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Sunday, October 24, 2010

State Fair Food Classics: Choplin's Hot Dogs

Posted by on Sun, Oct 24, 2010 at 11:43 PM

Garret Macario, Willard Andrews, and Mike Elledge at Choplins Hot Dogs.
  • Garret Macario, Willard Andrews, and Mike Elledge at Choplin's Hot Dogs.
In just a few minutes, the lights will turn off at the North Carolina State Fair, marking the close of Choplin's Hot Dog's 40th year in operation there. Willard Andrews, who now runs the small hot dog stand across from Gate 9, wasn't there to see the booth's first ten years in business, but he's been at the stand for the past 30 years, running the show since his friend, Elton Choplin, retired seven years ago.

Andrews, like many other fair food vendors, doesn't spend his year in the food business. But in the 11 days of the fair's festivities, he occupies his time with hot dogs—$5 for foot longs, and $3 for regular sizes. And what began for his friend 40 years ago as a business opportunity, he explains, quickly devolved into a way to make friends. Andrews says that one of the highlights of the fair is to catch up with people that, even as a Raleigh resident, he only sees once or twice a year.

Choplin's, which began as a tent and evolved into a full fledged booth, used to visit multiple area events, including the pumpkin festival in Spring Hope and the Old Thrashers Reunion in in Denton. But "the booth got old, and so did I," says Andrews. But the State Fair, which hit a record high this year with over 1 million visitors, is enough to catch up with most of the state's fair going residents in a short amount of time.

Choplins's, which found a place near this year's decadent Krispy Kreme burger, is no thrills: red hot dogs with chili, fries, and drinks. But it's a stand that's worth visiting year after year—one that provides a dependable food with a friendly face. When I stopped by earlier this week for a second time, one of the booth's workers, Mike Elledge recognized me, as he and others do most of their return customers. "You've been here before, haven't you?" he asked. I had, and as a State Fair classic, Choplin's booth is one that I plan to visit again. Here's to already counting the days until fall 2011!

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