The Hot Dogs of Mahoning County

Jib Jab Hot Dog Shoppe

It’s dawned on me gradually, but there is a thriving hot dog culture in Ohio’s Mahoning County that doesn’t seem to exist in other parts of the state. I started becoming aware of it this past Spring, when I happened to drive past an interesting lunch spot right around lunchtime and made a spontaneous decision to stop and give it a try.

Jib Jab Hot Dog Shoppe

It turned out to be the Jib Jab Hot Dog Shoppe in Girard, and it might actually be the most famous of the areas hot dog establishments. They have four locations throughout Northeastern Ohio, and I’ve since learned that they’re kind of a beloved local institution. A place for families to get lunch together on a Friday afternoon, or for teenagers to “go Shopping” on Saturday nights.

Jib Jab Hot Dog Shoppe

The Girard location has a dining area that’s kind of old-fashioned, in that it’s just rows of vinyl booths separated by aisles that are only accessible by the restaurant’s staff. But the interior is also carefully maintained. It has none of the patina that I might expect on the surfaces of the benches, tables, menus, or such. It feels clean and modern, actually. But the food is still super-simple and super-cheap. It makes sense that it was super-busy when I stopped by for my lunch in April.

Hot Dog Allie

Later in the Spring, I made my first visit to Hot Dog Allie in Austintown. Friends have told me that it’s a newer establishment, run by a younger restauranteur. And there are certain nods to this novelty on the menu, such as bubble tea and Parmesan Potato Puffs. More variety in general (though I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing). There’s no dining area, and the prices are a little bit higher than Jib Jab — but it somehow feels fancier. Funny to say for a hot dog restaurant, I know. But if you ever get the chance to give it a try, I think you’ll see what I mean.

Jay's Famous Hot Dogs

This week, I stopped at Jay’s Famous Hot Dogs in Boardman. And this place had more of the patina that I would expect from a hot dog place. The walls were lined with signed photographs from local celebrities (none of whom I actually knew). A framed newspaper article on the wall explained that Jay’s history in Mahoning County goes back over 100 years. And it felt like it: in both good ways and bad ways. The menu was super-simple (even more simple than Jib Jab). And the prices were astonishingly-low (even lower than Jib Jab’s prices), with my whole lunch coming in under $5. I even ran into a regular who wore a hot dog hat to lunch, which was pretty fantastic.

Jay's Famous Hot Dogs

Each hot dog establishment has its own pluses and minuses. But overall, I think it’s a really fun part of Northeast Ohio culture. If you ever get the chance, you should give the Mahoning County hot dog scene a try!

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