Hello, Dear Reader. It’s early afternoon on Thursday, October 21, 2021. It’s a warm “autumn” day here in west-central Florida. Currently, the temperature is 84˚F (29˚C) under mostly cloudy skies. With the wind blowing from the east-northeast at 6 MPH (10 KM/H) and humidity at 36%, the heat index is 86˚F (30˚C). Today’s forecast calls for partly sunny skies and a high of 89˚F (32˚C). Tonight, skies will be clear, and the low will be 68˚F (20˚C). The Air Quality Index (AQI) is 48 or Good.
Do you know what I miss today? Going to Arbetter’s Hot Dogs with friends and loved ones in Miami. Arbetter’s, for those of you who are not Miami natives, is a small but popular family-owned restaurant known for its chili dogs and the foot-long “Monster Dog.” Located – since the late 1950s, I believe – at 8747 SW 40th Street (Bird Road), Arbetter’s has been a popular hangout for Miami-area residents for ages.
Because Arbetter’s was not exactly within walking distance of either of the two houses where I lived between 1972 and 2016, I did not go there regularly. I think I first ate one of their “world-famous chili dogs” when I was a senior at South Miami High; it was in the 1982-83 school year that I finally had a posse of friends who had cars and driver’s licenses, and I was confident enough to venture out of campus for lunch with some of them.
After that, I don’t remember going to Arbetter’s too many times, but when I did, it was with friends who had gone to school with me or were long-time fans of the chili dogs and chili cheese fries that the Arbetter family still makes there.
What I do remember is going there with Mom in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Mostly it was just us two; my half-sister Vicky usually did not go with us because her work schedule and busy social life precluded it, and she was always on a diet. Mom, though, was an Arbetter’s fan through and through. She loved the chili dogs, complete with the chopped Vidalia onions and the homemade chili sauce.
The last time that Mom and I went to Arbetter’s was in 2009, shortly after she stopped driving and sold her car to her long-time mechanic. We went with our neighbor Elena, who was fond of my mom and was the one who drove her to run errands and to her medical appointments when Vicky was at work. (Elena, sadly, was not impressed by Arbetter’s, but there’s no accounting for taste.)
I last visited Arbetter’s in 2018, when the Caregiver and I attended a South Miami High alum get-together for the 35th anniversary of our graduation. I don’t think she had gone there in a while, but we ended up not just ordering chili dogs – which are still my favorite items on the Arbetter’s menu – but the Caregiver also wanted to try the Monster foot-long dog.
I can’t speak for my former girlfriend – she seemed to have enjoyed her food – but as for me, I can say that I was in hot dog heaven.
There really is no better chili dog than the chili dogs I’ve had at Arbetter’s.