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[whitespace] Mark's Hot Dogs
Photograph by Eric Carlson

Dog Gone: Good for 66 years, Mark's is soon to find a new location.

The Dog and the Concrete Orange

Mark's Hot Dogs, a local landmark, finds itself on the road to a new and fruitful future

By Joseph Izzo Jr.

WHEN MARK YURAM opened his hot dog stand in downtown San Jose at Fifth and Santa Clara streets, the year was 1936. Franklin D. Roosevelt was in his first term. The Spanish Civil War had begun. Jesse Owens won four gold medals at the Olympics in Berlin, discrediting Hitler and his Nazi theories of Aryan superiority.

Yuram's hot dogs were a hit. Such a hit that by 1947 Mark's Hot Dogs had secured a more permanent location on Alum Rock Boulevard. For 54 years, the operation grew inside a 15-foot-high concrete orange that looks like an alien spacecraft. The orange is odd, funky and eye-catching--everything a hot dog stand should be. Lucky diners can sit inside at a counter and watch their dogs being prepared. And after half a century, the orange is soon to roll to a new location, somewhere up Alum Rock near Capitol Expressway. I'll keep you posted.

There was a time Mark's stayed opened until 2am on Fridays and Saturdays. Pulling in around midnight always offered a view of human existence that ticked back and forth from family comfort to bulkhead goofy. I once parked near a modified diamond-blue hot rod filled with five people all with the same haircut--shaved around the sides with curls on the top piled 6 inches high--eating hot dogs and smiling from cheek to ear. No longer can you get dogs in the early am, but the colorful clientele is still in spin from open to close.

Not only is Mark's a landmark of evocative proportions, but it serves the best hot dogs I've ever eaten. They're on a par with Pink's down in L.A. and Top Dog in Berkeley. The wieners are made from a recipe that Mr. Yuram created more than 66 years ago that blends pork and beef in natural casings.

But let's talk quantity. These are the kind of hot dogs that are so good, you can't stop eating them. They go down, one right after the other. Primordial cravings overcome better judgment.Before I know it, I've gulped three or four and still have room for two more. Maybe three.

One midnight after feasting on veal and morel mushrooms at one of those froufrou restaurants on Big Basin Way, I went to Mark's for a bedtime snack and ate five chili cheese dogs--a shameful record, especially when one considers that a Mark's hot dog measures one foot long.

The wieners (and buns) are steamed in sweet vapors. Casings snap against the teeth, squirting juice and flavor in all directions. The chili has a rich consistency and zesty flavor that awakens the mouth. These range in price from $2.25 for the basic to $2.95 for the works: chili, cheese and onions. Hot dogs buried under pungent sauerkraut are available for $2.50.

"I never get full on these hot dogs," proclaimed Faye Blasingame, a veteran customer who's been slamming down these babies since 1950.

Consistency, however, remains Mark's greatest trump card. Nobody I know has ever complained of getting a bad hot dog. As Marcila, a dark-haired beauty eating at the counter inside the orange, said, "They're perfect!" Nearby, a man whose mouth was too full to talk raised his eyebrows in agreement.

The best way to enjoy Mark's is to sit outside at one of the picnic benches under the aluminum overhang. It's tacky, I'll admit, but it's comfortable and real--and feels like home when the folks from the area stop by. Car service is also available. The waitresses are quick and all business and rarely engage themselves beyond hello and goodbye.

Mark's serves the best hot dog in San Jose. That's my opinion. No compromises are made in quality. No shortcuts are taken. As mentioned earlier, this place is real. As real as it gets. No matter where it eventually rolls to a stop.

Mark's Hot Dogs
Address: 1920 Alum Rock Blvd., San Jose
Phone: 408.926.0923
Hours: Sun-Thu 10:30am-9pm, Fri-Sat 10:30am-10pm
Cuisine: Hot dogs
Price Range: $2.25-$2.95

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From the August 1-7, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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