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Katie Davis

@PopCultureCuisine

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“What’ll ya Have? What’ll ya Have? What’ll ya Have?”

Monday, March 21, 2011 @ 08:03 AM

124Last week we hit 65 degrees in Northern Indiana, and if you are a mid-westerner like me, you know how joyful that was.  This winter has been particularly harsh and I was hoping the warmth was around to stay, even though my husband (being a local) said it was sure to get cold again and even snow at least one more time. Alas…although I hate to admit it…he was right, and this past weekend has been freezing and even started to flurry a little.

Still, my mind remains fixed on those nice days last week which let me know that Spring & Summer are just around the corner. I can’t help but let my mind wander and I start daydream about those lovely events that mark the warm months, particularly as it pertains to the foods I start to crave once again.  There is something about warmer weather that begins that yearly itch of wanting to head out to baseball games and family barbecues.  I just crave those American past-times and that #1 food I associate with them…HOT DOGS!

Now I know for some, hotdogs are an item that you turn your nose up at. I mean…what ARE THEY exactly?  To be honest…I’m really not sure either, but I choose to look beyond that, and figure in my relatively healthy life, I’ve decided I can fit in a hotdog every now and then. Heck….I think everyone needs a little hotdog in their life every once in awhile. Smile I don’t care what you say…, they taste good so don’t even try to tell yourself they don’t! LOL

Hot dogs have been around for ages and seem to be making quite the comeback amongst trendy foodies out there, with all sorts of spots centered around fancy artisan encased meats.  In fact, hot dogs are so synonymous with our culture, the Travel Channel dedicated a whole program to featuring the best and most unique dogs out there on their "Food Heavens" series, "Hot Dog Paradise." That would be one of the places where we first noticed this next famous eatery.

The Varsity, located in the heart of Atlanta, GA, has been serving up thousands a day at their large drive-in since 1928.  What makes them so unique is really how large of a place this truly is! They are the largest hot dog stand in the country and cover an entire city block of downtown Atlanta.  It all started when, fed up with the unpalatable cafeteria food, a young Georgia Tech student decided to start up his own restaurant down the street, and with that…The Varsity was born.  It is so popular nowadays, that on any given day you better be prepared to know what you want as you move through the line until you reach the front to hear “What’ll ya have? What’ll ya have? What’ll ya have?” loud and clear from every cashier down the mega line…and you best be prepared to place that order and quick, because they have to feed A LOT of people…Some 600 cars outside and 800 inside to be exact.  Also, this isn’t just a place where you can say "hotdog" and get what you want. No Sir. There is a lingo at The Varsity and you must read in correctly!

Yeah…they ain’t lyin’ when they say this place is big! We actually drove right by it when we passed through Atlanta on our way to Florida and it was easily noticeable from the freeway.  We knew we would be coming back through and figured it would be a perfect lunch stop on the Saturday we were headed home.  Well, we were right in thinking that…and evidently weren’t the only ones. It seems that everyone headed to the Georgia Tech-Wake Forest football game that afternoon had the same idea, so let’s just say they aren’t kidding when 30,000 people might pass through there on a game day. But we didn’t let that deter us.  We just drove around until we found a spot and headed on in to survey the scene.

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This place is NUTS! I couldn’t believe how many people were crowded in that building and around the car hop stations. But what was so odd was it didn’t appear to be moving slow.  They really move through the crowds quickly. Still, with that many people, we figured the best option would be to have Adam order and I would go stake out a seat.  So we looked over the menu so I could let him know what sounded good, and although they do have burgers and other sandwiches like a drive-in would, we wanted to stick to what they were known for… their dogs, particularly the chili dog.  So Adam went ahead and ordered us two 2-dog combos, 2 chili-cheese dogs (one with mustard), a slaw dog, and a chili-cheese slaw dog.  And for our sides we opted for both the fries and onion rings. Hey…this meal wasn’t going to be healthy in any way, so we might as well enjoy it.

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We each dug in and tried bites of each, but oddly enough the ones each of us thought we would like the best was actually the opposite.  I thought I would really enjoy the chili but wasn’t a huge fan, while Adam thought he would like the slaw and instead preferred the chili.  He also both really liked the chili-cheese slaw dog…one of the most interesting dogs we’ve ever had. I highly recommend it. We also both agreed the fries and onion rings were particularly good, but let’s be real…those are always up my alley.  We had no problem finishing off our meal in record time!  However, after we were done we realized one thing we had forgotten to order was their famous Varsity Orange…, a creamy slushy type drink that tastes just like a dreamsicle.  So we grabbed one to go and boy was it refreshing! It really hit the spot after such a heavy meal.

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I realize those pictures don’t do it justice, but I’m sure you get the idea.  For how many people were in and around the restaurant, I think we were maybe inside for a grand total of 30-45 minutes.  I could hardly believe how quickly we moved through, so I guess they truly still operate at a fast food level, even though they still accommodate a ton of people.  And what is also so lovely is just how nostalgic the whole experience felt. It is rare that places have remained true to their original building, location, or décor, and even more rare is finding an old time drive-in that is still in operation; and this one is not only still running, but they can hardly breathe they have so many people coming through.

SIGNATURE DISH: “What’ll ya have? What’ll ya have? What’ll ya have?” Hot Dogs, Hot Dogs, Hot Dogs! Although this is an old time drive-in that serves up all sorts of dishes, they are truly known for their hot dogs and the variety of ways from naked, to chili, to cole slawed; and their chili is so popular, in fact, that it can be purchased in cans for your own use at home.

TASTE: Adam and I were both quite impressed with these dogs.  Both having had a lot of dogs in our day, it is sometimes hard to distinguish what really makes a dog stand out above the rest.  But as dogs go, these were truly good as far as taste, bun texture, and condiments.  They just cook up a fantastic no frills dog; and it is no wonder they have been in business for 75 years.

AMBIANCE: I really loved the entire experience of The Varsity, most of all for its old time feel and originality.  You would be hard pressed to find a lot of original drive-ins still open, much less ones that take up an entire city block, but this one is still going strong.  And not really having made seemingly too many modern changes I think is what gives this place such charm.

SERVICE: They seriously are not lying when they say you better know what you want, because trying to get 30,000 patrons through on any given day is work!  Still…, they do it and are nice, just with a very don’t mess around attitude, which for an impatient hungry patron like me is always appreciated. Winking smile And better yet, although the service is fast, the food is as good as if they took their sweet time….always nice.

PRICE: This is another thing I liked.  They have clearly raised their prices over the years, but not so much that they are offensive.  At $6.99 for a 2-dog combo plus your choice of fries or rings, and a drink…, I would say that is a great deal.  Often Adam and I overspend in wanting to try as much as possible, but here we were able to try all that we wanted for under $20, which I consider a deal!

So even though we were just passing through and only stayed a short time, I really enjoyed my experience at The Varsity.  This was a meal we were able to get quickly and still get back on the road in a decent amount of time, while still being able to do something fun and adventurous, rather than just your old McDonalds quick-trip.  And the bonus…we really enjoyed our meal, and I would say that if we are ever driving through Atlanta again, we would likely have to make a little pit stop.  "What’ll They Get? What’ll They Get? What’ll They Get?… 4 ½ ‘Little Piggies.’

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2 Responses to ““What’ll ya Have? What’ll ya Have? What’ll ya Have?””

  1. Crystal says:

    The Varsity Orange is my fave 🙂 I’m glad you got the chance to experience the Varsity … regardless of whether or not you leave liking the food, the ambience is definitely one of a kind!

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