A Summer Outing to the First Hot Dog on a Stick

This last weekend was Labor Day, and to me it often marks the end of summer. Patrick and I decided to go for a very summery outing to the Santa Monica Pier over the long holiday weekend. California is the birthplace of many restaurants (especially fast food) that are found across the country, and even the globe. Just next to the Santa Monica Pier is the home of yet another fast food icon, Hot Dog on a Stick, which also turned 75 this summer.

Santa Monica Pier sign, blue with white letters reading "Santa Monica Yacht Harbor Sport Fishing Boating Cafes/"

Front of the building, mainly painted red, with a white service window, and white letters reading "Hot Dog Stick Fresh Lemonade."

Located just across from the beach volleyball courts and the iconic hippodrome (a fancy word for a building that houses a carousel) sits a no frills red and white walk-up building, which originally opened in 1946 under the name Party Puffs, by Dave Barham. Barham enjoyed the beach life, playing volleyball and surfing alongside the bodybuilders of the original Muscle Beach next to the Santa Monica Pier. For two years Barham served the beach goers lemonade and ice cream, but he felt he needed to add something, and in 1948 he began making corndogs using his mom’s cornbread recipe, although a watered down version, and he renamed his business Hot Dog on a Stick. In the early days only women worked at the little 440 square foot location, and were dubbed “hotdoggers” donned polka dot tops and berets, eventually changing to stripes and the iconic look they have today. The lemonade was always a pride and joy, using Ventura County lemons, and always “hand stomped” and made to order.

Close-up of the front of the building, reading "Hot Dog Stick Fresh Lemonade" in white letters.

Lemons stacked ready to become lemonade.

An early evening meal, French fries in a cup, a corndog and a tall cup of lemonade.

Front of the building, mainly painted red, with a white service window, and white letters reading "Hot Dog Stick Fresh Lemonade."

Myself, wearing a yellow shirt featuring the band The Doors, standing in front of Hot Dog on a Stick holding a corndog.

The side of the location, a red building with a long window in the middle. White text along the top reads "Hot Dog Stick Fresh Lemonade" with a small image of a corndog on the right.

Three-Quarter view of the stand, painted red with its name in white letters. Stacked yellow cups sit int he window with lemons next to them.

In the foreground, a yellow cup features the 75th anniversary logo, and text reading "Sticking Smiles on Faces since 1946." the building in the background.

White paper bags await tasty goodies, the Hot Dog on a Stick logo printed in the middle, with text reading "Our Mission: To Stick a Smile on Your Face."

Myself, wearing a yellow shirt featuring the band The Doors, standing in front of Hot Dog on a Stick holding a cup of lemonade.

As iconic as the original location is, Hot Dog on a Stick is perhaps best known to the general public for being a staple of indoor shopping malls. In 1972 the first mall location opened inside Torrance’s Old Town Mall. Hot Dog on a Stick offered the perfect mall food, as it could easily be eaten while shopping in the days before food courts. As the mall locations grew, the menu did as well, if only a little bit. In 1973 cheese sticks were added, and in 1988 turkey and veggie dogs were added.

In March of 1991 Barham passed away, but his locations continue to thrive. Today the menu remains fairly simple, and the original location has served locals and tourists alike along the Santa Monica beach for 75 years. Although, since 2012, its fate has been up in the air. Demo permits were filed, only to expire, but just again last year it was slated to be demolished (and rebuilt) but until the formal announcement you can still enjoy a corndog and fresh lemonade along the beach at 1633 Ocean Front Walk, Santa Monica.

Want more from the Santa Monica Pier? Check out this post.

Sources
Buck, Fielding. “World’s first Hot Dog on a Stick awaits its fate in Santa Monica.” Daily News, 14 February 2020. Accessed 7 September 2021.
Geary, George. Made in California: The California-Born Burger Joints, Diners, Fast Food & Restaurants that Changed America. Prospect Park Books, 2021. Print.
Hot Dog History!” Hot Dog on a Stick. Accessed 7 September 2021.
Mercado, Eric. “Hot Dog on a Stick, Then and Now.” Los Angeles Magazine, 16 December 2014.
Original Hot Dog on a Stick to be demolished and rebuilt.” Santa Monica Daily Press, 20 July 2019. Accessed 7 September 2021.

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