Tubby Fun

Tubby Dog, 1022 17th Avenue, SW. This is the Captain: a hot dog on a bun..with PB & J (yes, that's grape jelly) and Cap'n Crunch (for a textural contrast, says my friend Kim) Surprisingly...not bad. Great atmosphere, lots of fun games (when's the last time you worked a retro pinball machine?), super nice crew. Good place for families or even a (slightly messy) first date...or anniversary!

(I’m happy to report the cat is gone; she left and went back to her layout page…if you don’t know what I’m talking about, never mind; if you do, it’ll be our little secret. Meow.)

Nostalgia’s a great and powerful thing, and it’s funny how one little sight, smell, sound, or texture you experience in the moment can trigger something that takes you back to a completely different, and on occasion specific, time in your life. Sometimes it’s not a pleasant thing, but for the most part it evokes memories of a time in the past that is well and fondly remembered.

So, please, think back for a moment….to when you were ten. It’s the early days of summer vacation…you’re too young for a regular job (other than the lemonade stand, possibly babysitting or halfheartedly mowing the occasional lawn with one of those horrible push-mowers), yet old enough to be on your own while your mom and/or dad are out at work or on errands.

The sun is streaming into the rooms, curtains billowing in the soft breeze, the smell of fresh cut grass (from a lawn you didn’t have to cut), the sound of the birds and the bugs, the neighbourhood kids screeching with laughter as they take turns running through the sprinkler or on the slip-n-slide—or maybe they were lucky and had one of those above ground pools—where you spent your day and didn’t leave until your lips turned blue or your mom called you home for dinner—whichever came first?

Those were the days. You got to sleep in, catch some morning cartoons (or game shows…. The Price is Right with Bob Barker—with brown hair—just before noon, and Jeopardy right after), and the afternoon free to do….anything you wanted. Or everything you wanted.

The first order of business before heading out into the sunshine to meet up with your friends: find some food...keeping in mind that you're not allowed to use the stove, and there probably weren't microwaves back then (remember the Stone Age?).

So, what to eat?

Baloney? Peanut butter and jelly? Maybe just a bowl of cereal?

What about all three…at once?

That’s what happened to me Tuesday night at Tubby Dog. I’d been hearing about the place for a while; I’m sure I’d driven by countless times. Just a little hole-in-the-wall with a walk up counter facing the street and an inside that seemed dark from the outside—too dark to take the time for a detour. Plus, they’re just hot dogs, right?


Tubby Dog has been around for a dozen years, and has a reputation for its tube-steak creations, as well as chili, tacos (specials on Tuesday), and they even do burgers. But you really have to go there for the dogs. I mean, with the slogan “Wieners for Life”, how can you go wrong?

It was another warmer-than-is comfortable evening and I took a quick walk to shake off some calories before heading the hot dog shack; this is a routine I must insist on if I’m going to indulge this much.

I took a walk through Tomkins Park, which always makes me think of the one on the lower east side of New York, although it's spelled slightly differently. Yes, just like the one in New York I never walked through because it was so unsafe when I lived there. I remember visiting a friend, Alice the Punk, who lived deep in Alphabet City one New Year's Eve and it not being safe to leave until the sun came up; I still clearly remember the rolls of razor wire that laced across her rooftop. The one in New York has a "p" (probably a lot more than one, if you know what I mean), and was home to some high-profile riots in the late 80’s—so the park in Calgary is alike, really in close-to name only, although I remember that when I first moved here, this was not a place you lingered. On this evening, in the bright evening sunlight, the Calgary Tomkins Park had the city’s clean look to it, with a few people reading, another group talking quietly, a guy and his dog and another with his shopping cart, talking to himself, or maybe his cart, about….whatever.
So back up the street to Tubby Dog. It’s a long, narrow space, filled with pinball and electronic arcade games, a huge neon “Jesus Saves” near the bathrooms, a 50’s-style lunch counter in bright yellow Formica, and three very happy and efficient guys behind the counter. It has a window that’s about the width of a garage door in front that swings open so you can sit on a stool and look out on the street; the back is lined with booths. And they were all full.

I grabbed a couple of chairs by the window (my friend Jim was joining me), and I made my way up to the counter and ordered what I was told I had to try: The Captain.

This is a hot dog, on a bun….with peanut butter and grape jelly…and Cap’n Crunch.

What do you get to drink with that?

Pinot Noir in a can? They had it, but nooooo…Beer? Really no. The guy at the till says to get a root beer. Can’t do that either. I just can’t imagine what goes with this, so I choose a bottle of water.

And the Captain? It’s ok, not bad, actually pretty interesting.

If you’re a sweet-and-salty kind of person you’ll understand this combo, and you would probably like this. Would I have it again? Possibly not, but only because there are so many other choices. Jim got a dog with chili, onions, a whole load of cheese, and crumbled potato chips on top. It sure smelled and looked good.

But here’s the kicker to this evening’s adventure…yesterday I mentioned how sometimes this city had a small town feel to it? As we moved further back into Tubby Dog to get away from the street noise, the two stools we picked were right next to Mark, a friend from days past who knew me as part of a couple--a friend and his wife who live quite a distance from a little hot dog shop in the middle of the Red Mile. A little confused and perhaps shocked at first I think, they seemed not overly surprised—or concerned-- that we had split. We chatted through our meals--their anniversary dinner, it turned out-- as if no time had passed.

I’m starting to realize that perhaps the meals, while fun and filling, are not the part of this adventure that is FULFILLING. It’s more about people with whom I share food than the food itself--they are the key. They can be friends or they can be strangers, (or perhaps strange friends?)…whatever the case, it’s human connection that feeds us and keeps us going.

Thanks to all for such a great reaction to the first post. In-towners, heading out on Friday for Thai with my friend Natalie—if you want to join, send me a message and we’ll see if we can coordinate!