybank Hwy.) knows this and they also know that nothing goes better with one than a local draft beer. So they added a duo of dogs to their menu. The basket o' corn dogs is served not with mustard, but with Tattooed Moose's signature special sauce, a nice twist on an old song.
I had a friend in college who, ashamed of her guilty pleasure, would order corn dogs only when nearly blackout drunk. In her small college town, she'd saunter up to her favorite bar and drunkenly order a corn dog under the cover of darkness. I often think back on this when I've had a mind to grab a corn dog at Recovery Room (685 King St.). There's something clandestine about eating a corn dog in the dive bar.
Incredibly, in my 14 years in Charleston, I've never been to Isle of Palms' Windjammer (1008 Ocean Blvd.). But that's about to change now that I've discovered the beach bar serves corn dogs. For $3.75, you can get one delicious dog. Live music and meat on a stick? What a time to be alive.