By Evelyn Davidson and Allan C. Hanrahan
Gus’s Hot Dog King celebrated its 50th anniversary on April 1. To honor this momentous occasion, dine-in patrons received a 50 percent discount on all menu items, and balloons were given to younger customers.
Gus Garofalis originally opened Gus’s Hot Dog King in 1972 as a small counter restaurant and later expanded it to include a dining area. After his death in 1994, his wife Stavroula took over the restaurant. In 2000, her son George moved to help his mother full-time, and the mother-and-son team run the restaurant together.
George says that customers often joke that the restaurant should be called “Hot Dog Queen” because of his mom’s unwavering dedication to the restaurant for all these years.
Stavroula’s other son, Dr. Bobby Garofalis, a pediatric dentist, also worked for the restaurant in the past and still helps with its social media. Over the years, many employees have come and gone, contributing their hard work and time to the business. Manager, Tonya Johnson, has been with the restaurant for more than 30 years.
George credits the restaurant’s success to its consistency. “I think the one thing that’s made us successful is that we offer the same good product; we don’t change anything. We offer top level products for burgers and hot dogs. Making our own chili and coleslaw and keeping everything consistent has helped us thrive through the years,” he says.
Customers sometimes remark that their grandparents brought their parents, who in turn brought them. And now, they are introducing their own offspring to an institution that remains steadfast in a world that sees changes all about. And often, new acquaintances meet and greet on frequent visits.
Over the years, there have been a few additions to the décor, such as flat-screen television sets and testimonials adorning the walls.
According to George, the best meal to get is a hotdog “all the way,” consisting of mustard, onions and chili. In fact, he recommends anything that is topped with their homemade signature chili of 12 different spices and fresh ground beef.
The traditional menu continues, with regular hot dogs, all-beef “footlong” hotdogs and corn dogs; Southern-style barbeque, chili by the bowl, fries and onion rings and hamburgers. Cheeseburgers and chiliburgers — with lots of toppings at no extra charge.
Both the chili and the hot dog chili are Stavroula’s original recipes, as well as the coleslaw, prepared daily. These favorites move quickly and are always fresh; Stavroula and George see to that.
Beverages include soft drinks, milkshakes and premium coffee.
Reflecting on the longevity of Gus’s Hot Dog King, George says, “We’ve grown our business every year since we’ve opened, whether it’s attracting new customers and keeping existing ones, or holding on to great employees. The fact of anything for 50 years, you know, in any type of business, I think is remarkable.”
On her days away from the restaurant, Stavroula, who hails from the mountains of Crete, Greece, likes working in her yard and spending time with her grandchildren Konstantin and Ava.
George expresses his immense gratitude to the loyal and supportive patrons who helped keep Gus’s Hot Dog King viable by ordering curbside during the pandemic. He is also grateful to the many vendors who have served the restaurant over the years. “We couldn’t be happier and luckier to be 50 years into this business that my dad started back in 1972. If he was alive today, he’d be proud of all of us and happy and thankful for how things have unfolded.”
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