While the north Johnson City restaurant boom has been grabbing the “foodie news” headlines, another is taking shape in Gray, where several unique restaurants are offering varied and very delicious cuisine.

One of Gray’s long-time eating establishments has been quietly “cornering” one section of the dining-out market, serving a superior product and excellent service. Chris and Melody Taylor have been running the Hot Dog Corner in Gray since 1993.

The hot dogs served at the Corner, located at 5025 Bobby Hicks Highway, are the well-received Elm Hill brand; made-in-Tennessee down in Lenoir City. Comestibles and condiments are locally sourced and everything else (including the kraut and their excellent chili) is made in-house.

First impressions

The day my dining partner and I stopped by for lunch, the Hot Dog Corner had two Washington County sheriff’s cruisers and a BrightRidge Electric service vehicle parked out front. When you eat where the police and the first responders do, as my dining partner remarked “ … there’s no higher recommendation on a restaurant’s reputation.”

Inside, the dining area has seating for 24 patrons in comfortable, almost cozy surroundings. There is a “Help Yourself” feel about the place; the Taylors’ attitude toward customer care. The cashier and carry-out station greets the entering customer, with the self-service soda fountain next along from the pick-up counter. Restrooms are down a hallway at the back.

Two hot dogs: one with chili, onion and mustard; one with kraut, onion and mustard

This being the first time my dining partner had visited Hot Dog Corner, her question was what their top-selling hot dog. This got a quick reply from cashier and daughter Taylor Taylor, who said the Hot Dog Corner was famous for its chili dog ($2.25) and its kraut dog ($1.65).

My dining partner ordered one of each, together with a bag of barbecue potato chips and a 16-ounce fountain drink ($1.40 extra). While daughter Taylor handled the sales up front, parents Chris and Melody were hard at work getting my dining partner’s lunch assembled on the prep line. Each hot dog is about eight inches in length and fits nicely into its 10-inch hot dog bun. Condiments are applied directly on the cooked Elm Hill hot dog and not on the bun. Mustard (yellow, of course) is applied first, followed by some chopped white onions and finally either the Hot Dog Corner’s beefy hot dog chili, or their tangy sauerkraut. Though my dining partner told me the chili dog was quite tasty, the kraut dog was her favorite. Its blend of the Elm Hill hot dog’s savory flavor notes matched nicely with the pungent chopped white onions and the vinegar brightness of the kraut’s sourness. Even the barbecue potato chips were there to add a sweet and salty note to the meal’s overall flavor and texture palette.

Ham & Swiss sandwich and a plain hot dog

My lunch’s appetizer was a Hot Dog Corner hot dog, plain, with mustard ($1.50). The entrée was one of their Ham & Swiss sandwiches with “The Works,” ($4.55), and adding a bag of potato chips and a fountain drink ($1.40). I wanted to start my meal with just the Elm Hill hot dog, unadorned except for yellow mustard and its bun. Chris Taylor told me that the Elm Hill hot dog was a blend of beef and pork, together with onion, a smidge of black pepper and one of garlic powder. Tasting a bun-free and mustard-free nibble of just the hot dog, I detected a faint flavoring of ginger; unlooked for, but very unique and quite savory.

Hot Dog Corner’s Ham & Swiss sandwich was loaded with lettuce, tomato, three dill pickle chips, mustard and mayonnaise. My stack of thin, deli-sliced ham was lightly grilled to crisp up the ham’s edges, thus adding an additional layer of texture to the mix. All told, it was quite a sandwich; very flavorful and satisfying.

The bottom line

Hot Dog Corner is one of those restaurants where you just have to come back again and again. The food is so good, the atmosphere congenial and the service friendly and professional.

The Hot Dog Corner in Gray is a go-to spot for hot dog lovers.

Stop by and see if it is yours.

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