The upcoming re-opening of the Tail o’ the Pup reminded me of hot dogs I have known and loved over the years. Hot dogs are a guilty pleasure for most of us, a forbidden treat that we know isn’t good for us but we can’t resist indulging every now and then. Unfortunately, a good dog can be hard to find.
The iconic Tail o’ the Pup opened to great fanfare in 1946 but faced demolition in the 1980s. The hot dog-shaped structure was moved down the street before being closed in 2005. After years in exile, the new and improved eatery will officially reopen at 8512 Santa Monica Blvd. on July 20 and will serve up a varied menu of ‘dogs for about five bucks each.
While the Tail o’ the Pup may be the most famous dog stand in the area, there have been other establishments specializing in weiner dishes over the years. When I walked down Sunset Blvd. to my first job at Schwab’s drugstore, I passed a closed stand called the Plush Pup. I wish this place had lasted a little longer since it had a cool history of being a favorite with hippies and bikers.
Soon after making the big move to WeHo I found my favorite hot dog server ever. Top Taco was conveniently located south of Sunset on La Brea Boulevard, just a block away from A&M Records. Back then, A&M, founded by Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss, was the hottest label in town, home to artists like Joan Baez, Carole King, and the Carpenters, so Top Taco saw a steady stream of celebs. My favorite menu item was the Chili Cheese Dog with onions, the absolutely most delicious dog I ever tasted. I would have frequent conversations with the guy behind the counter, the culinary wizard who created these tasty dogs was named Jimmy and he told me about how he was starting his own band.
Over time I lost track of the TopTaco guy until I heard raves about a bluesy band called Top Jimmy and the Rhythm Pigs. David Lee Roth even wrote a song about him. Unfortunately, Jimmy’s career was cut short by the familiar demons of drink and drugs. The last time I saw him before his death, Jimmy was wearing a beat-up coat that had a pint of whiskey hidden in the pocket. Now I feel bad that he left us so soon and wish I had asked him how he made those killer dogs.
Not actually inside WeHo but just a few blocks away is L.A.’s all-time most popular hot dog stand, Pink’s. When I lived near La Brea, I passed Pink’s every weekday morning and always found a long line out front waiting for their weenie fix. I can’t imagine having a hot dog for breakfast, but different strokes for different folks.
Now that the Tail o’ the Pup is back at a new location on Santa Monica Blvd., WeHo has a new hot dog hot spot so I’ll have to drop by and see if their chili cheese dogs are the stuff of memories.