Ted's Hot Dogs in Tempe has reached near perfection. It now offers gluten-free buns.
When I found out last week, it made me scream with joy, as in, "No way. NO WAY. Are you kidding? Oh, my God. Can we go there now?"
We happened to be at brunch for my mother's birthday when my college-freshman son told me, and it seemed poor form to bolt from the table to go eat hot dogs, so I restrained myself. For a few hours. That night I was in line at Ted's, my mouth watering and my heart full.
There is a mourning process you go through when you find you can no longer eat gluten. For me, it started as I left the doctor's office with my diagnosis.
Driving home, I began making a mental list of all the things I thought I could never have again: chocolate chip biscotti, my mother's homemade cinnamon rolls, pumpkin ravioli, the Pear Frangipane Tart I made from Martha Stewart's cookbook, Pies & Tarts, Negra Modelo beer, and, I don't know why it popped into my head, but there it was, Ted's Charbroiled Hot Dogs.
It was an odd thing, my obsession with Ted's. I was never really a hot dog kind of girl. Oh, I ate them as a kid, and my mom would make "beanie-weenies," hot dogs sliced and heated with baked beans. But as an adult, you couldn't pay me to eat a boiled hot dog. The rubbery texture was not appealing in any way.
I visited Ted's the first time when my sister-in-law suggested it. She comes to Phoenix to visit a couple of times every year, and part of her vacation is an eating extravaganza. The first thing she does is peruse the latest New Times "Best of Phoenix" issue to compile a list of new places to eat. She asks everyone she meets about the best place to get homemade food, particularly pie. She makes a schedule of places to go, breakfast, lunch and dinner, for the week she's in town.
One year, Ted's was on that list, and I went along, not expecting much.
With the first bite, I became a devoted fan. My dog had a black, cracked, crispy skin, unlike any other I'd had. Why had no one told me?
Ted's has "white hots," made with veal, and bratwurst and Italian sausage, but I ordered a regular. Ketchup. Relish. Fries. Diet Dr Pepper. The perfect meal. They have other toppings: mayonnaise, mustard, onion, barbeque sauce, hot sauce, lettuce, sauerkraut, tomato, ranch dressing, chili, cheese, and peppers and onions. But ketchup and relish was all I wanted.
Over the years, my friend and I would hit Ted's for lunch whenever we were having a stressful day. We would eat and complain, and dip our fries in ketchup and contemplate quitting, and sip our Diet Dr Peppers and decide we had to return to work.
When I was diagnosed, we had to switch our lunch therapy sessions to Chipotle, which wasn't the same at all. One night, in desperation, I went to Ted's with my own gluten-free hot dog bun in my purse. It tasted great, but it felt somehow illicit.
So, when I learned I could walk in the front door and order my dog on a gluten-free roll and not have to "sneak in" my bread, I was there. Twice. This week. One less thing to mourn. It was like learning something you thought was extinct had been captured on a hidden camera.
And now, the quest continues for a gluten-free beer to wash it down. How about getting a liquor license, Ted?