The Grossly Biased Guide to the Berkshires

An opinionated guide to the wonders of Berkshire County, MA

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When the King Comes to Town

August 1st, 2007by Rachel Barenblat · No Comments

Jack’s Hot Dog Stand, 12 Eagle St., North Adams

Written in 2003, for the original iteration of the GBGB. Joga Café no longer exists; Jack’s Hot Dogs is going strong.

My father is one of those men who’s basically impervious to cold. During the average winter he rarely dons a heavy sweater, and never a hat; he owns gloves, but they’re travel accoutrements, not something he wears at home. Admittedly, “home” is south Texas, not known for its wintery bluster, but Dad likes the cold. He considers snow a rare pleasure.

So the first year he and I talked about a wintertime visit to the Berkshires, I told him to come alone and let Mom save her trip for sometime when it was warm. The plan made sense at the time.

I didn’t bargain for the fact that his visit would turn out to be during one of the coldest weeks on record. I had envisioned him walking around downtown North Adams smoking his cigar, but the subzero windchill was so bitter that it blew tears right out of our eyes — he wound up smoking his cigar while driving around town, instead.

The day after he arrived we went to Joga Café for lunch, where he got a taste of the new North Adams. Like me, he ordered chai (given that he doesn’t even sweeten his coffee, I suspect it wasn’t what he was expecting), and together we ate panini while nattering with proprietor Dan Weissbrodt about smalltown politics, growing up in North Adams, and what it’s been like coming back to his hometown. Dad eyed the television screens broadcasting weird cartoons, the modern art on the walls, Dan’s bizarre sideburns. I think he liked the food and the ambiance, and I was proud to have shown him how hip my little city could be.

The second day I asked if there were anywhere in town he particularly wanted to eat, and it turned out that there was: he was curious about Jack’s Hot Dog Stand, which we’d walked past on our way down Marshall Street the day before. Who am I to turn down a request to eat at Jack’s?

So in we went, glasses fogging instantly from the hot steam. We spent a moment reading the menu on the wall. Dad nudged me. “Am I reading that right?” he asked. “Is it really that cheap?”

We ordered an assortment of cheeseburgers, chili dogs, onion rings and fries. We watched as people came in and picked up phone orders, as the cooks scurried around behind the counter, amazingly failing to collide with each other as they hustled buns into the steamer and rings into the fryer and meat onto the griddle. It reminded me of ballpark food, the cheeseburgers and hot sausages I devour in the summertime at Wahconah Park and Noel Field. It reminded Dad of Joe’s Diner in Lee. I was inordinately pleased that, over the years I’ve lived here, I’ve managed to introduce my father to two of the finest greasy spoons in the county.

When the waitress asked if we were all set, Dad asked what one other thing he ought to get, given that he wasn’t sure when he’d be returning. She thought for a second, then told him most people seem to like the hot sausage with cheese, peppers, and onions. So he ordered one of those, which we shared. She was right: it was excellent.

We walked out a few dollars poorer, our arteries no doubt slightly hardened, but feeling warm and full and content in the knowledge that we’d partaken of a Berkshire tradition. If Jack’s is, as their slogan says, “it for a King,” then it’s the perfect place to take my Dad.


(For more about Jack’s: Profile: Jeff Levanos / Jack’s Hot Dog)

Tags: food

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