Campus Spotlight, Student Life

McGill’s campus hot dog stand is losing its spark

Finding a meal simpler than a hot dog is a hard sell. It was The New York Times sports cartoonist Tad Dorgan who coined the term in the early 1900s. Now it’s a North American street food staple, with Nathan’s World Hot Dog Eating Contest taking place at Coney Island every July. 

At McGill, the downtown hot dog stand is one of Montreal’s only street food vendors. The stand is also McGill’s unofficial weatherman. 

Indeed, when temperatures rise above zero, and there’s no rain, a flimsy shade and fiery grill, accompanied by a wobbly table lined with dozens of ketchup and mustard bottles, emerges at McGill’s Y-intersection—the telltale sign that summer is on the way. The middle-aged, lightly-stubbled, baseball-capped men running the stand are perhaps the most fair-weathered folks in Canada. 

So, with the snow melting, the hot dog stand has returned, and last week, one of The Tribune’s Managing Editors, Mady, and I stopped by for lunch. The usual throngs of student droolers, thankfully, weren’t snaking the line—we went straight to the front. 

Watching on, the stand felt like it had been taken from a 1980s postcard. The 40-something man under the shade ran a strict ship on the barbie, while the 60-something shorter man took payments. The idyllic simplicity twisted the arm of nostalgia and even made the tree-hugging hippies and the self-obsessed finance bros forget their identities.

Just before I ordered, an angry screech came from the man behind the grill, aimed at the older man. He said something along the lines of “Quand je dit arrête, ça veut dire arrête, et tu m’écoutes!” Which, for my English friends, translates to “When I say stop, that means stop, and you listen to me”—referring to an issue with the cash. The bellowing man also said no to us taking a picture of the stand. 


Original – $5.50 

Vegan – $5.50 

Polish – $8.00

McGill’s hot dog cart has been around since 2012 and enjoys a lack of nearby competition, with  Montreal’s strict rules restricting the number of street vendors to near nilch and McGill’s Food and Dining Services’ uninspiring mantra ruling with an iron fist. 

The stand had three hot dog options, sufficient for a hot dog stand—this isn’t some European sausage delicacy house. They normally serve soft drinks,  but on this occasion, they didn’t have any, and this included—to my utter apoplectic, incandescent rage—Diet Coke. 

We started with the original hot dog, made of beef. We dolloped some ketchup and mustard, and it was beaming, almost smugly. The dog’s size was sufficient, not that size matters, but it starts to when there’s a $5.50 price tag. Flavour-wise, it had a juicy, borderline watery, but simple taste bolstered by the ketchup and mustard. 

The vegan hot dog came next, and I have to say, I hate the labelling. Calling it vegan is stupid and backward. It makes ordering a black-and-white decision: Meat or non-meat. Vague or vaguer. How dull. Tell me the ingredients, or use the specific name for it, and if it’s tempeh, I’ll stay well, well clear. 

Anyway, this ‘vegan’ hot dog looked like it was sulking. Mind you, if I were a vegan hot dog, I’d be miffed, too. 

Taking the first bite, the yellow-stained dry texture inside resembled a chemical experiment. The taste was better than the appearance. A little doughy, as the dog was smaller, with the weakest zip of spice that was interesting for about a half-second. 

The Polish hot dog, which typically contains more garlic, was named more appropriately, but I doubt the Poles would have been chuffed with it. It tasted raw. Perhaps I took too long to eat it, so it cooled down, or perhaps the man behind the barbie should focus on cooking them properly instead of screeching orders to an old man like a querulous high school sports coach.

Score: ⭐⭐

What does the score mean? Scores are out of five stars. 

Five stars: Your Aussie friend’s barbie extravaganza. 

Four Stars: Family friend’s BBQ. 

Three Stars: Five Guys. 

Two Stars: Costco. 

One Star: McGill Cafeteria hot dog night.

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One Comment

  1. This is preposterous tbh, 2 stars!?
    It’s almost as bad that costco dogs also got 2 stars… $1.50 for a jumbo dog with a drink gotta be more than that man

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