My wife, Nancy, and I took a little road trip last weekend. A 500-mile road trip – each way. We went to Atlanta for our grandson’s confirmation. We stayed at a nice hotel in downtown Atlanta – the Crown Plaza. From our 4th floor balcony we happened to overlook one of my favorite restaurants in the whole, wide world – The Varsity.
The Varsity is an Atlanta institution. Located across from the campus at Georgia Tech, The Varsity is internationally famous for their hot dogs, and hot dogs happen to be right up there among my favorite things to eat. A Varsity hot dog rates at the very top of the list of great “franks”.
The Varsity opened for business in 1928 in downtown Atlanta. The founder, Frank Gordy, had attended Georgia Tech and recognized a market catering to the students. He first called his restaurant “The Yellow Jacket” and business boomed, forcing Gordy to a new and larger location on North Avenue. He changed the name to “The Varsity” where it exists in near original form today.
On my first visit to Atlanta, I insisted on a visit to The Varsity. I was stunned at the line of patrons, 9 and 10 deep with 20 or more lines. Yet, the lines moved swiftly thanks in large part to the skills of the servers who bark out, “What’ll ya have? What’ll ya have?”, as each customer approaches. There is no stalling at the front of the line. You quickly make your order of “Two dogs with chili and onions, an order of onion rings and a peach shake (which are fabulous, by the way)” and you’re on your way. On a busy Saturday with a Georgia Tech football game, The Varsity can have 20,000 or more customers.
The Varsity has enjoyed national exposure. It was featured in a PBS documentary as well as in the Travel Channel series, Hot Dog Paradise. In the movie, “We Are Marshall”, scenes of coaches recruiting players were filmed at The Varsity.
Numerous presidents and national celebrities have stood in the same long lines at the Varsity as servers bark out their famous welcome: “What’ll ya have? What’ll ya have?”
If you find yourself in downtown Atlanta, make sure to stop by The Varsity. You’ll be glad you did.