Dog day afternoon
Pat’s New York Hot Dogs1300 S. Virginia St.
Reno, NV 89502
In 1947, Valentine Manufacturing, Inc., shipped the smallest of its prefabricated diners, called the “Little Chef,” by rail from Wichita, Kan., to 1300 S. Virginia St. Once assembled onsite, it became the Reno landmark known as Landrum’s Hamburger System No. 1. Valentine’s creations were designed to replicate the look of railroad dining cars, so architecturally-speaking it’s not a real head-turner. However, its beauty is its simplicity. It’s a wonderful piece of Americana, a throwback to a time when bigger wasn’t always better. The location is now the home of Pat’s New York Hot Dogs, and what a fine use for the space.
I visited Pat’s with my wife, Kat, and mother-in-law, Pam, on a chilly Saturday afternoon. Being a cheapskate, I like hot dogs and make little use of our home’s central heating system. Two steps into Pat’s and my wife was finally warm again. The heat from the kitchen and the sunshine coming through the windows along Virginia Street made for a cozy lunch spot.
Pat’s is like a hot dog cart with walls and a permanent address—it’s that small. There’s a sign hanging by the front door that reads “maximum room capacity 10 persons.” Whether you find the place crowded or quaint, you’ve got to appreciate the constant attention you get from the watchful eyes of the staff working behind a counter in the tiny corner kitchen. They’re no more than a “hey, how is everything” away, so unless you take your hot dogs to go or decide to eat them in the bathroom, someone’s sure to notice if you need anything.
Kat and her mom both ordered the Coney dog with chili and onions ($3.75). I went with the Sloppy dog with chili, cheese, jalapeños and onions ($4.25) and the Famous Polish dog with sauerkraut ($3.75). I also ordered a New York egg cream ($1.75), which is a cup of cold milk, Hershey’s syrup, and seltzer water. Essentially carbonated chocolate milk, the bubbles create a head of foam that makes it look deceptively like a root beer float.
Pat’s hot dogs are all-beef deals from a company out of New Jersey. I enjoyed the dogs, which Pat’s cooks up on a little electric griddle. Each had a nice flavor, a casing that snapped back with each bite, and the Polish dog had just the right amount of spice. I especially liked Pat’s little condiment bar consisting of onions, relish, jalapeños, mustards and more. While many of their hot dogs already come topped, I’ve yet to meet anyone who can anticipate the sheer volume of jalapeños and onions I like on my dogs. My only recommendation is they work on the recipe for Pat’s “homemade chili to die for.” It was certainly undeserving of that epithet, and instead of improving the hot dogs, it was bland and unoriginal and just made the bun mushy.
Chili aside, I really enjoyed Pat’s but would like to see them improve the interior. There are some photos of Babe Ruth, Marilyn, Bogart and Elvis hung about. Personally, I’d like to see the walls and even the ceiling littered with a mish-mash of anything and everything interesting to the owners. Make it a tribute to New York, customers eating hot dogs, diner memorabilia, old-school Reno, whatever. It’s a unique building and covering it with stuff to look at would make the hot dog feast all the more interesting.