The Hot Dog King and I
He’s on Highway 70 in Swannanoa, North Carolina (known as Swannanowhere to locals), somewhere between Asheville and Black Mountain.
It was my theory that one could purchase a decent hot dog with the available change in one’s pocket. But what if these were gourmet $10 dogs?! To make sure I had a democratic wiener experience, I brought only a dollar bill along, and scooped out another 80 cents from the ashtray in my car.
What to expect from The Hot Dog King? I had passed the plain cinderblock building many times but never stopped. It was time to meet this frankfurter monarch.
On the humid and sunny late Friday morning that I finally visited, I saw salt/pepper-haired Sam Shwahna behind the counter. He was busy with a full lunch crowd. “Talk to you in a minute.”
I glanced up at the HOUSE HOTDOG (one word): $1.55.
$1.66 with tax (double bingo). With fresh onions, chili and mustard.
I read the SIDE ORDER menu behind the grill and noticed a few standouts:
My favorite was the creatively spelled TATOR TOTS. You can also get fried green tomatoes for $2.49.
“We’re pretty steady for lunch, but we have a really good dinner,” Sam said, when he finally slid into one of the orange booths with me, spelling his name on my pad. Chicken wings, gyro plate, even chicken livers. Nothing more than $7.49. “We get a lot of business from KOA [campground] nearby.”
The Hot Dog King has been around since 1979; it was originally in downtown Asheville on Biltmore Avenue, before moving to Swannanoa in 2011.
“Back then it was 79 cent hot dogs,” he added.
I had an audience with the Hot Dog King, and I left with change in my pocket. For next time, of course.