Downtown has buns in the oven.

We Love Weenies! 

Downtown has buns in the oven.

After my review of Bell Street Mama's ("Mama's House," October 14), I got an e-mail from Kim Long in Baltimore -- the "Beehive Hairdo Capital of the United States" according to filmmaker John Waters, who hails from that great city -- chiding me for the historical information. In that review, I'd written that jazz singer Queen Bey had "raved about the hot dogs at the downtown Woolworth's" and that another friend recalled dining at Kresge's on the Country Club Plaza.

"Woolworth's was on the Plaza," Long writes. "I used to work there. Kresge's was downtown. I used to eat there every time I went shopping."

She's right about Kresge's being downtown -- it was between 11th and 12th streets on Main -- and that there was a Woolworth's on the Plaza. But I remembered seeing an old postcard of downtown Kansas City's shopping district with a big ol' Woolworth's in the middle of the block. So I called local historian Dory DeAngelo to see if I was right.

"Yes, there was a Woolworth's at the northeast corner of 12th and Main," DeAngelo says. Queen Bey remembers it, too (and recalls also that the dining areas at both Woolworth's and Kresge's were segregated in the 1950s), and she says Kresge's had the better hot dog. Former restaurateur and author Lou Jane Temple seconds that emotion. When she moved to Kansas City in the late 1960s, there was even a place to buy hot dogs in the basement of the now-departed Macy's. "And a really good hot dog, too, with a bun like a little loaf of bread," she says. But Temple soon learned through the downtown grapevine that Kresge's had the bigger, juicier dog.

Years after all those shopping emporiums had been demolished, Temple opened her own little wiener joint, Lulu's Dogs, near 22nd Street and Southwest Boulevard. It lasted only a couple of years, because downtown wasn't hot and, frankly, neither was public passion for weenies.

But these days, hot dogs are enjoying a renaissance right along with the urban core. I've been told of fabulous franks at the Sammich Stop (1814 Oak), and I recently ate a nice grilled version -- sliced and served on a toasted hamburger bun -- at Town Topic (2021 Broadway). Fritz's Railroad Restaurant in Crown Center sells that same kind of dog-on-a-burger-bun, though there it's called the "Prairie Pup."

So, Kim in Baltimore, downtown's dime stores may all be spent, but the dogs are still barking.

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