Hot dog vendor takes hot dog eating to new level
By Mark Wineka
This isn’t New York, Boston or Washington, but downtown Salisbury offers something you might find in those bigger cities.
A hot dog vendor.
Tuesday through Saturday, Charles E. Ramsey Jr. prepares specialty hot dogs from his stainless steel cart under an orange and yellow umbrella.
He has staked out a permanent position from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. in front of Salisbury Square Antiques & Collectibles at 111 S. Main St. and dishes out dogs with pretty much whatever you want ó chili, onions, sauerkraut, relish, cole slaw, chow chow, cheese, yellow or spicy brown mustard and ketchup.
A recent week’s special was a bacon-wrapped hot dog.
Ramsey, whose background is in interior design, civil engineering, photography and even local government ó he was once mayor of East Spencer ó said he wants to make his hot dogs an eating experience.
“Not just dinner,” he added.
Ramsey uses 100 percent beef hot dogs that are 9 inches long and hang over both ends of his 6-inch buns wrapped in foil.
“You get your money’s worth,” said Dave Cloutier, a mailman who has found a dog he likes. He has his hot dog made with onions (grilled right there on the cart) and mustard.
Denise Russell, who works at Piedmont Medical Equipment across the street, orders her hot dog with chili, mustard and cheese.
“They’re fresh, and he fixes them like you want them,” Denise said. The extra length “gives you plenty for the money,” she said.
Ramsey also steams the buns and heats up the chili, onions and sauerkraut on one side while the dogs are grilled on the other.
Ramsey and his 21-year-old son, Charles Christopher Ramsey, are partners in the business, which they call Hotdogs R Us. They consider their venture a sidewalk cafe.
For the older Ramsey, the hot dog cart takes him back to when he was an interior designer in Washington, D.C., and worked part time on a hot dog cart at 11th and K.
He said he met doctors, lawyers and congressmen on the corner.
“It was amazing how many people liked hot dogs,” Ramsey said.
Today, the 51-year-old Ramsey operates a photography studio from his home called Keepsake Images. He photographs weddings, reunions, proms and takes individual and family portraits.
He and his son did some research, ordered their new cart from a company in Connecticut, scouted out possible downtown Salisbury locations and obtained the necessary licenses and permits from the city.
Ramsey said the spot in front of Salisbury Square Antiques offers an expansive sidewalk, a large overhang in case of bad weather and plenty of room for pedestrians to get by.
“It’s been good to us,” Ramsey said.
As you might expect, the Ramseys meet a lot of people from behind their cart. “I have a ball doing it,” Ramsey said.
They intend to take the cart to special events and the downtown’s regular Nights Out.
The hot dogs by themselves range in price from $2 for a kid’s plain hot dog to $2.75 for specialty dogs.
Customers can purchase a specialty hot dog, chips and drink for $4.25 or two hot dogs, chips and a drink for $5.95.
Ramsey says he tries to come up with a different specialty hot dog every week. He said he will be using a crock pot and one of his grandmother’s recipes to offer a barbecue dog soon.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or firstname.lastname@example.org.