Hotdogs taste better when you order them from a roadside stand shaped like a giant barrel, as I learned when I stopped at the Root Beer Barrel in Douglas, Michigan.
The stand, built in the 1950s, closed in the mid-1970s. It stood vacant for 25 years, its wooden staves rotting and weeds growing at its feet.
The owner planned demolish it, but the Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society stepped in. The organization purchased the oversized barrel for $1.
A Save the Barrel campaign ensued, and fans of the former root beer and hotdog stand pitched in more than $11,000 to refurbish the roadside attraction.
Restoration began in 2011. Volunteers removed lead paint, dismantled the pieces, and moved it to a workshop. There, the long wooden strips that form the barrel’s walls were repaired, sanded, and sealed. A new steel base ring was crafted, too.
The stand reopened in 2016 and today caters to beachgoers on their way to nearby Oval Beach.
I ordered a root beer float and a chili cheese dog, and ate them at a wooden picnic table in the shadow of the towering barrel.
When the concession stand first opened, customers could buy a regular hotdog for a quarter, a hamburger for 35 cents, a foot-long hotdog for 40 cents, a root beer for a dime, or a float for 20 cents.
You’ll pay more today, but it’s still worth it for the smile.
The stand is open Memorial Day through Labor Day.