The (Disappearing) Beef Dog Tradition

Beef Dog

If you type “beef dog” into a search engine, it’s likely you’ll find both pictures and recipes for traditional American hot dogs and beef diets for canines. That’s not at all what you’d find if you time-traveled back to the 20th century and asked for a “beef dog” in Rutherford County, North Carolina, where my mom grew up.

For folks like my maternal great-grandmother Hassie Quinn (1911-1999), the beef dog was a favorite sandwich, usually consisting of pulled beef on a bun. No frankfurters or dog food would be delivered upon request of a beef dog then and there.

Windy Powell
Windy Powell image and recipes from what appears to be a 1983 Shelby (N.C.) Daily Star article copy contributed by several of our readers in Rutherford County, N.C. Powell was known far and wide in Rutherford County as a community servant and as a restaurateur. This article included his recipe for beef dogs. My maternal grandfather, Lee Quinn, worked for Powell at Windy’s.

Great-grandma Hassie’s son, Lee, my maternal grandfather, served up beef dogs when he worked at a restaurant and store operated by longtime community fixture Windy Powell in the Caroleen community of Rutherford County. Locals referred to the eatery as Windy’s which, like the beef dog itself, would confuse anyone in a different place and time. (Absolutely no association with Wendy’s, square hamburgers or Dave Thomas.)

Several years ago at a summertime Quinn family gathering in Caroleen, we enjoyed beef dogs. You can still find the local delicacy in a few spots, like The Fountain restaurant at Smith’s Drugs on the main stretch of Forest City, North Carolina. Diners at Smith’s, which now serves more of a cubed-style beef on a hot dog bun, like hot dog-type toppings on their beef dogs these days, a restaurant server told me recently.

IMG_3454
A beef dog at Smith’s in Forest City, N.C. Notice the restaurant has switched to a cubed beef, a change from several years ago when they served a shredded beef, more true to Windy’s recipe and other traditions of the community’s culinary past.

Despite the deep familiarity and nostalgia of the sandwich for my family and its presence at the occasional family gathering and restaurant or two in this western section of North Carolina, I’m not sure the beef dog is known at all elsewhere.

I’d love to know if you’ve ever had a beef dog, or if you’d try one with the opportunity. Let us know in the comments section of this post, email us at mmfoodiescore@gmail.com, or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

11 comments

  1. Sammy’s on Bostic Sunshine Hwy in Rutherford County used to serve them. I’m not sure if they still do or not. It’s been a while since I have been there.

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  2. Sammy’s hasn’t sold them for a little bit now and has actually sold his gas station out to a bigger corporation recently 😦

    I always make beef dogs at home we still do the pulled beef and the only thing ever put on em is mayo and/or mustard.

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  3. Thank you for posting this. Your article is the only one I could find about a North Carolina Beef Dog. I grew up in Rutherford County. I knew Windy Powell. I met him after he had retired and used to socialize at the snack bar at Eckerd’s Drugs in the Tri-City Mall with another Rutherford County old-timer “Lum” I never knew his last name but the two of them sat at the counter, drank coffee and talked to people. I worked at the Mall, at A. V. Wray’s around ’83 – ’85. I ate beef Dogs at Smith’s and Spake’s. Have never seen them anywhere else. I lived 6 years in Georgia and am now in South Carolina for 21 years. I have a friend who is opening a restaurant here soon and I hope to get her to put Beef Dogs on the menu. I like them best with mustard and raw onion.
    I make my own occasionally but was looking for an old-time recipe, so was very pleased to find this article.
    Thank You so much for preserving a small bit of Rutherford County history.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for sharing this comment and these reflections with us! You’ve made our day! We wish we could’ve met Windy Powell ourselves, but he was a little before our time. We’re a husband-wife blogging team (Matthew & Molly). Matthew’s grandfather talked so fondly of Windy’s, where he worked for a time as a young man, and of beef dogs. Matthew’s great-grandmother Hassie Radford Quinn loved beef dogs. The recipe has been such an important part of family memories that it was one Matthew decided to include in his 2019 book EATING ME ALIVE about food and cooking being part of his mental health healing. It’s always seemed to us that Windy is THE definitive source on beef dogs. We’ve shared this comment with Matthew’s mom, too. She grew up in Caroleen and might remember other references you made as well. We have a deep love for food and history, and those together are a big reason we do this blog, to preserve memories and recipes and restaurants. Thank you so much again for sharing in that love with us!

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