Edinburgh’s original Curly Dog to re-debut Monday

The Curly Dog will soon bark again.

The famous Edinburgh food is making a permanent return at Hickory Hillz BBQ starting Monday, with the original recipe.

Ask most Edinburgh residents about it, and they’ll share anecdotes about their memories of growing up in town and driving to the Curly Dog Drive-In to get one.

Hickory Hillz owner Chad Smock, who described himself as a history buff, started researching the history of the Curly Dog, and saw an opportunity to bring it back in all of its original glory. Hickory Hillz is located in the original Curly Dog Drive-In building on U.S. 31, just past the county line in Edinburgh.

He became intrigued by it after seeing a post on social media with a photo of the original drive-in. There were over 300 comments on the post from people sharing memories and saying they wished someone would bring it back.

The original Curly Dog recipe was concocted in the 1950s by Walt Fulford, a well-known Edinburgh Town Council member and owner of Walt’s Grill. He opened the Curly Dog Drive-In on May 21, 1954, and the sandwich was a hit in town, Smock said.

The Curly Dog starts with a foot-long all beef hot dog, sliced 15 times and deep-fried in oil briefly so it curls into a circular, corkscrew shape. It’s then served on a double-decker white bun, topped with a secret family coney sauce created by Walt Fulford, lettuce, a slice of cheese and tartar sauce.

A saying around town is “if you eat too many of them, you’ll end up over there,” with “over there” referring to the cemetery just north of the restaurant. According to a 1994 article from the Daily Journal featuring the Curly Dog, “if you have to ask how much fat is in a Curly Dog, you probably can’t afford it.”

It was served in Edinburgh at the same location, under different owners, for over 50 years. Walt Fulford sold the business in 1963, where it was renamed to Fran and B’s Curly Dog. He died years later in 1983. The Curly Dog officially stopped sales after the business was sold again in 2006 to become Hickory Hillz BBQ.

When Smock got the idea to bring the Curly Dog back, he first reached out to Chuck Fulford, Walt Fulford’s son, to talk about it. He asked him if he’d be willing to share his dad’s secret recipe. Different recipes have floated around from people trying to copy it over the years.

“The thing with me is is you know, I don’t want to bring it back if it’s not 100% perfect,” Smock said.

Chuck Fulford said he’s been “hounded” by several people over the years for the recipe, and after talking with Smock, he decided he was the right person to take it on.

“The more we talked, the more I was convinced it needed to come back to Edinburgh, and I thought he was the one to do it,” Chuck Fulford said.

Since then, Smock and Chuck Fulford started working together to make the Curly Dog return happen. He gave Smock the original recipe, which was hand-written by his father.

They also had to spend time gathering the proper ingredients, to get the Curly Dog as close to the original as possible — something that proved to be a bit of a challenge, Smock said.

Many of the brands used in the 1950s don’t exist anymore, including a specific brand of hot dog used, called “Red Hots.” So, Smock tried out several different brands of hot dogs, and Chuck Fulford helped him pick the best one.

“We’re pretty confident with the matching, and that we’re gonna be able to deliver,” Smock said.

Though the Curly Dog isn’t making its official re-debut until Monday, a select group of residents were picked to try it this week.

Longtime Edinburgh residents Frank and Edna Whitlock and Brian Ingels were invited to taste test the new Curly Dog. Smock worked with Sarabeth Drybread, who led the town’s bicentennial celebration, to find people in town who would be the best critics and know the original Curly Dog well, he said.

All three of them gave Smock’s Curly Dog a stamp of approval, saying it tasted just like the original from the 1950s.

“I think it tastes like it used to,” Edna Whitlock said.

Ingels said he thinks it is neat the Curly Dog is coming back to the original location. People in town to this day still talk about how they wish they could get a Curly Dog somewhere, he said.

“You always hear a lot of people say, ‘I really wish I could get a Curly Dog,’” Ingels said.

The Curly Dog will be a regular menu item at Hickory Hillz starting on Monday. A grand opening celebration is planned for that first day, with several special activities to honor the Curly Dog legacy.

There will be an eight-vehicle carhop, just like at the original restaurant, and employees will be wearing uniforms similar to what the Curly Dog Drive-In employees wore back in the day. The store hours will be set from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., just like the original drive-in hours, and a live bluegrass band will perform in the evening. Free root beer will also be provided with each Curly Dog purchase on Monday, per the tradition.

Smock also got a hold of one of the original Curly Dog signs to display.

He expects there to be a lot of traffic on Monday for the debut, so Smock has worked with Edinburgh police to monitor traffic, to hopefully not cause a backup on U.S. 31, he said.

For Smock, bringing back the Curly Dog was more about honoring a community staple than making a profit.

“Obviously it’s going to bring revenue, but it’s more than that to me,” Smock said. “It was more of giving it back to Edinburgh because it was such a staple item for Edinburgh.”