by James Rada, Jr. photography by Phil Grout
Forget the hot dogs that “plump when you cook them” or “the dogs kids love to eat.” The average American eats more than 70 hot dogs a year, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council. They grill them. They boil them. They buy them at ball parks.
That’s all well and good, but when Hanover residents have a craving for a hearty hot dog covered in chili sauce and onion, they head out to one of Hanover’s popular hot dog restaurants. Whether they choose to eat a Texas Hot Weiner Lunch on Carlisle Street or Famous Weiners on Broadway or their North Hanover location on Dart Drive, may be just as much a matter of tradition as taste.
Both restaurants have been in Hanover since the 1920s, which means they have continued to satisfy the hunger of locals generation after generation. Walk into the restaurants and you get a feeling of nostalgia, with their counter seats and historic pictures on the walls.
Although popular for their hot dogs, what makes the restaurants unique is not so much the hot dog. Both Famous Weiners and Texas Hot Weiner Lunch serve Kunzler hot dogs, though not the type you can buy in the grocery store. Their hot dogs are called Texas skin dogs, with so much pork (at least 80 percent) that they are larger than the hot dogs you can buy in a grocery store.
“There’s simply no comparison between these hot dogs and the ones you get in a grocery store,” said Tony Plakas, owner of Texas Hot Weiner Lunch. “We don’t skimp on quality.”
The differences between the two restaurants’ hot dogs begin with what goes around those hot dogs, most notably the chili sauce. For each, the recipe is full of meat and spices put together in a recipe that is a trade secret.
George Keriazes, who along with his brother, Tim, owns Famous Weiners, uses a family recipe passed down from his great-grandfather, who first opened the restaurant in 1923.
“Only my brother and I know the recipe,” Keriazes said. “I even gather the spices myself in a container so that our staff can make the sauce.”
Plakas doesn’t use a family recipe, but it is a recipe passed down through the various store owners since the restaurant opened on South York Street in 1923. By the time, Plakas’ father bought the restaurant from Chris Fourlas in 1961, it had moved to its current location on Carlisle Street. Plakas’ father tweaked the original recipe, but Plakas decided not to mess with a good thing.
Keriazes notes that his chili recipe has been tweaked over time as well. “Tastes have changed over the years,” he said. “People don’t want it as bland anymore. They want it spicier.”
He also noted that over the last 95 years some ingredients in the recipe have had to change because they were no longer available.
Famous Weiners also opened in 1923 by Keriazes’ great-grandfather, Nicholas E. Mavros. The restaurant now has three locations, the two in Hanover and a third in Spring Grove. According the restaurant’s website, Famous Weiners have been voted the number one hot dog in York County by York Daily Record polls and the number one hot dog in South Central Pennsylvania by the Harrisburg Patriot News.
While both restaurants are quick to brag about their hot dogs, they also feature other foods, such as soups, sandwiches and desserts. Then there are the French fries that you can get covered in chili sauce or gravy. Some people make the trip just for them.