They’re not on the menu. They don’t have to be.
|Tom Mazias has served up the tasty Hotchee dog to generations of hungry Dickinsonians.
Look for the most
famous 6-inch-long meal within walking distance of Dickinson College emblazoned on shirts worn
by fast-moving employees of the Hamilton Restaurant—the venerable “Milt,” where
Carlisle’s West High and North Pitt streets cross.
“Hot-chee-dog.” The word rolls
off the tongue in much the same way a snowy cascade of fresh chopped onions spills from a mountain
of chili atop a cheese-draped, just-grilled wiener in a bun. Add a dab of mustard and gobs of nostalgia.
For Dickinsonians, Hotchee is the Greek-American word for health food. Mental
health, that is. This dog is a hand-held heaping helping of tradition, a two-buck time machine.
I think it’s the chili sauce that does it,” says Tom Mazias when asked
what makes the Hotchee Dog habit forming.
Mazias, a Greek immigrant who has owned the Hamilton since
1975, figures he sells about 300 to 400 Hotchee Dogs weekdays and another 500 or so on Saturdays.
By that math, Mazias has sold more than 3 million Hotchee Dogs.
It was invented by the Hamilton’s previous owners, Charlie and Mary Kollas,
who opened the restaurant around 1940. Considering that Charlie was famous for lining up a
dozen of the dogs at a time on his arms—and that up until 1975 the Hamilton sold them
24 hours a day—perhaps
as many as 10 million Hotchee Dogs have been grilled, garnished and gobbled.
It’s no wonder
then that in a 1960-era ad, Kollas compared his Hotchee to a classy Philadelphia hotel: “The
Bellevue-Stratford Version of a Hot Dog Sandwich.”
These days, the Hotchee Dog is a survivor.
The Hotchee habit afflicts Dickinson alumni more than it does current students, Mazias says.
With everything from midnight pizza to ready-made salads to all-night microwaveables available,
competition is stiff for the old downtown dog.
But watching Mazias’ nephew Athan make
them by the dozens at the grill by the pink-curtained window, where orders fly in over the
counter and over the phone, it’s obvious it’s
still a labor of love.
Fixings make the meat almost optional. Mazias’ Kessler hot dogs
bathe in 400 to 500 pounds of homemade chili a week. “In order to have something good,
you’ve got to make
it from scratch,” he explains.
There are spicier dogs—Yocco’s in Allentown,
Pa., for instance—and more extravagant
breeds, like the mustard-pickle-hot pepper-celery salt variety Chicago made famous, but don’t
ask Mazias to change the Carlisle masterpiece whose legacy he judiciously tends behind his
white apron and wry smile.
“Why change something good?” he says.
He’ll tell you other goodies
haunt the Hamilton—club sandwiches and chicken sandwiches
and ham sandwiches and Hotchee Burgers and really big breakfasts that’ll last past lunch.
if you want, but start with a Hotchee Dog. As Mazias says, “It’s
American as apple pie.”
Oh, he sells pie, too.