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Bites Nearby: Yocco's, "The Hot Dog King"

The secret chili sauce is a family tradition and a Lehigh Valley Allentown institution

It’s just a hot dog, after all. Yet there’s something about this particular combination of flavors and textures that makes Allentown expatriates fiercely loyal to a Yocco’s dog. When aficionados no longer live close enough to drop into one of the six Lehigh Valley locations, their cravings can be assuaged by the handy Yocco’s Doggie Pac. For decades this beloved make-it-yourself gift of 12 Yocco’s dogs, 12 rolls and all the fixings has been shipped across the U.S. and around the world, carrying a taste of Allentown to those who insist there’s nothing like a Yocco’s hot dog.

Specifically, a Yocco’s signature dog is a well-done (till it’s a bit wrinkly) hot dog (a Hatfield frank made from Yocco's private recipe) in a steamed bun (gotta be soft and warm), dressed with mustard, chopped onions and a ribbon of “secret” chili sauce. Theodore Iacocca started the simple neighborhood business in 1922. The tiny location on Liberty Street in Allentown, between Sixth and Seventh streets, is known as the Original. Ninety years later, now with locations in Allentown, , the third and fourth generations of the Iacocca family continue the tradition for generations of customers who appreciate the simplicity and distinctive taste.

Besides hot dogs, Yocco’s menu board also features steak sandwiches, sausage sandwiches, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, Love burgers (with mushrooms), French fries and Mrs. T’s pierogies. Counter service is swift if unceremonious. The almost perpetual line moves right along. You call out your order to a staff member who will have your food in a bag or on a tray faster than you can say, “Hold the mustard.”

Of course, Yocco’s serves soft drinks, water and coffee. But for reasons that seem inexplicable to the uninitiated yet perfectly obvious to veteran diners, the beverage of choice with two or three or four doggies is chocolate milk.

Yocco’s food is equally well suited for take-out or eat-in. Seating areas are clean and spare. The extent to which Yocco’s has become an institution is seen on the giant map on the wall. It shows the continental United States, with push pins marking the places to which Doggie Pacs have been sent. Clearly, at some point long ago their popularity outgrew the map’s borders. Now far-flung international destinations are added in a list, including India, Hong Kong and Vietnam.

One other curiosity of note is “King Yocco”--the anthropomorphic hot dog mascot with spindly legs and green felt booties--seen on signs, T-shirts and printed matter. In print he may look slightly maniacal, but the take-home plush version has a softer side. Like its edible counterpart, it’s a true Allentown artifact.

6 Lehigh Valley locations, including:

2128 W. Hamilton St., Allentown, PA 18104.  610-821-8488.  www.yoccos.com

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