By Abby Bittner
Secret Spots of St. Augustine
In this series of pieces, I’m on the lookout for hidden gems people may not know about, from local restaurants to places people may normally miss. Through Secret Spots of St. Augustine, I aim to bring light to places and businesses people may not know about that are unique to the area.
Whether you have lived in the area for years or you are a first-time tourist, one thing to note about St. Augustine is the diverse food variety, from Thai to Cuban dishes.
However, one specific cuisine is not usually thought of right away, as it is normally reserved for barbeques, game days, and summer parties: the traditional hotdog.
Hazel’s Hotdogs, located on Ponce De Leon Boulevard, serves up anything but basic hot dogs. Here, you can find piping hot French fries, fresh-made hot dogs, and refreshing milkshakes.
Perry Zaharias, who has owned the business for 13 years, has worked in the food business as long as he can remember.
“I’ve worked in the diner business, it’s a lot of hours and then you get people who complain a lot. At Hazel’s, everyone seems to like everything and it’s nice,” he said.
Despite being a smaller business, Hazel’s Hotdogs has been recognized by newspapers and magazines, including Southern Living.
“We got a little lucky and got a blurb in Southern Living as one of the best hot dog places in Florida,” said Zaharias of the story, which dubbed Hazel’s as an “unassuming spot on Ponce De Leon Boulevard.”
While Zaharias picked up Hazel’s well after the hot dog business was up and running, he prefers it over the bustling diner life.
Hazel’s supports another local business with their signature spicy dog, which also happens to be Zaharias’s favorite. You can also find other unique franks, including their salsa dog or bacon and cheese dog.
“It’s a local company that makes the datil relish, and it comes with grilled onions and spicy mustard, and then we put cheese on it, so it’s a good hot dog,” the owner said.
The restaurant offers to-go and pickup options for their customers, as well as picnic tables outside for those who want to sit-in.
Set up as a stand on a major road, the environment around Hazel’s Hotdogs can sometimes pose as a challenge.
“You have to deal with it being hot and cold outside,” Zaharias said. “Sometimes, we have a little difficulty in the parking area because we get so busy and there’s not enough room for people to park.”
Overall, Zaharias wants to interact with his customers by offering them delicious food they can always depend on.
“People take pictures of stuff and put it on social media, so you’ve got to make it look good every time. You always got to send out a great product, and people will just come,” he said. “People will tell everybody else, and that’s the way I like to connect with the community.”