Chris Since 1917 World Famous Hot Dogs
:::Chris' History:::

1917 - Opened


The Chris' Hotdogs Staff - Christmas 2006

"My Immutable Haven"

 by Greg Cumuze

     Immediately it hits me. From the moment I walk through the doors until the time I leave, a feeling of complete security and composure 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 On the right is a news rack that is as diverse as it is outdated with month old newspapers and magazines ranging from Today’s Bride to American Handgunner.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 of Hank

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 contain 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.

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