This week I finally got to try something I’ve wanted to try for a few years now but due to schedules it didn’t work out until today. Back before I started this blog I spent most of a years worth of Saturdays in search of the best hot dog in the area and while I found some good ones I wasn’t able to get what was reportedly the best chili dog in the Charlotte metro area, nay the whole of the the Carolina’s, Vic the Chili Man .
Vic sets up his hot dog stand on the corner of 4th & Tryon in uptown Charlotte on weekdays when the weather isn’t too bad. Therein was my challenge trying one of his dogs, it was too far to drive during my lunch break and he wasn’t there on the weekends. This week though I was taking some time from work and got the chance but even this wasn’t without bumps. Thursday I decided would be the day to go and, as per usual when I go uptown, I’d park at the end of the light rail line, ride in and walk a couple of blocks. When I arrived at the parking area the sign was quite explicit that the deck was full but being an optimist I decided to ride around a bit and see, along with half a dozen others folks who never found a spot either. Curses, foiled by heavy usage of mass transit in a southern city, that was unexpected. As I did a bit of cursing on the 20+ minute drive home I didn’t realize I’d been done a favor. Later in the evening I checked the Facebook page to see if he’d be out tomorrow and I saw a note that he had been driven away before even setting up by a wicked wind from the west (actually I don’t know which way the wind was coming from I just liked the alliteration) and wouldn’t have been there if I’d made anyway. Silver lining.
Friday was smooth sailing, all green lights, good music and 120 free spaces when I got to the light rail. Pleasant ride in and a short jaunt later I was greeted by a line already at 11:05 but that’s why I came early. Planning and setting expectations for the win.
Vic moves pretty fast but nobody was ordering one with just ketchup and mustard everyone was ordering multiple dogs (avg was 3 while I was there) and the buns are warmed so he’s constantly refilling the bun warmer. Vic keeps up a conversation or is telling a story the whole time he’s making dogs so there’s an entertainment element while you wait that makes it not so bad. He usually has a special dog of the week as well as some named dogs and build it yourself options. Here is the standard menu.
I went with the special “Eh, Canada” and a Life Changer. I was good and didn’t get chips and honestly I’d have added another dog before chips anyway. After getting my chili dogs I just parked it on bench right next to the stand and started with the Life Changer.
One thing I noticed right away, Vic makes neat hot dog and by that I mean tidy. A lot of places slop the toppings on and you wind up with crap falling all over the place as you try to eat it, not so much in this case. It was also apparent from the jalapeno headliners I’d be glad I had water. In addition to the peppers you can see a nice chili plus some red onions. You can’t see the spicy Reaper Madness mustard or the grilled cheddar cheese underneath but they are there providing a bed for the all beef dog. I don’t know that my life changed that much but it was a really good dog and woke up the taste buds for round two.
The “Eh, Canada” was topped first with the inspiration for the name, a homemade beer cheese and browned Canadian bacon fondue. This tasty sauce was overlaid with Vic’s chili some french fry sticks and a sprinkle of green onions for color. Compared to the first one this dog was mild but the beer cheese and Canadian bacon sauce was really good and the crunchy potato sticks added some great texture. And just in case you’re wondering he didn’t use Canadian beer in the cheese as he didn’t want to go to Canada to get the good stuff because what he can get here is swill. He might have used a different word but I don’t get a chance to use swill often.
I’m glad I finally made it to meet Vic the Chili Man and try his famous chili dogs. If opportunity presents itself I’d suggest you try one or three yourself.