Memorable | One of the Best
Review by: Michael Stern
Hot dogs are the only thing on the menu at Flo’s, so when you enter the low-slung diner and peer through the pass-through window into the kitchen, proprietor and chef Gail Stacey (the late Flo’s daughter-in-law) will ask just one question: “How many?” They are small, so we suggest you have a large number in mind. Three or four will sate a decent appetite. Like the wieners, buns are steamed to order; and these gentle bread pockets, fresh out of the heat box, have a silky texture that is itself a vital component of the singular culinary experience that is dining at Flo’s.
Hot sauce, which is technically optional but culinarily essential, is Flo’s secret weapon. Nothing like the beefy chili on a chili dog, it is meatless, a devilishly dark sweet/hot relish of stewed onions, glistening with spice and customarily finished with a sprinkle of celery salt. A “special” at Flo’s is a hot dog with this sauce and a thin line of mayonnaise, a magic combination that makes the very modest, bubble-gum colored hot dog unspeakably luxurious. If instead of mayo you get mustard, the kick of the sauce/mustard interaction gives every bite a wicked-good bark.
Note: Flo’s is open only for lunch, year-around, from 11am to 3pm daily, except for Wednesday, when it is closed.
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3 Responses to “Flo’s”
Chris & Amy Ayers
June 30th, 2008
As many years that we lived in Maine, we never once visited Flo’s until now. The parking lot was full, so we parked on the shoulder of busy Route 1 and made our way to the front door. It was packed inside, so we waited for 10 minutes or so and finally made it inside the building. Flo’s granddaughter was working by herself, taking and filling orders while conversing (in a most wonderful Mainer accent) with every single customer. She immediately asked us “how many” and proceeded to put only that many wieners into the steamer. We ordered two hot dogs: one was the special (that’s mayonnaise and Flo’s famous onion sauce), which accounts for 90% of all orders; the other had mustard and sauce. Steamed wieners, curiously cut at both ends, were nestled in steamed, New England style buns, dressed, and wrapped in napkins printed with Flo’s logo (note that she gave us a stack of regular, unprinted napkins for the meal; apparently the logo napkins were used solely for wrapping the dogs).
Our Flo’s experience was made truly memorable by the cook/cashier/raconteuse. Not only does she lighten her own work—and, indeed, the whole day—with conversation, but she also manages to make customers forget that they are waiting for sometimes half an hour for a bag of hot dogs. When she asked what we wanted to drink, I ordered a Moxie soda, to which she immediately asked me if I had had it before. When I replied yes, she said, “Okay, I was just checking! There oughta be a warning label on it—or you should hafta show a card or something!” Then she told us a story about when she was little, her grandmother kept only Moxie in the back. She drank it and learned to like its bitter aftertaste, but she feels compelled to warn newcomers about its unique flavor. We regretted leaving the little building after our order was filled, only because she made us and everyone else feel so comfortable and part of the Flo’s family.
As for the main attraction, the steamed wiener snapped audibly with each bite and even squeaked a bit between our teeth while chewing. The onion sauce was sweet and tangy, but when combined with the mayo, it approached something positively transcendent. The one with mustard? Less than magical. The buns were pillowy soft, and a Roadfooder with a normal appetite could easily down at least two, if not three, of these dogs before feeling full. Wash it down with a can of Moxie, and you’ve got a true Maine-ah lunch.
August 31st, 2005
I’ll be honest with you: I’m a hot dog connoisseur. I’ve been eating dogs all my life, and I think I can judge a good dog from a bad one. After reading glowing reviews of Flo-dogs from many websites, I decided to stop in while I was in the Kittery area, assuming I could well be about to eat the best dog of my life. Unfortunately, this was not to be.
The line was oddly short when I was there. I ordered two dogs (to start, I figured); one with mustard, the other with hot sauce and mayonnaise. Both dogs came in superb buns. Unfortunately, that’s about where my praise for this restaurant ends.
The dogs themselves were a little on the spicy side, and soggy to boot. One dog was dressed with cheapish mustard. The other was a vehicle for the famous Flo’s hot sauce, which I am sad to say is partially heartburn-inducing, especially when coupled with mayonnaise. The hot-sauce-and-mustard dog I ordered later on was even worse, with the mustard giving the molasses-based “hot sauce” an unpleasant kick not matched this side of a Big’n’Tasty. I must give owner/chef/all-around great gal Gail Stacey credit, however, for making the presentation of each dog rather neat, with very little spillover onto the dog bun (a horror for me). I consider these dogs to be over-priced and overrated. Skip Flo’s and find yourself a quality meal at the pizza shop down around the corner.
July 21st, 2004
It is hard to justify waiting in line for 45 minutes to buy a hot dog, but plenty of people from the local area and out of town were doing just that when I was there. There was just one woman behind the counter, doing it all, “6 days a week for the past 31 years”. Listening to her as I waited for my treat I learned that she never counts how many dogs she serves a day, and really doesn’t want to know! I ordered a few “specials” which came with Flo’s “relish”, which is the hot sauce people speak of, and mayonnaise. The rolls were a bit soggy, and the dogs nothing unworldly, yet the combination of roll/dog/sauce/owner/and atmosphere made this a truly enjoyable experience. When is the last time you waited in line for a hot dog for almost an hour, yet came away smiling? I saw no unhappy faces on the day I was there, except for one impatient woman who demanded her husband leave. (note that she loudly claimed she never had a hot dog in her life…so she is clearly no one to judge good food!!) My advice is that if you are an impatient soul, and need every dining experience to be perfect on all counts…keep driving and don’t bother waiting. If having a good meal in a truly unique location adds to your dining experience, definitely stop if you are in the Cape Neddick area.