1917 - Opened
History Section Under Construction...
Building a history timeline of events since our opening!
The Chris' Hotdogs Staff - Christmas 2006
Immediately it hits me. From the moment I walk through
the doors until the time I leave, a feeling of complete security and
comes over me. Maybe it’s the smell. The unmistakable and irresistible aroma
that travels up and down Dexter Avenue of hotdogs and hamburgers sizzling on
the grill. Perhaps it’s the welcoming entrance with its green and white
striped awning overhead that disrupts the sea of brick and glass that is
otherwise completely uniform for several blocks. It could be any number of
things, but most of all, I believe it is the history and family tradition
that goes along with every last part of Chris’ Hot Dogs that makes it so
special to me.
No one walking up Dexter Avenue can help but feeling
both intrigued and invited by the little hole-in-the-wall store on the
corner. The dome-shaped awning over the glass double-doors, that are stuck
in the middle of a stone wall, completely stands out from the rest of the
surrounding block. Through the doors is the original walkway set in red
tiles that has been there
since 1917, when it was used strictly as a place to make the dogs that were
then delivered to customers waiting outside on the curb, when curbside
service was still possible. On the right is a news rack that is as diverse
as it is outdated with month old newspapers and magazines ranging from
Today’s Bride to American Handgunner. The news rack dates back to Chris’
original days as an actual newsstand on Dexter Avenue when it was called the
Post Office Cafe. Past the news rack is a small counter topped by a cash
register that was used by my late Uncle Chris when he became unable to do
the more demanding work. He worked everyday from 1917 until he was unable in
the late 80s. On the other side are the cigars and candy. The candy sells
quickly , but the cigars, for the most part, are only bought by one homeless
man that we’ve come to call “Dollar Bill”, since he usually comes in with
one crumpled dollar bill that is just enough for his daily Tampa Nugget.
Further along down the walkway is a an opening on the right that leads into
the “old school” game room with its classic tiled floor and wall to wall
pinball machines, which act as daily stress relievers for some of
Montgomery’s finest lawyers.
On down is what I feel is the most important part of
Chris’. Granted, the counter may not seem so important at first sight, being
that it’s nothing but a long, worn down piece of wood painted white with ten
far too “experienced” stools in front of it. However, it’s not the
appearance that makes it so special. Instead, it’s the symbolism of equality
that gives the counter so much meaning. It’s a place where a person’s race,
creed, or social class has no meaning, whether it be a “blue collar worker”,
a Supreme Court Justice, or even the town Sheriff (one of the counter’s most
frequent customers) . The counter is a place where everyone who sits down to
eat is equal.
Behind the counter is a wavy wall of glass bricks that
was built in the shape of a flag on a windy day . On the other side of the
wall, past the “Rockola” jukebox, is the dining room that was added in the
1940s. This room has seen a lot.
From the 1940s to the late 60s, Chris’ Hot Dogs was the
hottest late-night spot in downtown Montgomery, staying open twenty-four
hours a day serving a healthy combination of hotdogs and liquor to the likes
Williams and most
of everyone else in Montgomery. Of course, Hank didn’t usually last the
whole night before Uncle Chris kicked him out. The beige back wall of the
dining room is decorated in old southern posters that are hung above the
booths. On the opposing wood-finished wall, over the smaller booths are
several glass port holes that
priceless “knick-knacks”, from Auburn/Alabama ashtrays to rubber hot dogs,
that have somehow managed to accumulate over the years.
Like me, most people who frequently come to Chris’
think of it as safe place, something as constant as Sunday dinner at
grandma’s. A place that, when everything else in the world around us
changes, will stay the same no matter what. That’s what makes me feel so
safe and secure there. Knowing that when I come back tomorrow, everything
will be just as I left it. The same as it has been for 86 years before, and
as it will be for 86 years to come.