The Unassuming Restaurant In North Carolina That Serves The Best Hot Dogs You’ll Ever Taste
What makes a restaurant good? Obviously, food is first, but it’s also a combination of the ambiance, staff, and history. As more than a hole-in-the-wall but perhaps a local landmark, Bill’s Hot Dogs in Washington has been serving “nuclear-red” hot dogs since 1928. It’s a place visitors willingly wait in line for an hour to try an all-the-way dog, and a place locals have intertwined with legends of secret recipes and view as a town meeting spot. If you’re really looking at what makes a restaurant ‘good,’ it’s more than the food but the total experience. At Bill’s Hot Dogs you get just that.
In 1928, Bill Jackson opened Bill's Hot Dogs, originally located on Market St, it moved to its current location in the Ellison Building on Gladden Street in 1938. While Bill's has expanded to two locations, with a second opening in Washington Square Mall in the 90s, if it's your first time go to the original store for a quintessential Bill's experience.
While many restaurants evolve their menu and change with the times, Bill's has stayed the same for almost 90 years.
Serving their classic dog in one style, the hot dogs are first fried in lard then dropped into a steam bun. While many hot dog joints opt to put the toppings on top, Bill's does it their way placing them beneath the dog and letting the flavors melt into the bun. The all-the-way dog is served with chopped raw onions adding a peppered kick, mustard, and the signature 'top-secret' meatless white chili sauce. While the nuclear-red hot dog is not the most appealing to the eyes, it's more about substance over style at this establishment.
Sure, you can be modest and get one or two dogs, but most who travel from the nearby waterfront to Bill's get a whole bag to-go. With long wait times peaking in the summer months, many locals and visitors get 20-30 then freeze the remaining to save later for a quick snack. With so many years in business, it's safe to say Bill's is a legacy passed down through generations. Grandparents take their grandchildren and parents enjoy recalling summertime memories while chowing down on a hot dog or two. Of course, any restaurant with years of business and dedicated local diners will establish a sort of reputation and rumors too.
Facebook / Bill's Hot Dogs
One rumor is that the top-secret white chili recipe was folded and kept in a wallet for over 20 years, another is that only a handful of locals know the recipe. While many have tried to duplicate the secret sauce (like Warren's Hot Dogs in Greenville) or posted their own imaginable versions online, you can attempt to make it but it just tastes better served below a classic dog, inside a steamed bun, and wrapped in thin white paper.
It's important to remember Bill's is take-out only. There's no tables or chairs to lounge on, no special condiments or pizzazz like more mainstream establishments, Bill's is what it is, and that success, stubbornness, and downright deliciousness has elevated it from hot dog joint to local landmark. While the exterior looks less than shiny, it's part of the draw. Who doesn't love a good hole in the wall? Grab a dog then stroll down to 'Little Washington's' waterfront, or hey, you might just want to get 50 to-go.
Yum! I could totally go for a Bill’s hot dog right now! Have you dined here before?
You’ll find the original Bill’s Hot Dogs at –
109 Gladden St, Washington, NC 27889
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