Editor’s Notebook: Hot Dog Mike

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brian_clareyby Brian Clarey

Mike Rothman moves like a karate master behind the grill at Skippy’s Hot Dogs in downtown Winston-Salem. Every movement contributes to the larger task, which is getting lunch out to a couple hundred wiener-lovers every day.

He’s got about seven raw dogs prepping on the back right corner of the griddle. From there they’ll move to the back end of the orderly row next to it and move, one slow rotation at a time, to the finish. By the time Mike pulls them off, each has a perfect bark of char. He uses just one side of the griddle, reserving the other half just in case.

He turns out one order at a time. Each pretzel bun gets a cut down the middle and a few seconds in the microwave, then some time on the griddle. This gives it a chewy skin and a toasty inside, able to withstand just about any sort of topping, even chili, without falling apart.

Mike Rothman moves like a karate master behind the grill at Skippy’s Hot Dogs in downtown Winston-Salem.

Each dog gets a cut down the middle, allowing it to cook more evenly, sure, but also to make a bed for the toppings, which can be prodigious at Skippy’s, though even a plain hot dog has something going for it with that pleasant, crispy char.

The tray of fries rests atop the microwave to Mike’s left; they go one batch at a time into the fryer a few steps to his right, always hot, always crispy.

The Chicago dog gets yellow mustard in the cut, the pickle spear and tomato wedge on opposite sides of the dog. The green relish, chopped onion and banana peppers go down the middle, in that order. Yep, every time.

The Reuben, too, gets mustard down the middle, but a different kind of mustard than the ChiDog. The Swiss cheese is melted atop the toasty side of the bun. Sauerkraut goes on top, so you don’t get mustard all over your face.

Each table — five 4-tops, a 2-top and a couple round tables at the windows that can seat six people max — gets ketchup, salt, napkins. There’s plenty more if you run out.

It’s like this all day, every day, until 4 p.m. Seven on Fridays. If you don’t get your hot dog before then, you’re out of luck.