14. August 2011 · 3 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , ,

We took a long weekend and headed up to Atlanta. It’s about a 5.5 hour drive with no stops, plus we have a time zone change. We had nice seats at a Sunday afternoon Atlanta Braves game, and we booked a hotel room at a Comfort Inn right next to Turner Field, so we didn’t have to deal with (or pay for) parking.

Other than the Sunday afternoon baseball game, we had all of Atlanta to explore with our sons — but admittedly they were mostly interested in the baseball. We ended up taking advantage of a same-day ticket promotion the Braves Baseball club has for military members: 2-for-1 Upper Box tickets. So we will see two games this weekend.  More about that later.

Last night when we rolled into town, I dragged the family to one of Atlanta’s most famous restaurants, The Varsity. Those fans of Rick Sebak documentaries will recognize this restaurant from his 1999 A Hot Dog Program.

Tangent: That documentary fascinates me.  I’m not a huge fan of hot dogs, necessarily, but I will admit that I enjoy a hot dog on occasion, and more than the food itself is the culture and the people that go into all the unique hot dog stands/restaurants across the country.  Not that I’m necessarily keeping a list, but The Varsity is the 2nd of the restaurants featured on the program.  We visited Gray’s Papaya in Manhattan in November 2005.  Cheapest lunch in Manhattan!  And a trip to the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island is on my bucket list.  Really, it is!

But back to The Varsity: Dave and I will be the first to admit, the food isn’t earth-shatteringly good.  You aren’t going for gourmet cuisine…you’re going for the fast, cheap (dinner for 4 = ~$25!), consistent food.  And the atmosphere!  Folk who’ve been there before will all warn you: at the front counters where you order is a cacophony of “Whaddaya have?  Whaddaya have?” from the dozens of employees all wearing their trademark red paper hats (which are available to the customers).

The drive-in was put near Georgia Tech and on a GT football game weekend is one of the busiest spots in Atlanta — the brick building in the background is on Georgia Tech’s campus, in fact.

A good old fashioned drive-in — America’s largest, in fact!  The drive in part is a cash-only operation as you are paying and getting change from the bellhops directly.  The food is brought to you on one of those trays they clip to your car door.

I didn’t get a picture of the front entrance, but this is the just-as-retro side entrance.  Here’s a picture of the street-side entrance.

There isn’t much to the menu.  Hot dogs, burgers, and that chicken sandwich in the lower right corner.  There are a few other things, but really…not much.  They have this orange frosty drink that I wish I had tried, supposed to taste like orange sherbert!  You can also get a feel for how (relatively) cheap meals are — this is downtown Atlanta, where McDonald’s combo meals cost the same!

The paper hats are available to anyone.  The kids enjoyed wearing them with dinner.

This was my dinner….the #1 Combo.  No points for presentation, that’s for sure.  But lots of points for the look and taste of a classic chili dog dinner!  You probably can’t see through the chili and mustard, but the buns are sliced down the center instead of split side-wise like buns you purchase at a grocery store.

Timmy got the #6 combo: Two “naked” dogs.  He loved that!  You can see better the unusually-split hot dog buns on his plate.  Timmy devoured his dogs and called them the best dogs he’d ever had — and he’s had a lot of hot dogs in his life!

Dave and Jacob had burgers…and Jacob had this chili-cheeseburger that was REALLY a heart-attack on a plate!  Jacob loved the hot-dog style chili so much he asked if he could get a bowl of it in addition to his dinner combo.  Sadly, they only come as side condiments, but being the ever-doting mother that I am, I bought him two little cups of the chili (for $0.80 total) and he ate those.

And then I bought a can of it to take home.  It’s clearly hot dog chili, not really meant to be eaten by the bowlful.  Jacob’s still not convinced of that…after we have that can, I found this Crock Pot recipe that I’ll be trying out for sure!

Jacob wants to go back before the end of the weekend, but Dave and I aren’t sure our GI systems will ensure two trips in one weekend.  We still are planning a trip to Dwarf House before we go home on Monday…

The verdict?  The Varsity is full of history, and their classic chili dogs are an Atlanta tradition that’s worth trying.  It’s cheap, family friendly and close to Atlanta’s biggest tourist attractions.  Worth a visit!