Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Jay’s Famous Hot Dogs

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Frank Petrakos, serving up Jay’s hot dogs the way I remembered them. Photo courtesy of Greg Petrakos, used with permission.

They were just down West Federal Street from McKelvey’s, where I worked during high school and college. I don’t remember what they cost, but the chili dogs were the right price for someone earning minimum wage in the early ’70’s. You walked in and could watch the owner working over the grill with a row of buns up his sweaty forearm, putting in hot dogs and ladling his special chili sauce over top of them.

That was Jay’s Hot Dogs in downtown Youngstown. It was the perfect place to get a quick and tasty meal of chili dogs, fries, and a drink. It wasn’t health food and some might be a bit squeamish about how they were prepared today, but no one I know ever suffered anything other than a full stomach. It might have been a case of “that which doesn’t kill me only makes me stronger!” To me it is the quintessential Youngstown working man’s food place.

Jay’s Famous Hot Dogs is still going strong in its 37th year at its Boardman location at 68 Boardman-Canfield Road (Route 224), in their distinctive A-frame building. We stopped by a few years ago with our son so that he could get a “Youngstown original,” a Jay’s chili dog. It was a treat for all of us. The restaurant is still in the Petrakos family, run by Greg Petrakos, son of Frank Petrakos, pictured above.

What are your memories of Jay’s? When did you last have one of their chili dogs?

6 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Jay’s Famous Hot Dogs

  1. Almost all of the hot dog joints in the Youngstown area could trace their roots to New Castle, PA. As teens in the ’30s my parents used to hang out at Coney Island in downtown New Caste. See the way Frank Petrakos lines the buns up his arm. Greek sweat was a condiment. Young greeks would come to work in one of the joints and then go out and start their own restaurant.

  2. My husband Denny and I often reminisce about Jay’s dogs. Denny saw Frank on several occasions with his arm loaded with chili dogs! Yummy good at the Boardman location as well. We often stop on a Y-town visit.
    Michelle

  3. The small town where I grew up had Eddie’s. It was a burger place. You could get a bunch of small hamburgers for a cheap price. They had contests on who could eat the most burgers, and the winners got their pictures on the wall. I make sure to get some Eddies burgers whenever I go back there.

  4. I remember all of the pictures on the walls of numerous presidents that had signed certificates and photos that were dedicated to Frank. He’s a Great American and a Great Business Entreprenuer!!!

  5. My Aunt and Uncle used to take me the Warner, Paramount or State Theater for a movie and we would always walk to Jays for some dogs and fries. I can still picture the owner with a row of dogs on his sweaty arm slapping that chili on every dog. They were and still are the best dogs I ever ate.

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