March 15 2022 Update: Sadly demolition has finally taken place of the original Hot Dog on a Stick. According to a Santa Monica Mirror article, the new space will be larger, but still have “the charm of the original building.” Stay tuned for an update when it reopens!
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.
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.
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.