The Oldest Restaurant In Mobile, Alabama, Is Credited With Introducing The City To Hot Dogs

The Dew Drop Inn began serving franks back in 1924.

The Dew Drop Inn
Photo: Courtesy of The Dew Drop Inn

When most restaurants get ready to renovate, their old materials and furniture book a one-way ticket to the dump. But that's hardly the case for the oldest restaurant in Mobile, Alabama. When The Dew Drop Inn decided to do a little refresh earlier this year, longtime customers couldn't wait to get their hands on a piece of history. The craze rivaled that of a new Air Jordan release, and every last one of the iconic 1950s-era orange tabletops were sold—for a $50 donation to the local animal shelter because that's just the type of place the Dew Drop is.

The Dew Drop Inn's fan base is certainly loyal—and for good reason. Outside of the new tabletops, the near-100-year-old restaurant fully subscribes to the mantra "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." The recipes for the restaurant's world-famous hot dogs and chili haven't changed since the Dew Drop opened its doors in 1924. Nor has the quality of service, and in many cases the families who patron the humble eatery.

As the story goes, when former owner Jimmy Edgar sold the business to George Hamlin in 1968, he had just one piece of advice: "Don't change nothing. You don't change the dining room or the help. Don't change the hot dog or nothin'". And he didn't. Regulars can still get their bright-red dogs dressed up with hearty beef chili, sauerkraut, mustard, ketchup, and a slice of pickle.

But the nostalgia doesn't end there. You can get a burger (chili included) for under $4, hand-battered onion rings, and a fried pork chop or hamburger steak. Taking advantage of the city's coastal location, the classic restaurant also specializes in seafood, from shrimp and okra gumbo to a crabmeat omelet or fried catfish dinner. Pair any with macaroni and cheese, turnip greens, and sliced tomatoes, and you've got yourself a Southern feast.

Today, George Hamlin's son, Powell, runs the joint, and he's more dedicated than ever to keeping The Dew Drop's traditions alive. Something of a local celebrity, the younger Hamlin has been graced with such names as the King of Hot Dogs, Builder of Buns, and Mayor of Flavor Town, but his highest honor is his role in bringing the community together. It's not uncommon for fundraisers, retirement parties, and class reunions to all be held at The Dew Drop Inn in the same week. When local schoolchildren emulate the old-school Dew Drop Inn waitstaff for school dress-up days, you know the love is real.

As local Tara Zieman told My Rouses Everyday, "My grandparents took my parents there, and I now go there with my grandparents. Everything about it is original, nothing fancy, but it is perfect. It's a special place in our city. Everyone has been there, and if you haven't, you just have to go."

Some Mobilians even claim that Jimmy Buffett's famous "Cheeseburger in Paradise" song was inspired by the burgers at The Dew Drop Inn. Though that's yet to be confirmed by the Mayor of Margaritaville himself, there's no denying that The Dew Drop Inn has plenty of history—and tons of tasty food—behind its storied walls. Have you been to The Dew Drop Inn?

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