The road from Chicago to Tampa is a long one, but the 2-day drive is made more tolerable by portable DVDs players for the progeny (thank God for Samsung) and impromptu stops at local eateries that exhibit significantly more character than your standard Chick-Fil-A. While cruising through mid-Georgia around lunchtime, the missus and I decided to pull off of I-75 in Macon, a city neither of us had ever visited (most well-known for its 19th-Century cotton commerce and native musical sons Otis Redding, Little Richard, and the Allman Brothers) to stop at a famous hot dog stand called Nu-Way Weiners.
Open since 1916 (and allegedly the 2nd-oldest hot dog purveyor in the country behind Nathan's of NYC), Nu-Way has expanded into 9 total locations around these parts of central Georgia, but the original diner in downtown Macon on Cotton Avenue (see photo above) is still going strong. When the 4 of us first arrived, the place was nearly empty; however, it wasn't long before nearly every booth and stool was occupied (a bit of an odd occurrence at 2pm on a Monday, but a testament, I guess, to the allure of these mystical weiners) in the small restaurant.
This is a bare-bones, no-frills operation, with two cooks crammed into a small counter space incessantly grilling up hot dogs on a flattop, slapping them onto Sunbeam buns (I saw the package, same as you can get at your local Piggly Wiggly), and handing them over to a server on disposable foam plates. Although you can order burgers or breakfast here, I decided to stick with the house specialties and picked a slaw dog with fries.
Southerners seem to have a habit of sticking Cole slaw onto sandwiches and my first-ever slaw dog was a decent one, but wasn't the Mardi Gras-in-my-mouth that I was hoping to experience. Mrs. Hackknife let me try a bite of her hot dog served "all the way", that is, with mustard, onions, and homemade chili sauce and I was instantly convinced that this was a superior offering, so much so that I had to get my own afterwards (see photo below).
The meat-only chili sauce was nicely seasoned with cinnamon and clove, very reminiscent of the chili dogs you can get in Detroit and Cincinnati. Nu-Way's founder, James Mallis, was a Greek immigrant just like the hot dog pioneers that settled in those Midwest locales, which started me wondering if they basically all showed up at Ellis Island with the same recipe.
The chili dogs at Nu-Way are all colored a hue of bright atomic red that you can see slowly seeping into the sausage's interior (see photo above). I shudder to think about what kind of future toxic syndromes I unleashed on my cells that afternoon, but I'm aware that some sacrifices have to be made in the name of gastronomic exploration. In any case, we now know we've got a reliable lunch source the next time we make the long drive up north from Tampa...