Dallas Hot Wieners was founded more than 75 years ago—no one knows exactly when—by Spyros Pappas’ son’s godfather. Once known as Uncle George’s, the location at 490 Broadway was renamed after the original Dallas Hot Wieners in Uptown, which Spyros and his brother-in-law, John Tampasis, took over about 35 years ago. Their sons Evan Pappas and Freddy Tampasis jointly run the location at 51 N. Front Street and another restaurant in Saugerties, with brother-in-law Nick Maritsas, a transplant from New Jersey, in charge of the Broadway location. This is a family business, in spades.
Doug Bell, who was sitting at the counter at the DHW on Broadway last Friday afternoon, said he thinks the original restaurant goes back as far as the 1930s. Whatever, the Kingston native and property manager said he’s been stopping here since 1967, when he was a kid attending the YMCA and came over afterwards for an 80-cent lunch. What makes the savory hot dog sauce—its recipe a carefully guarded family secret–so good? “It’s the texture,” Bell said. “It’s not sloppy, like some others.” Another customer sitting at the counter named Frank—he didn’t want to give his last name—said he spent 10 years in Vermont and “Vermont doesn’t know hot dogs.” The IBM employee, who has also been coming to the restaurant since he was a kid in the 1960s, said there’s nothing like the tastiness of DHW’s ensemble of dog, mustard, sauce, onions, and roll (nor the price, which is just $1.65). He’s also a fan of the French fries, which should be ordered “dark.” In short, Dallas Hot Wieners “is a great Kingston staple,” Frank said.
“People come here from all over the country,” chipped in Maritsas, who was busy behind the counter. Maritsas noted that before visiting their families, the outsiders stop in at Dallas Hot Wieners. The sauce, which sells for $5 a pint and $3 for a half pint, is a hot item. “We’re down to earth.”
Bell and Frank then took a trip down memory lane, recalling the café in the old Trailways bus station across the street—now the Rite Aid—the old post office that used to be next door, TriCounty Business Machines down the block and sidewalks crowded with factory workers. “The corporations ruined this country,” commented Maritsas, as the conversation veered off into a discussion about the economy, the plight of the middle class, Kingston’s challenges…but I digress. Maybe you can only take talking about how bad things are when you’re sitting at a gold-speckled Formica counter nibbling at the most delicious baklava you’ve ever had, which is made by Maritsas’ wife. It’s one of the more expensive items on the menu, at $2.75.
Two years ago, Kingston High School became a closed campus, eliminating the lunch crowd. (On this topic the conversation was heated, informed, and philosophical.) Four businesses closed as a result, but Maritsas hung in there, expanding the menu, and business has bounced back. When you have a place filled with students, you simplify, he explained, or the cook can’t remember all the orders. When volume goes down, you can be more elaborate. So he’s added chicken souvlaki, buffalo chicken, and gyro steak sandwiches. There’s also at least two homemade soups, in addition to the staples—hot dogs, burgers, milk shakes, and BLTs. (What he doesn’t serve is buttermilk, a once-popular drink that his mother-in-law used to sell to customers uptown, to be washed down with the hot dogs.)
Maritsas attributed the restaurant’s durability to the low overhead. The building was paid off long ago—there’s a rental apartment upstairs—and the staff is small, consisting of a waitress, guy at the grill, Maritsas, and sometimes a fourth person helping out at the cash register. And then, of course, there’s the sizeable foundation of loyal customers, which include an entire family from Wappinger’s who come every Saturday.
If you haven’t been to Dallas Hot Wieners, you haven’t really been to Kingston, so be sure to stop by. It’s open Monday through Friday from 10 to 8 pm and on Saturday, from 11 to 8 pm. The 51 North Front Street location, which has a slightly different menu, is open Monday through Saturday from 9 to 8. –Lynn Woods