One of the great delights in moving from one side of Charleston to the other (from West Ashley to Mt. Pleasant) is that a whole new world of restaurants opened up to me that are just right around the corner. We were in the habit of driving over to Mt. P frequently to eat anyway, but now everything is so darn close.
And that includes Jack's Cosmic Dogs, a Lowcountry joint that was created as a throwback to the old roadside hotdog stands of earlier years. The building is retro-cool, with cinder block walls painted bright yellow outside and bright red inside. The 1960s-style tables come with mismatched metal and vinyl chairs, and you order at a stainless steel-fronted counter with wooden top. An old-school ice bin offers Sundrop and RC Cola in real glass bottles, and there's a Galaga machine in the corner (okay, one of the newer Galaga/Ms. Pacman throwback combos, but the spirit is the same.) An old pie server has been recycled and serves and the handle on the front screen door (and how many restaurants have screen doors these days?)
The hot dogs are sizzled up fresh on a flattop griddle and served not on a plain old bun but on a big seeded roll For a classic chili dog, try the Atomic dog--chili, onions, spicy mustard (pictured to the left). If you're more adventurous, there are several dogs with a great blue cheese coleslaw on them, including the Cosmic dog with the slaw and Jack's homemade sweet potato mustard. The french fries are hand-cut from fresh potatoes, which is the only way fries should be made.
The first time I ate at Jack's I wondered to myself: "is this a chain?" Everything was just a little too retro and hip, and there's lots of funky paintings on the wall by various artists showing renderings of Jack's building and sign--one painting by a local artist would be understandable, but several? Jack's Cosmic Dogs is, however, a true local spot, and the Mount Pleasant location--open since 2000--is the only one (for now, at least).
The Jack behind the operation, by the way, is Jack Hurley, a local realtor who sells houses on Sullivan's Island and Isle of Palms. He created the restaurant to recapture the hotdog stands he loved as a kid, and it works--from the screen door down to the Sundrop on ice (a brand of lemon-lime soda sold mostly in the South), it takes me back to the kind of places we used to stop off on the road as a kid on family trips to the beach or the North Carolina mountains. And the hot dogs are really good, too.
Jack's Cosmic Dogs (2805 Highway 17 North, Mount Pleasant, SC, 843-884-7677). Open 7 days a week, 11 am to 8 pm.
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