The season premier is April 6th and we are excited to introduce you to a few more people, places and attractions that you might not know about, but you might want to visit! While we do have fun making this show, a lot goes into it both in the field and on the front end before we even leave the house. One of most important parts of the job is the research and there’s about eight to twelve weeks of that before the cameras start rolling. Phone calls, interviews, and scheduling takes awhile, but it pays to take care of the details.
The people and places we look for are not always easy to find. Everybody knows where the big attractions are and most of the time they're readily accessible, usually located close to an interstate off ramp. But, we feel the real heart of America is off the beaten path, down a country road, or maybe somewhere in between even. Bigger cities can have hidden gems, too! Places that have been there for years, but just aren’t considered to be hip and cool. For example, Nashville is growing like crazy and with 82 new residents per day. I’d say that what once felt like a large town can now be considered a bonafide city. More people means more restaurants and there are a ton of them popping up, usually in the hot new sections of town - Five Points, Germantown, 12 South or The Gulch. But, one of the best places to grab a bite was Rotiers off West End Ave.
In business since 1945, it recently closed because the owners of the building wouldn’t renew the lease and that’s the sad state of affairs here in Nashville. With so many people moving here, property values have skyrocketed and older buildings are being sold to developers who are simply tearing down these iconic structures to build apartments and condominiums to house all the newcomers.
Rotiers wasn’t fancy, but it was friendly. It had an old school vibe with green vinyl-covered booths, newspaper clippings everywhere, with nary an update in site for as long as I’ve been living in Nashville. And, the food was classic--the best burgers, fries, and milk shakes anywhere!
It outlasted many other restaurants that have come and gone since I’ve been in Nashville and they can certainly hold their heads high knowing that they didn’t close for lack of business!
In episode eight this season, we head to Chris’ Hotdogs down in Montgomery, Alabama, which is similar to Rotiers in it’s classic American diner-type atmosphere...and they’re still in business!
Open for over 100 years, it was originally founded by Greek immigrant, Chris Katechis, who wanted to start his own business here in America. He thought, “what’s more American than a hotdog” and with that, this southern eatery was born. They’ve served their signature dogs with secret chili sauce to Hank Williams, Martin Luther King, Elvis Presley, both presidents HW and GW Bush and President Truman. President Roosevelt is said to have ordered boxes of these bad boys when he traveled through Montgomery by train.
It’s a great success story and a great example of how the people who came to this country during the first half of the twentieth century really wanted to be a part of America. They didn’t shrug off their heritage and forget where they came from, because there was certainly nothing wrong with their own culture. But, they recognized that America was the place where dreams could take flight on the winds of freedom and they wanted to be a part of this nation, help build it, and become American themselves. Chris’ grandson Gus, is now the third generation to run this historical, local establishment and he’s just as unassuming as his restaurant. He’s a typical small town guy - he’s friendly, knows most of his customers by name, hires people in the community who now take pride in their work, and he never turns away a hungry soul, whether or not they have the funds for that hotdog.
Like many cities, there are a lot of “higher end” places to eat in Montgomery, which I'm certain are good in their own right. But, I can tell you that at lunch time, there was no shortage of men in suits and women in heels coming out of Chris’ with brown bags full of hotdogs, hamburgers and french fries, headed back to the office to share their all American delicacies.
So, that’s one thing you’ll see this season, but there’s a lot more. We encourage everybody to venture off the highways and head into small town America. You may not find the world’s tallest rollercoaster or the latest fusion restaurant, but I bet you’ll find some pretty nice folks who can show you that a slightly slower pace of life can be a nice change. One thing I know for sure is that if you find a restaurant like Chris’ Hotdogs, you’ll definitely walk away with a full belly and a few new friends, too!