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?