In my quest to search every corner of Athens for a five-star meal under $5, I ventured farther than I have ever gone before for this column: three full blocks from The Post newsroom, to O'Betty's Red Hot.
Founded in 2003, the restaurant specializes in sandwiches — hot dogs to be specific. I was skeptical at first. I’ve never been a big fan of hot dogs, and I’ve only really enjoyed them when they’re accompanied by a ballpark view.
After asking for a few recommendations from a store employee, I decided to go with the Dixie ‘Hubba-Hubba’ order at $4.25. The Dixie consists of a standard hot dog bun and sausage with homemade O’Betty’s chili sauce, diced onions, cheddar cheese and stadium mustard.
I would have probably liked it without mustard, but one of the goals I had when I started this column was to try food exactly the way the restaurant intended.
O’Betty’s had the strongest first impression out of all my experiences so far. Although I try to judge on food alone, it was hard to ignore the friendliness of the two store employees. One of them even knew the order of a person who ordered after me. It truly felt like a local Athens establishment.
My order took about four minutes to make, pretty average compared to the other restaurants I’ve visited.
The packaging was definitely above average. The hot dog was wrapped all the way around in a tin foil bag that helped retain its warmth during the journey back to the newsroom. After a quick photoshoot with the item, I opened a flap in the tin foil to reveal a hot dog on a plate wrapped in wax paper.
The wax paper was a smart move. It managed to absorb some grease, but the melted cheese didn’t stick to it the way it would have stuck to tin foil.
The onions were easily the most noticeable feature before I took the first bite. The smell was detected by people in rooms beyond the one I was eating in. The onions were by far the highlight of the meal. The sweet, aromatic taste elevated the meal to another level.
The first bite itself was dominantly sausage. The bread was slightly burnt to a crisp and crumbled a bit too easily in my mouth for my liking. It also ripped apart, exposing the underside of the sausage and weakening the sandwich’s structural integrity. Thankfully, the meal almost stayed together to the end.
Unfortunately, the bites without onion weren’t as strong. The cheese, although melted, felt dry and almost rubbery. The chili was a bit mushy texture-wise and tasted more like a nuisance than a welcomed addition to the meal. The combination of chili and mustard produced a hot taste that required a bit of water to wash down.
With all its complaints, however, the Dixie still had its upsides with the perfectly grilled sausage in the center of it all.
Toward the end of the meal, the Dixie began to fall apart. Some of the onions appeared to have been sprinkled on top of other ingredients. As a result, the less surface area there was, the fewer onions there were on top. The bread also seemed to give up, crumbling apart as it struggled to keep the sausage and chili properly secured together. Not much could be said for the cheese, because a few bites earlier, it came off all in one piece.
The Dixie is a meal I wouldn’t recommend for any traveler on the road, but it’s good for those who have the time to sit down and enjoy a snack. I say snack because it also didn't completely satisfy my hunger the way a full meal would, but I didn't expect that from a hot dog to begin with.
O’Betty’s Red Hot Dixie hot dog is probably the most polarizing meal item I’ve reviewed. I know people who love O'Betty's. Personally, it hurts to give a low score to a restaurant that’s so respected in Athens. But, at the end of the day, these reviews are entirely based on my preferences.
For having both five-star bites and one-star bites, the Dixie was definitely a roller coaster of a meal that averages out to a mediocre rating. I’m just thankful it didn’t turn into a train wreck the way some ballpark hot dogs do.
Kevin Pan is a senior studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Do you know where can Kevin find a 5-star meal for $5? Tell him by messaging him on Instagram at @thenextbigming.