Does location matter when it comes to finding great food? I don’t think so. In fact, two of my idols — Alton Brown and Anthony Bourdain — have built their TV careers out of seeking hidden gems in the most remote regions of our country.
Heading to Sam’s Hot Dog Stand in Martinez made me feel like an intrepid seeker — I was given vague directions to “head over near Food Lion by I-20 and something-something South Belair Road…” But, it’s Martinez, not the middle of Idaho so no need for the map. On the other side of Bojangles near Food Lion heading toward Evans, there’s a strip mall called Belair 20 featuring, among other things, Nana Banana’s consignment store. Go there and try to park.
That was my first clue I was onto a good thing — it took two loops through the lot to find a space to park. Two.
Sam’s Hot Dog Stand is easy enough to spot. It’s the corner unit decked out with a red and green canopy, and the drive-thru window is round the side of the building (Note: this is a good thing. See the no parking spaces comments earlier.) Sam’s is also easy to identify thanks to the ridiculously heaving interior — a line stretched throughout the restaurant and, in the 45 minutes I was there, it never dipped below four bodies.
Sam’s Hot Dog Stand is a franchise owned and operated by local veteran Rob Sigmon, who, in a previous life, worked on airborne warning and control system (AWAC) planes for the military. After 20 years of military service, most of which he spent in Europe, Rob was medically retired and found himself out in the civilian world without direction. Planning on heading to the Gulf, it was actually family that convinced the mechanic to unleash his culinary dreams on our town. In fact, without Rob’s wife Jennifer, who handles the administrative side as well as handling their three young children, Rob says Sam’s wouldn’t be happening at all. Thank you, Jennifer!
Sigmon is an accomplished cook — with formal culinary lessons under his belt and years of cooking enough to know how to create unique recipes that are not only intriguing, but delicious. And though it took a couple of years to figure out which direction he wanted to take and which franchise would work best for him and his family, a few weeks ago the dream became a reality and Sam’s Hot Dog Stand opened for business.
While the story behind the Sam’s Hot Dog Stand franchise and its signature chili sauce is interesting — you can read it on the website — how Rob is developing it is far more fascinating. Behind the register, the menu is written on a large blackboard for everyone to see — the standard toppings are available; mustard, ketchup, relish, chili and slaw. The signature dogs are up there too: Sam’s Way, Coney Dog, Mac Attack, Hot Mess, Atomic Dog, New Yorker and Auto Bahn. Each is pretty self-explanatory, and again the menu is available online as well as the wall, but it’s the Dog of the Week that caught my eye.
Now, Sam’s Hot Dog Stand sells all-beef dogs (though Rob’s willing to get other dogs in for his customers), but Rob Sigmon has decided to kick it up a notch with his weekly creations. This week was the Black and Blue Buffalo.
That is a bacon-wrapped beef hot dog that is deep fried and topped with blue cheese, celery and a drizzle of ranch and Frank’s hot wing sauce. Seriously. I was hugely skeptical and I’m not a big fan of blue cheese, but I took a bite and got a huge shock — it was so good! The crisp diced celery helped balance out the creamy texture of the cheese and bun and the sharpness of the blue cheese, while the bacon-wrapped dog was cooked perfectly — not hard to bite into, but not soft or greasy. And when there’s bacon involved, who can say they aren’t happy? Hmm? That’s right, nobody.
I’m already in love with the Auto Bahns — a single dog topped with sauerkraut and spicy brown mustard. The buns are soft (“pillow soft”), the sauerkraut has a great bite to it, while the mustard is beautifully strong — yes, everything is hot and yummy.
Rob also prides himself on his soups. This week’s is The Reuben, as in the classic sandwich of corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and dressing on Rye. How do you transform a sandwich into a soup? I do not know, but clearly it’s possible because this soup tastes like a Reuben!
Okay, just to recap — we’re talking about a hot dog stand in Martinez, Georgia, that sells your standard dogs, as well as artfully crafted weekly specials and soups. And here’s the rest of the deal: it’s affordable, fresh, clean and comes with truly great service. You can dine in or take out. There are tables and chairs outside, and two three-top tables and bar seating inside, and plenty of folks who would likely share a table with you if need be.
And as far as the local community is concerned, everyone matters. Sam’s Hot Dog Stand is devoted to giving back and offers discounts to all first responders, law enforcement, prior and active military, and teachers of the area. Sigmon’s crew is very friendly, knowledgeable and helpful and they are focused on making customers happy and turning them into “regulars”. Rob says this is important to him.
“I want to weave this place into the fabric of the community. I want people to love coming here and I want them to relax and enjoy themselves here.”
Sam’s Hot Dog Stand is located at 337 South Belair Road, Martinez. Hours will eventually change, but for now they are open Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m., and Saturday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Find them on Facebook or check out their site at samshotdogsga.com/.