CMH Gourmand – Eating in Columbus & Ohio

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Posts Tagged ‘O’Betty’s’

Behind the Counter: Slinging Hot Dogs at O’Betty’s

Posted by CMH Gourmand on September 13, 2011

My first job was at Knight’s Ice Cream in Clintonville. I started as a sophomore in high school and left the summer of my senior year. I made $2.85 per hour to begin, my top salary was $3.50. It took a long time to save for a car. The job taught me a lot. A lifelong love of ice cream began. I discovered I liked food…well I obsessively loved it, actually. I observed that a cup filled with ice and pop dumped in a trash is not cool. Since that discovery I never dump anything with liquid in a trash can because I know what it is like to clean up the mess. I found I was not good with down time on the job and would seek out something to do. I never lost the restlessness – but I am trying really hard now. In the winter when it was slow and I was working by myself, I started to experiment with everything we had in the shop – ice cream combinations, Sprite and sherbet shakes, chocolate covered anything, intriguing sandwich combinations and etc. I still engage in some reckless culinary experiments.

The job laid a foundation. I found I was a shy kid that enjoyed interacting with people and getting to know their preferences to make sure they got what they needed. One lady came in every Thursday for a scoop of coffee ice cream. I gave her one on the house after a year of repetition, she was shocked as if she had never been treated before, maybe she had not. Another customer came in every Saturday at 4:45 pm or even closer to the 5 pm switchover. He ordered five milkshakes of various types. It was always busy when he ambled in. The multi-shake request messed up the flow of our shift change. It briefly ticked me off. I discovered he was giving the shakes to his buddies at my favorite hobby shop. I then saw his act as generosity and that changed my mind and my attitude. The work I have enjoyed the most has included a lot of social interaction with new people, an opportunity to be creative in some way and autonomy. I miss that. I need that. The work I enjoyed did not feel like work….I know that is a rare thing for most people. I enjoy finding and making a connection to an idea or a person or at least giving the world something useful or entertaining.

I had micro-bursts of food service over the years. I volunteered for several food events: wine bartender at ComFest for years, my hot dog festivals and chili parties were famous in their day, washing plates at countless events, my Pizza Grand Prix series. Last summer I grilled 100 hot dogs for the masses at the Goodale Park Music Series. I enjoyed educating people about hot dog history and styles as they waited for their order to grill up. I have written about food since 1999 but only from the diners side. I felt an urge to get on the “right” side of the counter.

I’ve been a fan of O’Betty’s in Athens for years and a fan of hot dogs even longer. I came to know owner Bob Satmary over many hot dogs and chats about the Athens food scene. I think O’Betty’s is the best hot dog shop in the state…maybe the Midwest. I needed to balance out my perspective by getting behind the counter again. I asked Bob if I could work pro-bono to get my serving legs back. He said sure, come on down.

I arrived on a Saturday morning at 11:00 am, ready to work. I donned an apron then got the lay of the land behind the counter. The space in the place is small with no room to nudge past each other – single file from the grill to the cash register. My orientation covered how to make the best fries in the Ohio, the secret to serving a tofu dog that is worth eating and with a bit of trial and error how to create the various O’Betty’s hot dog varieties as well as how to redo a few mistakes I made along the way. Bob was a patient and effective teacher.

It was a slow Saturday but we had a few rushes to test the skills I have learned. It was clear I still had a lot to learn but Bob and his number one, soon to tour Europe Rockstar, employee John jumped in when needed and reminded me of the band of brothers teamwork that comes in a restaurant when things get tight. At the end I finally figured out the cuneiform style code O’Betty’s uses on order tickets. I was getting the swing of things and feeling confident “back in the saddle.”

During a couple slow periods I had a chance to speak with a few of the customers. Two guys on scooters from Ann Arbor were traveling around Ohio following places they found on Roadfood. I wrote two of them – O’Betty’s and Starliner Diner. I gave them a list of six places in Columbus for dinner. Another gentleman from Manhattan, currently working in Marietta, sang praises of the Athens and Columbus food scenes. I agreed and gave him a lot more food for thought and consumption in the capital city. I also made him a “Dixie” to go which he felt passed muster. O’Betty’s customers are almost all regulars and become part of the family in a short period of time. Photos of the favorite “family members” can be found on the wall opposite the register.

I did some cleaning and some prep. More hot dogs were grilled and buns steamed. I made one for myself and enjoyed the end result very much. I was told I did pretty well for the first day and had a job if I needed one! Knowledge confirmed: Hot dogs are best held in a hot water bath before grilling, fries are best soaked, blanched, then fried, customer service is the key to any business, when you connect with the customer everything else falls into place. My payment was a cookie and an afternoon of learning about hot dogs as well as rediscovering a lost part of myself. Writing is best and easiest when writing of a subject you love. It is another thing, but good to write about something you do or have done (unless it is something soul sucking). I was back behind the counter. I may be back at O’Betty’s for a shift or two this fall (but not Halloween – sorry Bob). I may be at another restaurant or bakery near you doing the same thing, providing the perspective from the other side.

O’Betty’s Red Hot! Dogs and Sausages
15 West State Street

Knight’s Ice Cream
Clintonville – Gone
(torn down in the 1990’s, the site is now a vet’s office)

Posted in Behind the Counter, hot dogs | Tagged: , | 5 Comments »

O’Betty’s Red Hot Dogs and Sausages, Athens

Posted by CMH Gourmand on November 11, 2009

Brat, Dog and Fries

O’Betty’s Red Hot Dogs and Sausages
15 West State Street
Athens, OH
740 589 6111

O’Betty’s Red Hot Web Site

This is somewhat recycled content but I just returned from two days in the Athens area and I wanted to make sure I gave O’Betty’s its due. So here we go. Of the many things that connect my soul to Athens county, the strongest is a hot dog shop. Well, not just any hot dog shop – the best ever, anywhere. O’Betty’s won the dining hearts of Athens since it opened in 2003. It has been voted best Hot Dog most years since 2004. The hots dogs names, decor and vibe are inspired by burlesque babes from the first half of the 20th century.

The hot dogs are 5 Star all beef dogs with a natural casing (one of the best commercially available hot dogs in the country). There are twelve “varietease” of dogs including a create your own style and tofu dog for vegetarians. If you want a Chicago style dog – go with the Salome – “Dance of the 7 Veils” – sport peppers, sweet relish, pickle spear, diced tomatoes, diced onion, Stadium Mustard, and celery seed. Many kinds of toppings are available as well as salsas from Casa Nueva, baked beans, mushrooms, and on occasion, homemade corn relish and pepperjack cheese. When possible all topping are locally produced and sourced.


The dine in area accommodates about 16 people. On a Friday or Saturday night expect long lines of college students outside O’Betty’s waiting for their chance to get the perfect hangover food.

Another bonus of O’Betty’s – the in-house Hot Dog History Museum / Weiner Hall of Fame. The items in the collection were amassed by Bob Satmary and are continually added to by customers.

Owners Bob Satmary and Ryan Stolz enjoy what they do and clearly put service and fun first for the business. They are always chatting it up with their friends/customers. And they like to mix things up as well. In the winter – expect some tasty soups to keep warm and all year long expect special hot dog combos to keep things hopping (last one I experienced was a Mango BBQ sauce dog with bacon – yum!). And in August of each year, Bob and Ryan celebrate all things hot dog culminating in a hot dog eating contest which I wrote about earlier this year. If you are very lucky, during Christmas week, you may have an opportunity to see the display of 3D Jesus items from the 50’s in the back room.

O'Betty's Red Hot on Urbanspoon

Posted in Athens, hot dogs, restaurants, Road Trip | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Back To O’Betty’s!

Posted by CMH Gourmand on August 23, 2009

In a previous installment, our heroes Hungry Woolf, Taco Drew and CMH Gourmand were heading to Athens after The Inn at Cedar Falls, Ash Cave and Etta’s Lunchbox. Our mission: to consume a late lunch at Casa Nueva. Casa was closed for the week. While we weighed our options we walked across Court Street to O’Betty’s. I was hoping to catch co-owner Bob Satmary at the establishment to fill him in on Dirty Franks and the other events of the summer.

In case you did not know, O’Betty’s is the best Hot Dog place in Ohio and probably the best hot dog purveyor in the history of hot dogs. I had only intended to drop in for a few minutes but the aroma of hot dogs searing and fries frying was enough for us to defer our plans for a quick snack.

Life is Athens is usually slow in the summer. This summer was not slow for O’Bettys, they have been super busy the entire season and had their busiest day ever in July (just wait until the students get back).

O’Bettys also added a website this summer

Equally exciting, as I was walking out the door I saw the sign for the annual Hot Dog Derby! This includes a hot dog eating contest. Yep – the light went off in my head and I made plans to be there. Details in the next post.

Posted in Athens, hot dogs, Road Trip | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Athens Food Tour – Roadtrip to Ruin

Posted by CMH Gourmand on August 4, 2008

Twice or thrice a year I drive down to Lake Hope State Park and rent a cabin for a long weekend. I hike at my favorite places – Cantwell Cliffs, Cedar Falls, Ash Cave and Moonville Tunnel. I make fires, get caught up on books and podcasts. I play a game Risk or Carcassone depending on the company of my companion(s). But the real reason I go is to eat like a fool in Athens, my favorite college town east of the Mississippi. Athens is a short 22 mile drive from Lake Hope which is about how long I can stay awake after what is typically a lunch at two…or more locations.

Avalanche Pizza

Avalanche Pizza
329 East State Street

Avalanche Pizza web site

Avalanche pizza may look a bit cheesy from the outside but these guys know what they are doing. Avalanche has been voted as the best pizza in Athens eight years in a row. The shop has won several national and international pizza competition awards. Among their 45 plus toppings are Kimchi, Red Bliss potatoes, and cashews.

Pictured below are the two pizzas I tried on my last food tour

Ted Nugent Pizza

Ted Nugent – Genoa Salami, Chicken. Ham, Pepperoni, Steak, Meatballs Mozzarella and Provolone

The Godzilla

Godzilla – Best Pizza in World Pizza Championship (Italy) 2007
Spinach, Feta Cheese, Chicken, Sun dried Tomatoes, Provolone, and something else

Casa Nueva

Casa Nueva Restaurant, Bodega, and Cantina
6 West State Street

Casa as the locals call it started in 1985 as a worker owned co-op restaurant. It is still worker owned today maintaining its hippy, tree hugger, whole foods roots and continuing to deliver some exceptional food at reasonable prices. The Bodega and Cantina are extensions to the original restaurant space. The Bodega offers quick meals and appetizers while the Cantina serves as a waiting area, fully serviced bar and venue for local performing acts.

As much of the food as possible is from local or Ohio suppliers whenever practical. The supplier lists features over 40 local farmers and food companies as well as Columbus Brewing Company and Marietta Brewing Company. The menu is changes each season to feature and showcase the produce available. A must try for any visit is the salsa sampler of chips with two or more salsas. You will not be disappointed. The menu does offer meat but is very vegetarian friendly. Most of the menu is Mexican themed or inspired but there are other food styles represented for personal as well as bio-diversity. Breakfast is really good as well and always busy on the weekends. There can be a wait at peak times but feel free to use my survival strategy, put your name on the wait list then walk across the street to O’Betty’s to order a hot dog and fries to go to make wait enjoyable.


O’Betty’s Red Hot Dogs and Sausages
15 West State Street

According to Jim Ellison, O’Betty’s is the greatest hot dog place ever, in the history of the world. No doubt about it, this is a true fact. And you can get the full lowdown on the page I have devoted to O’Betty’s on this blog. O’Betty’s did a small expansion in 2008 adding about 5-6 seats which doubles the seating area. The variety and creativity of hot dog combinations that O’Betty’s puts together never cease to amaze me, see some examples below.

A true Athens experience is getting a burrito from the Burrito Buggy late at night in the heart of campus, the buggy was doing Chipotle before the concept was big, One little food cart makes a lot of yummy big burritos. I love this place and look for it whenever I am at Athens. Hours vary by time of year, number of students in town, and weather conditions.

Burrito Buggy Link

I should also mention Seven Sauces. It is supposed to be a great restaurant but I never have room left when I am in Athens, I will have to stay an extra day some time.

Seven Sauces Link

(Update May 2009 – I guess I should have gone, because the Seven Sauces sailed off). An alternative is Zoe’s. Another lower priced alternative is Jana’s. Both are very good.

There are two newer discoveries as well.

Mistretta’s Italian Market
9 North Shafer Street

This little market is about the size of a garage. It has a small selection of fine wines, some miscellaneous gourmet items and cheeses, some chocolate and a large selection of deli style sandwiches and Italian paninni.

Miller’s Chicken (Poultry Company)
235 West State Street

The Miller family has sold chicken, in various forms since the 1940’s. This simple, cinder block building is tucked away off the beaten path in town but is well known to locals You can buy buckets of chicken, pints of side dishes, or chicken hearts and gizzards. They make a fine fried chicken and the prices are very pocket friendly to promote poultry consumption.

Posted in Athens, Ohio, restaurants, Road Trip, Vegetarian Friendly | Tagged: , | 5 Comments »