In late December of 2017 my brother, Jimmy, and I were dining at the Cordele Recreation Parlor, a place more commonly called The Pool Room. We each were having a chili dog all the way, a bowl of Irish Stew with oyster crackers, and a small bottle of Coke. We witnessed something that day that I had never seen before and still don’t understand.
Sitting two barstools south of Jimmy was a fellow who was probably in his twenties. He was dressed nicely and engaged in friendly banter with two other young men. He ordered a scrambled dog, a magnificent feast that will satisfy the heartiest of appetites.
The lady tending the counter put a milky white mug in front of him. I assumed it must be frosted in some special way for the holiday season. The young man quickly downed his drink and quietly motioned for a refill. The lady reached into the refrigerator, pulled out a gallon of milk, and poured him another glass.
Apparently, there’s no house rule against mixing milk with a scrambled dog, but something about it just seems wrong. I love milk with hot pound cake, chocolate chip cookies, and dozens of other desserts. I enjoy milk with sandwiches like peanut butter and jelly, pineapple, and banana. But I can’t wrap my mind around a milk and chili combination. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean that you should.
I consider myself somewhat of an expert on hotdogs. My appreciation for exceptional presentations began during the early 1970’s when a Mr. Twist franchise opened near Valdosta State College. It was a fine place for gourmet hotdogs, plus ice cream cones filled with twisted swirls of chocolate and vanilla. They had perfectly steamed dogs with a dozen or so toppings. My favorite was their foot-long with slaw and cheese. That same topping has been a staple in our home for decades, although the dogs are noticeably shorter now.
I began dating my future wife, Jane, in the spring of my sophomore year in 1972. Not long afterward, I was introduced to The Billiard Academy in her hometown of Thomasville. It was famous then, as it is now, for their chili dogs. Their chili is dryer than the norm, something I found odd when I first attended their classes. I guess they drain the grease off or maybe they cook it using a different method. Although I am strongly committed to the fight against low cholesterol, I quickly adapted to the Academy’s unique dry-style chili. I continue to take short courses at The Billiard Academy on the infrequent occasions when I am in Thomasville.
Jane and I moved to Vienna in December of 1975 when I began working at Rooney Bowen Chevrolet. Johnny Thompson managed the parts department during part of our overlapping careers. He introduced me to The Pool Room in Cordele. The two of us frequently took radiators to Cordele for Mr. Tyson to repair. We coordinated those trips around our lunch hour.
We’d run by Tyson Radiator, then stop at The Pool Room long enough to each down two chili dogs, a bowl of Irish Stew, and an Almond Joy for dessert. By one p.m. we’d be back at the shop in Vienna. I’ve been addicted to those chili dogs ever since.
What makes a good dog great is the right topping, a good friend to enjoy it with, and a small bottle of Coke. I’m hoping to get Johnny to buy my lunch at The Pool Room one day soon. Maybe that fellow who ordered the milk will be around. That way Johnny won’t think I’m making this up.
It is with some reluctance that I hereby admit to having a lingering curiosity about pairing a chili dog with milk. But a small voice somewhere deep inside keeps saying, “Don’t do it!” I’ve slowly learned over several decades that it’s best to listen to that voice. One mug of milk with a chili dog probably wouldn’t cause a problem, but it could lead to having milk with fried fish or other unholy combinations.
I missed a good opportunity to help steer that milk-drinking fellow in a better direction. Maybe someone will give him a copy of this column, or perhaps his friends will schedule an intervention. The Pool Room serves a mighty fine dog, but it takes a small bottle of Coke to make it perfect. Coke is how you milk that dog for all it’s worth.