Downtown hot dog vendor loses local spot

Joe Grant, the hot dog guy of the Downtown campus for almost three years, will no longer occupy the corner of Second and Taylot streets starting in the Spring 2011 semester. (Salvador Rodriguez/DD)

Joe Grant is not a name that most people in Phoenix can say they have ever heard of, but for ASU students and other residents of the downtown area who have visited his hot dog stand, it is a name that holds a special place in their hearts.

Unfortunately for them, that special place is not located at the familiar corner of North Second and East Taylor streets anymore.

Grant, the 67–year-old owner of a Chicago-style hot dog stand, is well-known and endeared by many students at the Downtown campus, as well as the downtown employees who make up the bulk of his business. Since this month, he is no longer allowed to run his stand, “Big Daddy’s Dogs,” at his trademark spot conveniently located a block away from Taylor Place.

Grant said he was prepared to attend the annual bidding event for his corner when he was told that his taxes weren’t in line and that he needed to bring his receipts.

“I said, ‘My receipts are at my house, which is 30 minutes away. By the time I go home and come back, the bidding will be over,’” he said. “The woman told me, ‘That’s not my problem.’ So I lost it.”

After working his corner for almost three years, Grant said he is disappointed to be losing his spot after building up such a dedicated customer base.

“I’m upset about it — it’s going to take some getting used to because I do this every day like clockwork,” he said. “Two people came up to me the other day and told me I’ve got the best hot dogs in town, and then a few minutes later three more come up and say the same thing. That doesn’t happen overnight.”

As early as 10 a.m., regular customers started showing up to the stand. They all expressed their condolences and disappointment at the idea of losing Big Daddy and his great Chicago-style hot dogs.

After being accustomed to seeing Joe on the street corner day after day with his hot dogs, colorful stand and cheerful attitude,  students and other regular customers are upset that someone else will be occupying his spot.

Journalism sophomore Karsten Deuschle expressed his disappointment that Grant would no longer occupy his regular spot and said it is a blow not only to students wanting a good hot dog but the downtown community as a whole.

“He’s become a mainstay for Taylor Place residents, and whether they’ve had one of his hot dogs or not, he makes the area feel like a community,” he said. “He’s very friendly. He always has a good story and he really enjoys what he does.”

Tracee McElvogue, an employee at Fox Sports Network in the nearby Arizona Center who said she has visited Grant multiple times in the past, described the effect Grant has on the downtown area and echoed many other customers’ unsettled feelings at the idea of Big Daddy not occupying his normal spot at the beginning of 2011.

“He’s a really friendly guy, and he makes an effort to make conversation with people, which really adds to the downtown atmosphere,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that it won’t be the same person. He gave a little bit of history and consistency to our city.”

The experience of visiting Grant’s hot dog stand is not limited to making conversation with a friendly salesman, however, as these tasty hot dogs testify to Grant’s Chicago roots. Big Daddy’s Dogs are made with toppings that Grant says are key to giving them that Chicago taste and style, which is very familiar to him after living there for 60 years.

“I use sweet relish with the unique color that denotes it as Chicago relish,” he said. “I also use sport peppers, French’s spicy mustard, fresh onions I cut, celery salt and Steinfeld’s sauerkraut. I’ve had a lot of people walk away, take a few bites and then come back and tell me it’s the best they’ve ever had.”

Students say Grant’s combination of superb food and wonderful personality are what make him so endearing to the Downtown campus.

Candace Jackson, a downtown resident and nursing sophomore, said one of the great things about Grant and his hot dog stand is the convenience factor as well as the variety it offers from constantly eating in the dining hall of the dorms. She also described her affection for his “ability to understand and be a very down-to-earth person” with a story that numerous customers have also experienced.

“One day I wanted a hot dog, and so I went to see Joe. I thought he accepted credit cards but it turned out he didn’t, and all I had was my card,” she said. “He said it was OK and told me it would be an IOU until I could pay him back in cash. So he basically let me have a meal for free until I paid him back the next day.”

In his time on the street corner, Grant established himself not only with present Taylor Place residents, but future students as well. Selina Avitia, a senior in high school who plans on attending the Walter Cronkite School next fall, got to know the salesman over the summer.

“Everyone I interviewed was familiar with him, whether they were students or teachers,” she said. “After the interview, I stayed awhile and talked to him about my future and my dream to get into ASU and my hopes to be a reporter. He gave me a sense of hope and encouragement to pursue my dreams and told me I could do anything in the world that I wanted.”

New and old friends of Joe Grant alike have many reasons to be saddened by the news of his departure from his normal, convenient location. Upon hearing that Grant would not be at his regular spot next year, Avitia expressed her disappointment.

“He is somewhat of an ASU celebrity, and as an incoming freshman it’s disappointing he won’t be there for lunch or to talk to during my first year at Cronkite,” she said.

Grant said he will be working events like Farmers’ Market and that students might see him from time to time at ASU events, but there is still a certain sadness in not seeing his regular customers and friends daily.

“I can’t sit here and tell you how many people say hello to me every day,” he said. “I’m going to miss them. I’ve always liked people and when you get compliments like that they’re like trophies.”

Numerous students and employees in the area said they would travel almost any reasonable distance in the greater Phoenix area for one of “Big Daddy’s Dogs.”

Customers and friends of Grant alike should know that Big Daddy is responding to the situation with the same positive attitude that he always seems to have.

“I had a good run,” Grant said. “I’m a man of faith — there must be some reason I got a little twist in the giddy up.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: January 18, 2011

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that nursing sophomore Candace Jackson is a resident of the Taylor Place dormitory. Jackson lives in the downtown Phoenix area but is not a resident of Taylor Place.

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  1. This is extremely disappointing. What a nice guy to have around our campus, and always bring a smile to students faces even when not buying a hot dog. I was always happy to see him around, and it’s really sad to see him go :( I hope he can open up his own restaurant some day

  2. This is so great to hear about my own father. Made me shed a few tears to know he touched so many peoples lives.

  3. So sorry to hear Joe. I hope you will open again one day. You rock! Thank you for doing this, and serving the community. Although I never tried one of your dogs, they look so good! God bless you and your family! Take care!