The Cozy Dog is one of the many constants on Route 66. Located on your way out of Springfield, Illinois, The Cozy Dog has been serving their signature “corn dog” (but don’t call it that! It’s a Cozy Dog!) on The Mother Road since 1949. The originator, Ed Waldmire Jr., invented his Cozy Dog in 1946 while still in the Air Force, stationed in Amarillo, Texas. The original building was rebuilt years ago, but The Cozy Dog has never left its home as one of the founding businesses of Route 66.
I’m a big fan of their chili dogs, and the french fries are some of the best you’ll ever have. The interior is unique—spiced up with icons and images from Rt. 66 and from the history of the Cozy Dog restaurant. It’s the kind of place where the pieces of art and objects on the walls were not placed there by some interior designers who decide that bling on the walls are good conversation starters for people sitting waiting for pre-packaged food. No, The Cozy Dog is where the chain places like T.G.I. Friday’s and Ruby Tuesday’s took that idea from.
But the walls of The Cozy Dog are not about conversation starters, they’re about preserving a history and telling the story of locally owned businesses that helped America grow. One of my favorite icons on the wall is placed just above the cash register—the old logo for the Pig Hip restaurant.
The Pig Hip was another Route 66 founding business that closed years ago thanks to the lack of traffic diverted off 66 onto the Interstate. The flat wooden chef has a surprised look on his face perhaps responding to the demise of a restaurant that for decades people crowded into. What I like most about it is that it’s not some corporate design that took a think-tank and thousands of man-hours on Photoshop or Illustrator to create. It’s a hand-sawed, hand-painted icon so connected to The Mother Road that it says more than just “Come eat here.”
The Cozy Dog logo is just as connected to 66. It’s as distinguishable to the locals of Springfield and Route 66ers as the Golden Arches, or the Nike SWOOSH. But the two cuddling hot dogs are also symbols of something bigger than the restaurant or even Route 66. The icon is part of the story of American. The hot dog was a working-class meal meant for speedy devouring so you could return to work. The hot dog symbolizes family picnics during the holidays and trips to the amusement park. It’s the busy street of any major city or the quick lunch for suburban kids during the summer. It’s a food enjoyed by toddlers and Kings.
Sitting in The Cozy Dog you mingle with doctors, Senators, bikers from Germany of France. You hear British accents ordering food as the deep fryer cooks up a new batch of Cozies. You see grandfathers who’ve been coming to the place since they were kids sit with their grand children in booths pointing to the Route 66 shields and tell them stories about hitch-hiking home from Fort Leonard Wood Army base after WWII.
The Cozy Dog IS America. It is a must stop for anyone at any time. If you want to understand our country a little better, grab yourself a Cozy Dog, fill your cup with Pepsi, and sit down for a while. You’ll learn a lot.