Sunday, December 16, 2012

On Location: Bob's Grill

Some folks at my employer, Davidson College, have a loose tradition of visiting Bob's Grill in  downtown Mooresville, NC for a mass hot dog run. This was my first visit to Bob's.

I took this photo toward the back of the restaurant. Yes, this is it. At the far end is the grill and a counter where you order. On the right is a counter where you can stand and eat. And if you must, there's a bench there on the left for sitting.
On this particular visit, Parker (glasses) instigated a hot dog eating contest. The lone entrant was Ryan. Once upon a time apparently there was an employee of Davidson who managed to take down 5 dogs in one visit. So Ryan decided to start with 6 just to dispense with that record. Just to drive the point home, he ordered his 6 "all the way" and took them down without much ceremony.

Then he learned that the Bob's record was 8, so he got another 4 hot dogs. To cut the drama he managed to eat the seventh and eighth dogs (all which had less stuff on them). He spent a very long time on that 9th dog. And after eating 1/4 to 1/3 of the 9th dog he threw in the towel. He chucked the rest of the 9th and took the 10th home with him (pictured below). Later I learned he never ate number 10. I certainly don't blame him.

Meanwhile I had an incredible lunch. This is the stuff I was raised on. Of course "all the way" means chili, slaw, diced onions and mustard. The chili was served out of an old pot sitting on the stove next to where the hot dogs were cooking up. For some reason the idea of a chili dog makes my stomach turn, but when you disguise it as a hot dog all the way, I don't hesitate. In fact, these two were the best hot dogs I'd had in a long time. Certainly hot dogs are a "sometimes food," but every now and again you just can't beat a good hot dog. And these were superb.

I even tried a little Samson's Sauce on my hotdogs. I'd never seen this stuff before. Apparently it's been around the North Carolina Piedmont since 1925. The label was a riot. It went on about how Samson's Sauce makes everything better, but it's not for use on hemorrhoids and stuff like that. Made for good reading as I thoughtfully enjoyed my dogs. I found an enlarged label here. It's worth the 12 seconds it takes to read it. 
But back to our hero, Ryan. We also have a work tradition of holiday poetry contests (it is a college, after all). I'm happy to report that this year's contest, "Ode to Hot Dogs, The Ballad of Ryan Arnold" took the prize at this year's holiday party. The poem was team-authored by Parker, Leslie, Louise and yours truly. For your consideration I offer a reprint.

Ode to Hot DogsThe Ballad of Ryan Arnold.

[to the tune of the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald]

The legend lives on in Old Mooresville, downtown
of the hot dogs they serve there at “Bob’s Grill.”
The chili, it’s said, soaks down deep in the bread
when you order “all the way” to get your fill.
With a load of slaw, buns, onions, mustard and more
these wieners in no way leave you empty.
If you think you can chew you just might handle two,
But you’ll likely throw in the towel early.

The man was the pride of the Davidson side
coming up to have lunch with his work mates.
As the big eaters go, he was bigger than most
with an appetite for hot dogs well seasoned.
Concluding some terms with Parker Ingalls and team
He gotsix fully loaded frankfurters.
And next thing they knew; he started to chew
As the spectators loosened their girdles.

Once ago it’s been said someone left Bob’s well-fed
with five hotdogs chewed up in her belly.
The big man, he knew, five’s the least he could do
So he took down all six without pausing.
As he waited in line for dogs seven, eight, nine
Yes, and ten he began the meat sweatin’.
And everyone knew as Ryan Arnold did too
Of the trouble those toppings were causing.

The next dogs in line were relatively benign
As they contained naught but just mustard.
All the fundraisers knew as our man diligently chewed
that sure enough on this day they’d see history.
The seventh was done; Ryan stared down the bun
of that eighth dog he knew’d be a challenge.
His smile was now gone and the pressure was on
as the internalized dogs had revenge.

Does anyone know where the love of God goes
when the bites turn the minutes to hours?
The spectators all say he’d have had 12 that day
if he’d just had the first 6 without chili.
He might’ve spit up or he might’ve passed out
But this day he knew when to say when.
And all that is left are the photos and the heft
of the calories left round his belly.

Still in Hood house they sing of the man who is king
of the record that still stands at Bob’s Grill.
When next you eat there, bow and send up a prayer
For the winner we all know as Ryan.
There’s barely alive one who can take down five
and eight and a quarter’d leave us all cryin.


  1. 100 bonus points for saying what a proper ATW is
    and 1000 bonus points for the kick ass rendition of the song, which I read slowly, to tune.

    Slow golf clap.

    (And if you ever tell anyone that I gave you the clap, I'll punch you ;) )

    Happy Holidays, my friend. Hope we hook up for some beers in 2013.

    1. Happy Holidays to you too Chris! Thanks for your support and friendship this year and in years past. Drinks in 2013 sounds like a plan!